Friday, December 31, 2010


I think this is the longest break from work I have taken in years... Off a half day on the 22nd, back to work on the 3rd and only a half day in the office in between. Sheer freakin' bliss.

On the 28th I made cheese with my neighbor. She had The Cheese Kit. I had done this with the food crafting girls a while back, but since it was a while ago, it was like starting all over. Except that I also tried some cheddar. You inoculate the slightly warmed milk the night before with some yogurt or buttermilk and let it sit at room temp. By morning it was certainly thicker than regular milk. I walked it over to the neighbors as we were doing this in her fabulous kitchen. Then you add the rennet and let the milk sit for an hour. Which we did. Only we used my rennet which had apparently lost its kick. So the first 30 minutes nothing happened. We added new rennet and 60 minutes later we had a lovely curd - lesson learned, keep your rennet in the freezer. (We were doing other things along the way, making mozzarella, drinking tea and eating home made toast). The curds were cut into tiny squares, then stirred gently for 15 minutes while the whole thing was held between 90-100 degrees. The whey was drained off, and the curds were put into a clean cloth fitted into a clean tomato can with both ends cut out. I then took this home and placed one of the can ends on the top of the cheese which was on top of my cooling rack. On top of the can I put a smaller can (tuna, full and unopened) and and a couple of fat cookbooks (the Joy, and 1000 Chinese Recipes). We pressed it overnight on the counter and then wrapped it in fresh cloth and stuck it in the fridge where it will hang for a week or two until it forms a rind (which appears to be happening) then I am supposed to put cheese wax on it. But I will probably eat it instead.

We went to dinner at our other neighbors house. Cold roast beef, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with hard sauce. Yum.

I went shopping with Cho to the new fabric store. All I could do was think that those lovely upholstery fabrics would look great in the garden pavilion. Or the goat barn.

I walked to the Tea House with my chummy and had a pot of tea.

I made goat stew from the Frugal Gourmet. I messed with the recipe.

I made no knead bread. And messed with the recipe (adding 1/2 cup oatmeal and a bit of wheat germ to tone down all the whiteness) and had success.

I got a comment on my blog from the MENews people regarding my dissing of the garden planner. I was corrected.

I moved heavy things.

I saw an owl fly through our backyard.

We worked on the garden pavilion and goat barn plans. We made a model of the goat barn in cardboard.

See how much fun I am when I don't work? Someone should buy me out so I can be a stay-at-home homesteader and blog about it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Post

Now that the gifts have been delivered and opened, I can tell you what I have been working on...

Chai spice concentrate for tea (or coffee) from here. Modified, of course. I like my spices a little stronger than what I got from the original recipe, and a little spicier. What I miss from my own chai is the warm fragrant fresh ginger. I may continue to work with this and see if I can sneak that in without making it chunky/funky.... All in all, I think it was pretty successful. I'll be taking some to work for afternoon tea, since we don't have real milk there and I don't do caffeinated tea without some kind of milk. Non dairy creamer does not merit consideration.

Mocha hazelnut biscotti - from a modified recipe in Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray. The straight up recipe is for chocolate biscotti, and it couldn't be easier. The nuts make it a little tricky as things tend to want to fall apart a little more, but... All worth it. I think this was a great success. The biscotti are crunchy, not too hard and not too sweet. Basically Sweet Maria's recipe with tiny bits of chocolate, finely ground coffee and bits of toasted hazelnut. Yum.

So here is my question, is it bad to put recipes from books on the blog? I don't know.... and I don't know why this has just occurred to me that it might not be all together on the up and up....Advice please!

Cranberry Apple Bread - this is my holiday standby. I make small loaves of this for neighbors and friends and lots for the house here. The recipe (Dutch apple bread with cranberries, I actually haven't messed with this much) is from A World of Breads which I love and am sure I have told you about before. It is from the time before "artisan" baking was what people talked about. It goes through about a million recipes for all kinds of yummy breads, including multiple recipes for cornbread, biscuits, etc. If you want to be an artisan bread baker, make them all and figure out what makes those recipes tick. You don't need pretty pictures for that - and you won't find no pretty pictures in that book. It is one of my most used cookbooks along with the Joy of Cooking.

The ducks spent the holiday at work. I put them into the garden to hunt for anything that might be chillin' beneath the leaves for winter. They really take a long time to warm up to these tasks so I figured I had better keep them in condition for the upcoming spring thaw. I did a trial subscription to the Mother Earth News Garden Planner. I am not impressed. It doesn't allow you to modify for vertical gardening or mixed plantings (like lettuce beneath the okra). So I would say it might be good for folks who like to row plant, but for me, well, I am just a little more free form than all that. It would be nice to have actual plans from past gardens, but I think I can live without that. Gardens are something like theater, once it is gone it is gone and the memories are all you have, other than the friendships forged in the sharing of them.

The SB and I spent the day on the FUF thrashing through the design of our garden pavilion. It will be awesome if it comes to fruition. Rilly. In preparation for the pavilion we moved a tree/shrub (Carolina Silverbell) and planted some winter berry hollies, so in future, we hope to have us some of this.

I have more days off, Woot!, and hope to get lots of organizing, straightening and cleaning done around the house. Unfortunately, I am being distracted by the internets....

Friday, December 24, 2010

What I love about winter

As you know, winter arrived with a bang this year which included a total eclipse of the moon in the wee hours of the AM. I am lucky enough to have the SB up at wee hours so he woke me when the time was right for me to see the most in the shortest amount of time. And I didn't even have to get out of bed. THAT is my idea of stargazing. The only disappointment about the arrival of winter was that it had felt for at least a month or so like it already was winter. The Season of Smartwool started a while back. I rejoice now if we get above 40 during the day.

So in the spirit of embracing the uncomfortable and demoralizing things you cannot change, I will make a list (for SHG) about the things that I really love about winter. It will be short but heart felt.

1. I can use the back porch as an auxiliary freezer.
2. I get to wear my favorite winter hat.
3. Give me a minute, I'm thinkin' I'm thinkin'......
4. No mosquitoes.
5. Time for indoor work (at least in theory). (I have made a few stabs at a garden apron for myself made from a linen dress that was falling apart. So far so good)

I hope you have planned a lovely holiday with family and friends and lots of time for the things that make you happy. Here at the Future Urban Farm, we will fill our days much as we always do with planning.

Happy vacation to those of you lucky enough to have it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tea and garden dreaming

I found this recipe earlier this week. I have been tilting at windmills when it comes to chai. I have tried much and hadn't found anything I liked. The NYT recipe was obscenely simple. So of course I had to complicate it....

I knew the tea I was using (something from India brought to me by one of the residents I work with) wasn't going to produce a strong enough brew in the time given. So I used 5 t. tea to 4 (ish) cups water. I added 3 cardamom pods (crushed/chopped), 4 slices of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, about 4 cloves and a few red pepper flakes and about 1 1/2 T. sugar. I added 3/4 c. milk cuz I like it milky. I actually simmered per the directions. Shocking. It turned out pretty well. I drank it all and now have a total caffeine buzz. The brew wasn't perfect, but definitely on the right track. It wasn't quite as rich as I would like. I think I will try simmering the spices first for a few minutes then adding the tea. I would like to avoid the over brewed tea bitterness but get more from the spices. A bit more milk might help as well.

And because currently, everything relates to the garden, I am thinking of growing some bergamot for my own tea flavoring, which could be a nice little addition. Renee's is also selling seed for hibiscus for tea, which could be great as well (and while you are there, check out some of the spectacular lavender varieties, not to mention some golden beets, a trio of melons, and other fancy stuff). I have many many plans for the coming year. If 30% of them come to fruition, it will be a bloody miracle.

One of them includes selling off my extra seedlings - probably cheap since I just need to pay for my habit.... I LOVE starting seeds and even with our big garden, I can start WAY more than I need in the basement. Shoot me an email if you want to be on the list for leftovers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


We have crossed from the Season of Frost to the Season of Smartwool. And seeing as my smartwool is still languishing in a trunk somewhere I am officially and seasonally appropriately freezing my ass off. Big leaky house + temps only in the 30s during the day x one week = supercranky.

I think the last several nights have done in the last of the veggies. Except I hope the rest of the carrots are OK. I have pictures of the last harvest, but the SB has to send them to me as he downloaded them. I will post. We will see if anything recuperates come springtime.

The last few nights I have fallen asleep planning my spring/summer vegetable beds. Last night the last thing I remember was trying to decide if I needed one or two kinds of marigolds.

I was at an office party last week and started talking veggie gardens with another woman. The rest of the group began to drain away as we went on and on about how therapeutic gardening is, how rewarding, the triumph and heart break, the back breaking work, the absurd and slightly embarrassing joy of the perfect pumpkin, etc, etc. Eventually we changed topics and other people decided they could be around us once again. (I can't blame them, I would have done the same if others started talking sports or prime time TV.)

These instances are how I know that I am totally and completely obsessed. I have become one of THOSE people. (woot!)

I got my first gardening catalog in the mail today. I am marking pages, veggies, varieties, etc. This will go on through January. By then I have pretty much marked everything and I have to start over, which is fine - I am pretty easily entertained. SESE has a great planting guide in the catalog and posted on the main website as a pdf. Invaluable if you live in Virginia.

I just read about sorrel here, which reminded me that I want some of that too. Along with rhubarb and horseradish.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thither and Yon

I have been over here. Doin' stuff.

A quick Saturday AM post. In the garden still some carrots, kale, arugula, parsley and lots of cabbage. Hopefully cabbage goes lactic this weekend.

Ducks are good, though they have essentially stopped laying. Slackers.

Planning for the spring garden. The goat barn/pen. The out buildings and a possible greenhouse in the not too near future.

Got some greenhouse plastic to do some early cropping in the garden. Can't wait to order seeds though I need nothing. Except carrots. And long beans. And corn. And spinach.

We are considering moving our asparagus to dryer locations as it has yet to produce for us (in 10 years). Must be the high water table there. I am on the look out for some perennial veg to add to the landscape, anyone have extra rhubarb or horseradish?