Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Playing with my new Christmas gifts

I had a great Christmas, lots of great food and visits with family.  Lots of neat gifts.  One of my gifts from my daughter Nikole and her fiance Brad was a French baguette pan.  It is kind of a funny looking pan made of curved metal with tiny, closely spaced holes.  It is used to make two loaves of French bread.  Today, I had a chance to make my first loaves and I was very happy with how they turned out.  I wrote about it including the recipe here.

Here is a picture of the pan:

And a couple pictures of the bread.

Several of my gifts were kitchen or food related.  I love kitchen gadgets and tools.   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

a little farm update

It has been an interesting few days of weather at the farm an it appears that it will be interesting for the next day or two as well.  We had the big snow in November which had been pretty much sticking around.  Where it was packed down or driven on had become treacherous, the wind had polished the packed snow into a glare ice situation.  We had  lost a bit of snow earlier this week but yesterday and today the snow really left in a hurry.  Yesterday was in the 40s and today was over 50.  I was outside today without a jacket.  It was cloudy and damp but even overnight more snow disappeared.  Two days ago the ground had a white layer that was still several inches thick and today there are big swathes of grass.  It isn't going to last for long, already there is a winter storm warning for tomorrow predicting rain followed by snow.

I did take advantage of the snow melt to do a couple of things that didn't get done before the big snow came.  My white gate that sits at the edge of the orchard was still decorated for Halloween/fall.  So now that the snow was gone I was able to move away the soft pumpkins and gourds and move the bench and milk can to the shed.  I got the snowflake out and hung and took a quick picture of the gate before it was dark.  All around you can see the grass.  

I am probably the last person to get my tree up and decorated.  My mom and sister have had theirs done for a couple of weeks already.  We always do a real tree and last year our closest Home Depot had tabletop trees and we tried it and it worked out really well so we are doing the same thing again this year.  I have had the tree for a while and last time Cait was home we got the table ready for it in the corner.  It makes the most sense as my rooms are small and things get a little chaotic when we all get together.  This year there will be seven dogs.  There is a possibility that they won't all be in the house at the same time but I am not betting on it.  I can brag a little that this I am farther along with my shopping than is usual for me.  I have just to wrap up my purchases and finish up the loose ends.

I mentioned the seven dogs.  Today I made a triple batch of homemade dog treats.  These are Harley's favorite treats.  The recipe is here.   I plan to package them up and send some home with the doggie parents.  I am also planning to send a jar with Caitlin to take to her work.  She works at an architectural firm and there are several dogs that come to work with their humans.  Tomorrow I am going to be roasting some pumpkin and making a second kind of homemade dog treat, a soft pumpkin treat (recipe here).  Here is a picture of my dog treats from today.

I have a small artificial tree in my kitchen which I put up yesterday.  It is decorated with red lights, miniature red-handled rolling pins, faux gingerbread boys and candy canes.  My gingerbread boys are the recipe made with applesauce and cinnamon.  I made them quite a few years ago and they still have a subtle holiday aroma.  I bag them up in a zipper bag when I take the tree down

gingerbread boys

I also put some garland on the shelving above my stove.  It has red lights, small wooden spoons and spatulas, copper cookie cutters and bigger miniature rolling pins.

I hope to soon have the blog post done about our Norsk baking day with links to all the recipes.  And Mom shared that she has decided on a plan for her Christmas eve menu.  In addition to our traditional halupsha she is going to be serving appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.  I think that will be a fun theme and it will work out well with the timing of church services.  I am excited.  I have an extensive collection of pins on pinterest that are appetizers, dips, nibblers and snacks and other bite sized treats and party food.  It should be fun.  :)


Sunday, December 7, 2014

fun stuff going on at the farm

With the holiday season in full swing there is lots of stuff going on and I have gotten behind on sharing farm news.  Here are some of the happenings...

The farm has a new dog.  For about ten years we have had two big dogs, a white one (Sadie) and a black one (Codie).  Both of these dogs are one-half Great Pyrenees and they have been guardians for our herd and farm.   About the time that Caitlin started mentioning we should get another dog while our aging dogs are able to train it I got a phone call from a friend about a dog that they had that they were looking for a home for.  When they got new Pyrenees puppies for their farm they brought an extra one home for a relative and it turns out the relative was not able to take it after all and the dog was available.  So she came to live at the farm with Sadie and Codie and the herd and me.  Her name is Elke and she she is an absolute joy.  She came to us at five months of age.  She has brought a new youthfulness to Codie and they run and wrestle and roll in the snow every day.  Even yesterday Sadie looked like she briefly wanted to get in on the fun. 


This year we held a first annual Norsk Baking Day on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  We got together three generations of bakers at my mom's home and spent the day making the traditional family favorites that were originally made by my paternal grandmother.  Every Christmas season she would make donuts, rosettes, krumkake, lefse, kringla and popcorn balls.  Some years she would make peppernuts.  We made all but the popcorn balls.  We had a great time, put some of the goodies in the freezer for Christmas and sent some home with the bakers.  We enjoyed meeting the newest member of the family.  My niece, Steph, and her mom, my sister-in-law Patty, visited at the beginning of our day with Steph's children including her brand new baby girl. it was great to do a little new baby cuddling. We also enjoyed having Bobbie, Brad's mom, join us and we had a quick toast to celebrate Nikole and Brad's engagement.  It was a fun day. There were pictures taken but not by me so once I have them I will share them.  I also have a couple of recipes to collect and then I will share those as well. 

The greenhouse is up and running.  I have spent a little time on projects there.  I put up a shelf to hold the heat mat for seed starting.  I have been using the mat on my tables and moving it to the wall shelf will allow for a few more tubs of greens. 
new shelf holding the heat mat

Caitlin has taken some greens to sell to her coworkers at the architecture firm where she works and we are hoping to get a CSA started.  November is a slow month for growing as it is generally more cloudy but once we start getting more sun I am hoping the volume of greens that we can grow in our small space will take off. We have ordered new seed varieties so it will be exciting to try some new things in our salad mix.  We have grown greens for our personal use the past couple winters but having survived (and learned from) last winter I am more confident we are now ready to take on members.

some greens

greens growing in tubs

8 ounce bag of salad mix

our salad mix on a platter
This generally is not a craft blog but I have been doing a little crafting.  My sister, Lisa, and her friend Judy and I attended a class that Lisa signed us up for at a nearby Home Depot.  The project was to learn how to make a marque sign. 
The sample of the finished project

Lisa drilling and my mom, Jan, holding the board

We do not have ours done yet but we completed the class and are able to finish the project at home.  It needs a second coat of paint on the letters and to attach the lights and build the optional frame.  

I have also been doing some paper crafting. My mom is a snowman fan and her tree is decorated in mostly snowman themed ornaments.  This year I have been seeing a lot of buntings used as decorations and a lot of crafts made from sheet music.  I used Caitlin's cricut to make a bunting.  It was made with small enough triangles so that it could go on a Christmas tree or on the wall.  Mom's tree was already decorated so she hung it on a tall, glass fronted cabinet. I made some paper snowflakes to use as gift tags or hang on the tree.  I also cut apart some greeting cards and made them into ornaments.  I am also doing some paper lanterns.
The bunting says "let it snow!"

ornament from a box of Christmas cards.

snowflakes for mom in white and blue

I made some for Lisa in kraft paper and white
paper lantern

Friday, October 31, 2014

a visitor to the farm

This year the hobby farm has corn planted around it and across the road and harvest is in full swing with both of the farmers that own the fields combining the corn and hauling it away in big trucks.  It is cold out and predicted to get colder so I am warming up a bit before I head out to dig up my Brussels sprouts.  I am sitting at my computer and glance out the window and see an animal in the front yard where the lawn meets the road ditch.  It is a bit of a distance away but I grabbed my phone hoping to catch a picture of it.  Sadie my one big dog is napping in the house.  Codie my other big dog is standing up by the house watching but not barking.  I only had a chance to get one picture and it was pretty blurry and far away.

I tried cropping the photo to see if I could get a better view of the animal but it was pretty pixelated.

I sent the picture to my sister who I was in the process of emailing at the time and she sent it to her son and then we sent it to Perry who said that it was a coyote, guessing that it could be the Alpha male of the pack since it was quite large.  I am speculating that all of the activity in the nearby fields had him on the move.  I quickly called for Manny and put him in the house.   It is a good thing that he (mostly) comes when he is called. He will now be a house cat only.  When I went out to the garden Codie went with me and she went down the road halfway to the neighbor's house checking the ditches on both sides of the road.  Others around here have seen coyotes in the area but this is the first one that I have seen and the first time that I know of where one has been in my yard.  It is a little unsettling. 

This was yesterday and I have not seen him again.  Manny goes to the door and meows to go out.  Then he comes to where I am sitting at the computer and stretches up and looks at me with those soulful eyes and begs to go out.  He seems to understand when I tell him about the scary animal outside and finds a place to nap.  Poor Manny.  He'll get used to staying indoors again.


Brussels sprouts

This was the first year that I have grown Brussels sprouts and with cold weather predicted for last night I dug up the plants.  I pulled off the lower leaves so that the stalks would fit better it the wheelbarrow and then threw the leaves over the fence into the pasture.  The herd was glad to get them and worked on eating them up.  I brought the stalks into the house and planned to remove the sprouts from the stalks and blanch them and package them for the freezer. 

on the stalk with most of the leaves removed

my big (12 inch diameter) stoneware bowl is quite full

for the herd

some of the blanched small sprouts in the pan

browning butter and sea salt
These were so good.  Definitely I will be growing these again next year.  I think the next batch I cook I will add to some sauteed leeks and top with some toasted Panko breadcrumbs.  Maybe a little Parmesan cheese...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

a few greenhouse pictures

While I was taking pictures for the previous post I thought I would grab a couple in the greenhouse.

These lettuces were planted on September 30.

The first rain gutter planters with month old mizuna and golden frill greens.

This year I am trying a few hanging baskets.  The lettuces are not tall enough to be seen yet.

These seedlings are being transplanted into gutter planters or tubs. 

Newest seedlings.  At this stage they mostly all look alike.

wow, a productive day at the farm

Today Mom and Dad came out and we had a really productive day at the farm.  We worked hard and will be stiff and sore but we got several good jobs done.  Ten days ago we had our lumberjack day and part of the results of that cutting and splitting and stacking is a pile of brush that we burn.  This year we rented a chipper/shredder and had hoped to chip the branches and use them for mulch instead of burning them.  It worked fine for shredding the bags of leaves but was just not strong enough to grind through the volume of branches that we have at the end of our weekend.  So, today was the day to burn the brush.  The accumulated brush was in a pile that I am guessing was probably 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and maybe 4 feet high.  We had a pile started where we had once burned before and I had been piling weeds and plant material that I did not want to go into my compost pile there.  The plan was to burn that and once it was hot we would feed the brush a few branches at a time onto the hot fire. 

Getting the fire started and hot was a challenge.  The last couple days have been cloudy and damp/rainy.  Even with Dad's 'encouragement' the fire struggled to get going and just when we were thinking that we were going to have to give up and try another day it decided to cooperate. 

While Dad encouraged the fire with various combustibles , Mom and I worked on pulling some nails from Caitlin and Robb's reclaimed lumber.  We had a nice little pile of nail free boards by the time we could begin dragging the brush to the fire.

We also worked on some landscaping around the house.  We decided while we were painting to pull out the old plant material from the front of the house, add some dirt to improve the grade away from the house and then put down plastic and a border and add some wood bark.  I am so pleased that we were able to get the smaller west side done and ready for bark.  

There are no before pictures but here are a few 'afters'.
8 or 10 nail free boards

The fire, winding down. 

Between the tree on the right and the white door there used to be a big pile of brush.

Ready for wood bark.
 I am tired but it is a good tired.  Thanks Mom and Dad for all the help today. 


Monday, October 27, 2014


This year I grew leeks for the first time.  I started them from seed in the greenhouse and then transplanted them to larger cups and then into the open garden.  I planted some of them in my garden and my sister planted some in her garden.  Here is part of the harvest from my garden.

I think that I will definitely grow them again.  They are a long season crop but getting a head start in the greenhouse allowed them to do well for me this year.  Perhaps they liked the cool wet spring..  If I remember correctly we germinated close to 100 baby plants from one seed packet.  So far I have used them in a leek and potato quiche that I have made twice.  It is very flavorful and once it had cooled I cut it into servings and froze individual servings in freezer bags and I am looking forward to pulling out a piece and enjoying it again this winter.  See the recipe for the leek and potato quiche here.

The other type of leek recipe that I saw a lot of on the internet were soups.  Most of the recipes contained a dairy component and I was reading that dairy is not recommended for canning.  I was excited when I came across a recipe for a soup base that was a soup starter that had the dairy, seasonings and other ingredients added when the soup was reheated. I canned a few pint jars and now when I am ready to make soup much will be done already.  To see the recipe for leek and potato soup base go here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

our lumberjack weekend

For several years now we have had a lumberjack weekend in the fall at the farm.  We have lots of old trees and my dad burns wood to heat his shop and my brother has a fireplace and my sister, my kids and I have the occasional campfire.  This year the selected trees for this project was one near the house and a couple more that needed trimming but not cutting down so we had a pro come in and drop the tree and trim the others.  That left us with cutting up the logs into manageable lengths and then splitting and stacking to allow the wood to dry and be ready for burning next winter. 

It is always a lot of fun, working together on a project.  It is a lot of work and there are some aches and pains and stiffness afterwards but it is great to see the wood all stacked.  This year our crew included my parents, my sister and her daughter, my brother, and my son and daughters.  We had a few pickups.

and even more dogs.  This year there were six, two that live with me at the farm and four that visit with my kids.  Missing from the pictures is Indiana, the newest member of the group who was in the house napping when I was taking pictures.  It is a shame that I missed his picture because he is really adorable, a yellow lab/retriever cross who is only 10 weeks old. 

Reese and Honey


Sadie and Codie
This is a picture of the log that my daughter rescued for a future piece of furniture.

This is a stack of logs waiting to be split.

Some of the crew working hard.

our finished product