Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Farm Photo 1/31/07: This Year's Sheep Shearing Plan


You won't be seeing this in 2007

Oh, there'll be bouncing baby lambs of course. In fact, if all goes well there may be as many as 50 of them racing around here by the end of April. What have I gotten us into?

What there won't be, though, are big woolly mamas, because The Plan this year is to shear the sheep before lambing season starts.

More below. . .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/28/07


At Least I Have Chickens To Cheer Me Up

The last thing we need around here is another set of dishes, but when I spied these charming mugs and bowls a few weeks ago I simply couldn't resist them. And I'm so glad I didn't, because every time I look at them I smile.

They aren't as much fun as having real chickens around, though, and that's why we're going to order a new batch of chicks in early spring. The just-hatched birds will be shipped to us through the mail in a sturdy cardboard box with plenty of airholes, about the same time as everybody else's. There is nothing like walking into our tiny post office and realizing that the entire place is chirping.

The other day we spent a pleasant half hour flipping through poultry catalogs and debating the benefits and selling points of various varieties of chickens.
"Although of substantial body size, this high-powered layer converts feed into eggs just as efficiently as most smaller birds because of its calm, contented disposition." "Lays right on during coldest weather!" "Before 1880, this beautiful breed was called 'Winnebagoes.'"

We haven't made any final decisions yet, but we do know we want hens that will lay large brown eggs. Actually, Joe doesn't care what color his eggs are, as long as they are big and appear on a regular basis. For me, it's definitely more of a 'looks' thing. I think brown eggs are much prettier than plain white--and I'm convinced they have more flavor. It's the same with the chickens themselves--Joe doesn't care what they look like, while the artist in me wants birds that are pleasing to the eye. I have always loved those black and white Barred Plymouth Rocks, a "good old-time American breed" that are "a real pleasure to work with." Right now they're at the top of my list.

I also haven't decided how many chicks I want to order yet. It will depend, as Joe put it, on whether I want to go back into the egg business. When our 2001 flock of 18 hens was in its prime, we were getting about 100 eggs a week. The ones we didn't consume were carefully washed and packed into cartons and sold to the natural foods store for 85 cents a dozen (though I think they're paying slightly more now). Whatever the final number of chicks, we'll probably end up ordering at least three different kinds, so I'll have a nice colorful mix. I've already had Cherry Eggers (which is what Lindy The Chicken was) and Buff Orpingtons, so I probably won't go with those (though they were both very nice breeds). Anybody have a favorite breed they recommend?

Of course we still have
Whitey (who was purchased at the little general store next to the post office nearly 7 years ago) and the last two 2001 hens (at least one of which is still laying). I call them Joe's Super Duper Overbred White Laying Machines. He calls them thrifty. And while he didn't waste time reminding me that when choosing new chickens, "plumage isn't everything" and "we don't just want cute" (because that is what I always want) he was also quick to add that "there's nothing cuter than a thrifty white chicken." Oh please.

Yes, I certainly have chickens to cheer me up. And as I type this, there is a nice plump one that was raised by our favorite local pastured poultry purveying family roasting in the oven. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

A year of Farm Photos ago:
1/26/07:
And Posh About To Dig In
1/27/06:
Stumped For A Clever Caption
1/26/06:
Can't Look Over Something? Try To Look Through It
WCB #34:
Molly Doodlebug (aka The Doodle Monster)
And out of the kitchen came:
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Farm Photo 1/25/07: It's Just Not the Same Without Her


Lucky Buddy Bear in the Haybarn

Yep, I'm still sick. It's only a cold (I think), but apparently it really, really likes me. Thanks so much for all of your supportive and kind comments and e-mail messages. I'd probably be all better by now if I'd been slurping up lots of warm and tasty homemade soup, but (even after extolling its virtues just the other day) I haven't had a single drop. How embarrassing. I did manage to churn out a couple beautiful loaves of what I now fondly refer to as Braindead Bread--because even if you're completely spaced out, you'll still end up with a delicious finished product.

This time around, though, my dough was very, very wet, and instead of adding more flour to it, I simply left it as it was (making sure I put tons of flour on the tea towels and wooden peel to keep it from sticking). The resulting loaves had the largest air holes yet, bearing an uncanny resemblance to photos of Italian breads I've seen. I found them quite nice, but be warned: certain people may question why on earth anyone would want gigantic holes in their bread--especially when you don't know they're there until you've sliced into it. (Note: these people will probably be yammering on about this after having polished off half a warm loaf.)

I baked three gorgeous, golden loaves of Farmhouse White, too (in my favorite new pans), but if I mention that bread one more time without offering up a recipe, the e-mails are gonna get ugly. Oops. I told you I was braindead. Update: The recipe is here!

Oh, and one more thing. I'm currently averaging about a two-week reply time to e-mail messages, so if you're waiting to hear from me and haven't, that's why. Thanks very much for your patience.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
1/25/06: Dusk From A Different View
1/24/06: Slash
1/23/06: Watered Down Handmade Fence
1/22/06: Not Stuck, Just Resting (I still love this photo.)
And WDB #18: Lucky Buddy Bear Up Close & Personal

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

© Copyright FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acre—when she's feeling up to it, that is.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/21/07


Nothing Slows Farm Boss Patchy Cat Down

Meanwhile, I am out sick (but hope to be back in fine form soon). The animals, however, have no tolerance for disruptions of any kind in their normal routine. Joe has temporarily taken over my morning farm chores, and they all keep telling him he's doing it wrong. The latest report is that Donkey Doodle Dandy is pushing for open access to the farmyard (where the hundreds of bales of hay are stored) so he and the sheep can simply eat "free choice" for the rest of the winter. Yes, I will definitely be back out and about soon.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
1/21/06:
Another Heart Rock For My Collection
WCB #33:
One Cat. . . Or Two?
1/20/06: Doll Face Will Be Ten Years Old This Spring

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Farm Photo 1/19/07: Meandering Water and Thoughts


Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
A year or so ago I was reading yet another one of those How To Be More ________ articles that never seem to go out of style. You simply fill in the blank and are instantly on your way to helping millions of us poor slobs turn into better, more proficient people. How To Be More Organized. . . More Beautiful. . . More Wealthy. . . More Politically Correct.

While I've failed miserably over the years at becoming more organized and clutter-free, I did latch on to a small but significant concept from this particular article, whose subject was something along the lines of How To Be M
ore Happy And Content With Your Life. After reading it, I stopped saying "I wish."

I wish I hadn't overcooked the broccoli will not improve the state of what is sitting on your plate. I wish it wasn't so hot and humid here will not change the weather. I wish I had a million dollars will never make it magically appear. I wish you weren't so far away will not bring them any closer. I wish he hadn't died is never ever going to bring him back.

On the surface, simply not saying I wish. . . doesn't seem to make much sense. I mean, of course you wish all those things were true. But I have come to realize that saying them out loud is actually a waste of time and energy, as wishing for something (rather than actually doing something) only brings about feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

After reading that article, I became aware of was just how often I found myself saying I wish, and I was surprised by the frequency. I made a conscious effort to stop saying it. It was an easier habit to break than I thought it would be, although there are still times when a wish is on the tip of my tongue, and it is all I can do to stop it from escaping.

Not wishing for things to be any other way than how they are has definitely had a positive effect on my life. There is, however, one thing I cannot help still wishing for--that our wet weather creek would run all the time.

There is something so profoundly soothing about the sight and sound of that crystal clear water ambling over the rocks. It is an immediate stress reliever. This morning was crisp and bright, blue sky and a pleasant 38 degrees. I stood in the front field with the sheep and deeply breathed in the day, while listening to nothing but the high-pitched cry of a hawk overhead, the rhythmic munching of my flock, and the babbling of the creek as it meandered its way along the edge of the field.

It's rare for the creek to be flowing on a hot summer day, but once in a while it is. That is when we finish our chores up early, slip into flip-flops (which are totally unsuitable farm footwear except for this one instance), grab a couple of ratty towels, and make our way down to one of the two little swimming holes in front of the house that were conveniently formed a few years back during a flood.

With the sun still beating down on you with all of its might, just looking into that cool water and anticipating how it will feel on your hot, sweaty skin is almost refreshing enough. At this moment, all of the world's problems have been reduced to one pressing question: Should you take it one toe at a time, or go ahead and splash right in?

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a stream.

A year of Farm Photos ago:

1/19/07:
Those Leaves Didn't Just Land On His Back

1/18/07: Tree Sock?
And Meme's The Word, Part One

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/17/07


My Heart Is Embedded In This Place

A Year Of Daily Photos ago: 1/17/06
Afternoon Delight
And
This Blog By Any Other Name. . .
1/16/06:
Do You See Beauty In The Everyday?
And out of the kitchen came:
Comfort Me With Hocks & Gravy

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/15/07


Our Wet Weather Creek Started Running This Morning

Shhhqwit! Shhhqwit! Shhhqwit!
From what I've heard, we've been very lucky so far. That predicted freezing rain and other nasty stuff ended up coming down as regular old rain instead, but boy did we get plenty of it. The creek is running. The overflow from the spring box--which is often not more than a trickle--looks like a baby Niagra Falls. And there's mud. Lots and lots of mud. The barnyard turned into a mushy, yucky mess.

Shhhqwit! Shhhqwit! Shhhqwit!
In my beloved rubber boots and thick woolen socks, I can slog through the barnyard just fine--even with my hay cart in tow (no sense in feeding those bales that are safely in the barn just yet). I cannot believe I survived the first 26 years of my life without rubber boots. They are so liberating! Today I marched right through a puddle that came halfway up to my knees.

As for the sheep. . . well, they avoid puddles whenever possible. And I can't think of anything they despise more than having to walk in the mud. You don't know what pure disgust is until you've seen it staring back at you on 56 faces at once.

By choice, the sheep and their guard donkey spent the day plodding around in the wet and nibbling on low hanging branches of cedar trees rather than munching on hay in the muck. It is obvious they blame me not only for the mud, but all of the bad weather as well. So when I tucked them in for the night, I consoled them with their favorite treats and the comforting news that this would all be frozen solid by morning. Which is good--because I hate to think how much it would cost to buy 112 pairs of little rubber boots.

As for us, we are hunkered down and awaiting zero degrees. The fire in the woodstove is crackling, there is freshly baked bread in the kitchen, and the two raised beds of my special high dollar garlic have been mulched with a thick layer of manure hay from the barn. I even managed to install a makeshift plastic tarp drop ceiling in the greenhouse to help hold in the heat from the space heater. There is nothing more to do but curl up, get some sleep, and hope there's running water in the morning.

A year of photos ago:
1/14/06: Patience Is Not One Of Their Virtues
And WCB #32: Posted Patchy Cat
1/15/06: Nice Green Hay On A Very Cold Day
And WDB #17: Robin & Leopold

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/13/07


The Ice Is On Its Way

A whole new weather vocabulary opened up to me when I moved from California to the country: Flash Flood Watch, Tornado Alert, Severe Thunderstorm Warning, Heat Advisory, Ponding. (Yes, Ponding.) Today they are calling for Freezing Rain and Ice Accumulation, with temperatures turning "very cold" by Monday--lows 7 to 11 above. Chance of precipitation 100 percent. Ice Pellets and Light Sleet were mentioned.

And so the ritual begins. Forget the little hay cart. Instead toss a dozen bales of hay in the truck and drive them down to the barn. Hook up the hose and fill the sheep's water trough before the freezeless hydrant freezes and you'll have to haul buckets of water from the spring. Plug in the tank de-icer. Give the sheep and Donkey Doodle Dandy plenty of grain to keep their bodies warm overnight. Harvest as much bounty as you can in the greenhouse and set up the little heater to help protect what is left. Check the timers and heat lamps and heaters scattered around the farm--in the henhouse, in the old well house, in the new well house.

Back inside, clomp up the narrow, uneven staircase to retrieve sleeping bags for covering up the picture windows in the living room. Dig out the insulated winter suits and hang them near the woodstove. Throw another quilt on the bed. Stack firewood high on the porch. Give extra food to the dogs and cats and make sure everyone has a wool bed to curl up on. Set the shower faucet at a drip to help keep the pipes from freezing, but fill up every empty water container you can find because they probably will anyway. Cross your fingers that the power stays on. Dream of thick hearty soup and freshly baked bread and cozying up with a good book or a favorite movie. Wonder what you are forgetting.

Do all of this before the Ice Storm Warning goes into effect.

Realize that rain has started pounding on the old tin roof above your head. Check the online weather forecast. Too late. Take a deep breath, bundle up, and head outside--knowing in your heart that everything will be okay.

A year of Daily Photos ago:
1/13/06: Defrosting
1/12/06:
Donkey Doodle Dandy Soaks Up Some Morning Sun

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/11/07


Golden Globe Turnip Flowers In My April 2006 Garden

Excuses for the lazy kitchen gardener come almost too easily. Didn't get around to harvesting all of your bounty? You're saving the seeds of course. Forgot to actually save the seeds? You're feeding the birds--and, more importantly, keeping your beloved seed companies in business. Once again, it's seed ordering season in the kitchen garden--oh my! **

There is nothing more wonderful than the feelings of pride and accomplishment that accompany a meal of glorious bounty that were once just a few seeds in your hand--even if that bounty consists of only
a handful of arugula. Growing food from seed is not as intimidating (or as much work) as you might think. Honest. (Well, as long as you don't get really, really carried away with your seed order.)

Inbetween sending in my seed orders, I'm working on some posts for InMyKitchenGarden.com about ordering seeds. If you would like to receive each new IMKG post via email, just pop over there and look for the sign-up thingie in the top right hand corner of the homepage. Didn't know about my kitchen garden blog? Click here to read why it's not just for gardeners.

And thank you all so much for your congratulatory comments and emails regarding my Food Blog Award. I never could have done it without you!

A year of Daily Photos ago:
Distracted By The Sky

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

** For some of my basic tips for starting seeds, click
here and scroll down to the comments section. A great place to find answers to all your gardening questions is at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' iDigmyGarden.com. With nearly 2,000 members and over 20,000 posts, it's the Internet's largest forum dedicated to the heirloom gardener. My favorite gardening book for the past 5 years has been The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith. Click here to read my review of it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/10/07


Yeah, so?

Okay, maybe not everybody around here is quite as excited as I am that Farmgirl Fare won a Food Blog Award in the Best Food Blog--Rural category. Though I suppose if I had to spend a minimum of eight hours a day eating just to stay alive (I wish), I probably wouldn't have much time for awards either. But I don't, so I do have time to send a hearty congratulations to all of the Food Blog Award winners and finalists, especially my far-flung and well deserving 'competitors' in the Rural category: Field To Feast (Zimbabwe), Lucullian Delights (Italy), Gluten Free Goddess (New Mexico), and last but not least, my pal Tana at the very wonderful I Heart Farms (California).

Many, many thanks to everyone who voted for Farmgirl Fare. We're all I'm so honored to have won. If you didn't have a chance to check out all of the other fantabulous nominees yet, you can click here for a complete list that includes live links to each one.

A year of Daily Photos ago:
Fungus & Vine Intertwined

Welcome new visitors!
Click
here for a brief introduction to this site.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/9/07


The Latest Addition To My Collection

Bird nests are like snowflakes--no two are ever the same, and each one is an exquisite work of art. For many years I collected things that the graphic designer in me found aesthetically pleasing, things that made me feel good just looking at them--bakelite radios from the 1930s, plastic handbags from the 40s and 50s, Art Deco anything. Things I bought. I love my bird nests as much as any of my other collections (which are, sadly, mostly packed away in boxes) and can easily get lost in their intricacy. But what makes them that much sweeter is the fact that every single one of them was free.

Click
here and here if you'd like to see two other nests and read a little more about my collection.

A year of Daily Photos ago: Local Architecture
And: Poking Around

Welcome New Visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/8/07


Today's Henhouse Breakfast Special: Freshly Picked Swiss Chard

Green with envy? Click
here to learn how you can go from seed packet to salad bowl in less than a month, no matter where you live. Really. (Okay, maybe not starting right this January minute. . .)

Today in my kitchen garden:
Whitey Goes Green
A year of daily photos ago:
The Advantage Of Taking A Late Walk
And WDB #16:
No Squirrel Is Safe

Did you cast your votes for the Food Blog Awards yet? I'm honored that Farmgirl Fare is up for Best Food Blog--Rural (and that so many of you have voted for me--thank you). Click here to see all the categories and nominees (and to discover some fantastic food blogs). Voting ends tomorrow night!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/7/07

What I Learned From Cary Last Year:


The best things in life only appear to be unobtainable. . .




All you have to do is reach up, grab hold, and take the biggest bite you can.

A lot of memorable things happened on the farm in 2006, but for me it will always be remembered as The Year My Lamb Laid Waste To The Garden.** And I wouldn't change a minute of it--even if the raspberries and asparagus don't grow back.

Little Cary was 8 months old yesterday! (These photos were taken back on August 20th.) I'm a little late here, I know. For some unknown reason, all last week I had it in my head that Cary was born on the 7th, not the 6th. Fortunately she doesn't hold that kind of thing against me, because Cary is extremely good at pouting and inducing guilt. Almost as good as Dan. But not quite. I don't think anybody has perfected the art of inducing guilt better than a sulking little donkey, especially if he is wearing an extremely ratty blue halter. (It's coming off soon, I swear.)

Wondering who Cary is? Click here to read her story.

And if you'd like to see more:
Cary Is Seven Months Old Today!
Cary Is Six Months Old Today!
Cary Is Five Months Old Today!
Cary Is Four Months Old Today!
Cary Is Three Months Old Today!
Cary Is Two Months Old Today!

Cary captured in the garden:
--On July 31st sucking down the surprise lilies
--On July 27th eating around the bean poles
--On June 30th in the weeds
--On June 27th eating weeds & inhaling asparagus ferns
--On June 19th lunching in the greenhouse
--On May 28th by the beets
--On May 27th with the turtles
--On May 23rd on the cucumbers

A year of Daily Photos ago: The Boys In Dan's Hood
And WCB #31: Now You See Him. . .

**With many thanks to Finny for providing me with that perfectly fitting phrase last summer, "lay waste to the garden," which never fails to make me smile.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/6/07


Precious Farm Jewels

Have you voted yet? The Food Blog Awards, hosted by the
Well Fed Network, are going on now, and everyone is invited to vote for their favorite blog in each category. Click here for the complete list of categories and nominees. I'm thrilled that Farmgirl Fare is a finalist in the Best Food Blog--Rural category. Click here to check out my competition and cast your vote. The voting ends January 9th at midnight EST. This is also a wonderful opportunity to discover some great new blogs.

A year of Daily Photos ago:
Annoying Weed Or Spun Gold?

Welcome new visitors!

Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Farm Photo 1/5/07: A Glimpse Back At Lambing Season 2006


Serena's Baby Girl On April 28th, 2006

Don't worry--she grew into those ears (but she still has that defiant stare). It's hard to believe that in two short months another lambing season will already be here. Before you know it, there'll be bouncing baby lambs everywhere.

A year of Daily Photos ago:
1/3/06:
For Horsing Around
1/4/06:
Barn Light
1/5/06: Woodland Wonder

And in my kitchen garden today:
There's a broccoli on my broccoli!

Welcome new visitors!
Click
here for a brief introduction to this site.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Three Surprises
& A Summer Squash Soup Recipe


Spur Of The Moment Summer Squash Soup

The first surprise is that Farmgirl Fare has been nominated for a 2006 Food Blog Award in the category Best Food Blog--Rural! The Food Blog Awards are hosted by the Well Fed Network, and everyone is invited to vote for their favorite in each category. Click here for the complete list of categories. Click here to check out my competition and cast your vote. The voting ends January 9th at midnight EST. This is also a wonderful opportunity to discover great new blogs.

Many thanks to Ann, Nandita, Jenjen, and Gita for nominating my blog, and to everyone who already voted for it. And for those of you who are wondering why there isn't more food on this so-called food blog (which I now personally refer to as a food & farm blog), I want to mention a couple of things--because sometimes I, too, think there isn't enough food here.

1. I often remind myself that almost everything I do (and write about and share photos of) each day revolves around food in some way--whether it's tending to lambs that will one day grace someone's table, spreading manure in the organic heirloom garden that I eat from every single day of the year, putting up hay in the summer to feed the sheep and their guard donkey throughout the winter, putting up tomatoes (into containers or into a pie) to feed myself throughout the winter, pulling weeds and raking up leaves that will one day turn into compost for the greenhouse beds, watering the flowers that lure vital pollinators to the vegetable plants, or taking care of the chickens who provide us with the most wonderful eggs. The pursuit of good, honest food is the central theme around the farm and in my life.

2. Much of the actual food & food talk has moved from Farmgirl Fare to my garden blog that sprouted up last spring, InMyKitchenGarden.com (which I consider to be a part of Farmgirl Fare). Click here to learn why it's definitely not just for gardeners.

3. One of my New Year's resolutions is to put up more posts with recipes!

Oh, and the other two surprises? They have to do with homemade soup and will hopefully be up later, but right now I have to go rescue the laundry that's hanging out on the line in the pouring rain. So you can just head right over to the Well Fed Network and cast your votes. (And just what does a laundry line have to do with food, you ask? Well, I can't very well do all this farm stuff naked now, can I?)

Welcome new visitors!
Click
here for a brief introduction to this site.

Update: On to the soup!
I have two distinct memories regarding the making of homemade soup, neither of which takes place in a kitchen. Both are leftover from years ago, when I was a young college co-ed who did not make her own soup. My specialty at the time was chocolate chip cookies. (This is, by the way, a very useful specialty to have at any age.) About the only other culinary skill I had acquired by the time of the first memory was the ability to deftly chop chicken wings in half with an enormous cleaver.

My beau at the time had taken over the lease on a tiny takeout restaurant in a not-quite-yet-chic Sonoma County town, and, although he renamed the place and came up with an entirely new menu, along with the lease came legions of customers who were addicted to the former specialty of the house--deep-fried Buffalo Wings. And so, when I wasn't studying for exams or putting batches of giant, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for sale in the front window, I could usually be found standing by the window in my "uniform" of khaki skirt and dark green polo shirt, whacking away at wing after wing after wing. I don't know what attracted more attention from passersby--me or the cookies.

It was during this time that I entered my cookies in a chocolate chip cookie contest sponsored by a local chocolate company. The semi-finals took place in various spots around the Bay Area, including in a little cafe just a few blocks away from our restaurant. And so on the day of the contest, late as usual, I trotted down the street carrying a still warm plate of cookies. And this is where we come back to the soup, because it was while watching the judging that I learned that the specialty of this little cafe was homemade soup.** They offered a new flavor every single day, specially concocted by the chef. The soup that day was something like carrot and cumin. I had never even heard of carrot soup. For a few moments I was in absolute awe. I could not begin to fathom the enormous burden of such an undertaking. And then I promptly forgot about it.

A few years later I had become slightly more adept in the kitchen, but between working, doing freelance design, and attending two different colleges at once, I never got around to making soup. In fact, I never got around to even thinking about making soup until one day when I was ridiculed in the employee lunch room at work. I was heating up my lunch, which happened to be a can of soup, and a fellow employee said something about loving soup. Then he gave my can a distasteful scorn.

"But I never buy soup," he said. "It's too easy to make your own." I do not recall what this guy was having for lunch, but it wasn't soup. I do recall that he did not have a lot of friends at work.

So why have these two memories stuck with me for so many years? Because now I know that homemade soup really is easy. Easy to make with a recipe, easy to come up with your own. The secret to soup is that there is no secret. You start with some water or stock, toss practically anything else you can think of into the pot, and nine times out of ten the results will be scrumptious. (The tenth time they will be ho-hum--but still miles better than most storebought soups.) Surprise number two.

Another myth about homemade soup which needs to be dispelled is that it calls for tons of prep work. Not true. If pressed for time, you can still make plenty of perfectly delightful soups in about half an hour. While you can certainly spend time cutting up an enormous pile of vegetables into identically sized pieces, this is not necessary. When it comes to soup, the more rustic looking the better is what I say. I also prefer my soups to be all, or nearly all, blended up (the sludgier the better), which means you don't even end up seeing the vegetables. As long as everything fits in the pot you are fine. And yes, the intoxicating fragrance of soup that has been simmering all day on the stove will fill up your home like nothing else (and taste absolutely sublime once it is finally done), but while it simmers it does not require babysitting. A stir and a sniff every once in a while will adequately suffice.

But even after years of creating all sorts of wonderful soups, I sometimes still catch myself putting the idea of making soup on the back burner. And so the other day when I was flipping through an old splattered notebook and came upon my recipe for Squash Soup from August of 1995 (my first summer at Windridge Farm and a bountiful one in the garden), I saw an opportunity and pounced on it. I fished out the two big FoodSaver bags of sliced & blanched summer squash from 2004 that I'd discovered during a recent foray into the forgotten bottom layer of the freezer, plucked a bowl of chicken stock from the fridge, grabbed onions and garlic from the pantry, and proceeded to make a delicious and enormous pot of soup which I happily slurped up for the next several days.

My original recipe called for 5 to 6 cups of chicken stock, 4 yellow summer squash (most likely crookneck), 1 large onion, and two cloves of garlic. The instructions simply said to saute onion & garlic (I cook the onion and then add the garlic during the last minute or two), add stock & squash, simmer 25 minutes, and blend. Below the short ingredient list I'd written red peppers? corn? Yep, this was the inspiration for my Simple Summer Harvest Soup. And it could also be the basis for dozens of other soups depending on your imagination and what you have laying around.

I didn't
weigh the squash or measure out the stock when I made my spur of the moment version the other day--I just used what I had, then added a couple of big onions and several cloves of garlic. I wanted a really thick soup. I considered roasting the garlic (which would have been very nice) but didn't bother. A dollop of sour cream and some fresh Italian flat leaf parsley from the greenhouse made tasty garnishes. I placed thin slices of Monterey Jack cheese on the very last bowl and actually moaned out loud when I took the first bite. The creamy cheese immediately melted into the soup in the most wonderful way. I can't believe I'd never thought to do that before. If it were summer I would have also topped at least a couple of bowls with some chopped fresh plum tomatoes from the garden.

Early this morning I awoke to the confusing sound of unexpected raindrops falling on our old tin roof (which was immediately followed by the panicked realization that last night I'd left 320 pounds of feed on the back of the truck covered with nothing but a thin plastic tarp). It's been raining all day--perfect comfort food weather. Since I'd polished off the last of the summer squash soup, around lunchtime I went fishing in the freezers for a stash of some previous warm and cozy creation. But I didn't even catch a little container of stock. We are completely out of soup. I don't think this has ever happened. Surprise number three.

I had planned to offer up a few more tips for super homemade soups, plus how to make the easiest chicken stock ever, but once again I've rambled on far longer than intended, so I guess they'll have to wait. But I will leave you with these three words (which longtime readers have probably already guessed): KitchenAid Hand Blender. Your life will never be the same.

Other soups I've written about:
Simplest Broccoli Soup
Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup
Susan's Super Spinach Soup
Use It Or Lose It Lentil & Escarole Soup
Hearty Lentil Soup With Smoked Sausage
Simple Summer Harvest Soup
Simple Summer Harvest Soup: (The Autumn Version)

**(For those who are curious, my cookies scored a 10 out of 10 at the semi-finals, earning me a place in the finals. I again arrived late with my tray of still warm cookies, and proceeded to take 2nd place out of a total of about 700 entrants.)


Contents © copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/2/07

2006 Headlines That Didn't Make The News


Donkey Brings Morning Traffic To A Standstill

A year of Daily Photos ago:
Winter Color

Welcome new visitors!
Click
here for a brief introduction to this site.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Farm Photo: 1/1/07


Two Trees Dancing Under The Morning Mist

A year of Daily Photos ago:
Best Wishes For The New Year
And WDB#15:
Looking. . .