Monday, March 31, 2008

3/31/08 Quadruple Daily Dose Of Cute


Front View



Rear View




Top View



Partial View

This is the little milk face guy you met the other day. He's doing just fine, nurses like a pro, and is having no trouble keeping up with the bigger kids in the barnyard. He's already grown so much since I snapped these baby pictures last week you'd hardly recognize him now, but I couldn't resist sharing them with you.

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where it's the height of lambing season, but after nearly three weeks past the first due date we only have five lambs on the ground and at least 20 still-pregnant ewes. Did Studly Do Right Jefferson decide to make his one and only job last a little longer last fall or what? And why do I have this feeling the rest of the lambs are all going to arrive at once?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

3/30/08 Daily Dose Of Cute


Just Hangin' With Mom

Need A Bigger Cute Fix?
More Daily Dose Of Cute Photos
Lambing Season 2006 Photos
Lambing Season 2007 Photos
Lambing Season 2008 Photos
More Sheep Stories & Photos
Farm Stories & Farm Life Tidbits

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where everything is black and white and cute all over - and you never want to be too far from the milk bar.

Quick & Healthy Dinner From The Pantry:
Cream (or not) Of Artichoke Soup Recipe With Garlic, Onions, & Garbanzo Beans


Nothing Hits The Spot Like A Bowl Of Cozy Homemade Soup

Some of my favorite recipes were created by chance and circumstance. Last summer's popular Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw and Easy Vegetarian Tacos was the result of having a kitchen full of baby cabbages, my Apple Blueberry Crumble Bars came about while I was baking a bribe for a friend who really wanted Just Peachy Blueberry Breakfast Bars but it wasn't peach season, and my Whole Wheat Scones With Currants & Oats were born out of sheer laziness. Inspiration and invention can even hit during a simple trip into the pantry.

This isn't the Broccoli Onion Garbanzo Bean Soup I'd planned to make one day last January. And it's even further from the roasted red pepper and tomato soup I'd decided to make instead of the broccoli soup. But that's how it is around here sometimes.

I was poking around the pantry, grabbing the jar of roasted red peppers I'd bought specifically for some other recipe and wondering if one big can of organic diced tomatoes would be enough for the soup or did I need two, when I spied the artichoke hearts. At least four cans of them hanging out and gathering dust.

You see, what happens is that I'm the kind of person who lives in phases of crazes, and when I really get into a dish I decide - usually while I'm at the grocery store, starving and pushing a big old empty shopping cart - that I'm going to make whatever dish I'm currently enamored with at least six more times so I'd better stock up on the ingredients. And then maybe I'd better grab a little bit more of them since this thing is so good I'll never get tired of eating it.

Then I get tired of eating it. Or I get lazy and stop making it. Or I forget about it. Or something beyond my control happens, which was the case with all those cans of artichoke hearts that were destined to become several batches of the Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip I was pretty much living on for a while (and intending to live on even longer) last summer. Or maybe it was spring. I can't remember. All I know is that one minute I had more of my beloved Swiss chard in the kitchen garden than I could consume, and the next minute all sorts of creatures and acts of nature and other awful things had conspired to pretty much decimate my entire crop.

And it gets worse. The pittance that was left, bravely struggling through winter in the greenhouse in the hopes of surviving until spring when it could once again turn into monster plants that would supply me with enough greenery to make at least three batches of Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip was eaten by rats. Actually probably just one big rat, though there's also a slim chance it might have been a rabbit or a very fat cat. But I don't really want to talk about it because it's entirely too depressing.

All I know is that back in January there were all these cans of artichoke hearts in the pantry threatening to jump into my as-yet-uninvented roasted red pepper and tomato soup, and then without warning they turned themselves into the star of the show. Suddenly I wanted to make artichoke soup even though I'd never heard of such a thing.

The calendar says spring has sprung, and recipes calling for the first fresh asparagus, potatoes, rhubarb, leeks, and other delights of the season are popping up on food blogs everywhere. This week's newsletter from CUESA says there are even strawberries to be had at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. (Why oh why do I torture myself with a subscription to that newsletter?) But after a mostly frozen February, an extremely wet March, and temperatures still dipping into the teens, there isn't much happening in my Missouri kitchen garden.

It'll be 'pantry eating season' around here for at least a few more weeks, but as long as I have some recipes like this one up my sleeve, that's just fine by me.



Cream (or not) Of Artichoke Soup With Garlic, Onions, & Garbanzo Beans
Makes about 9 cups - Serves 4 to 6

I've never been a big fan of soups that are full of heavy cream. All those hidden calories that could have been consumed as cake or cookies instead! For years I happily thickened my soups with rice and, more recently, garbanzo beans. But since I started buying milk last year that goes from cow to gallon jar to my refrigerator, I've found myself with an overabundance of this amazing heavy cream.

Since there's only so much freshly whipped cream a girl can should eat, after tasting this soup I did the unthinkable; I stirred a cup of cream into the pot. And then I had another taste. And then I seriously thought about stirring in a second cup.

Without the cream, this soup is very good. With the cream, it's divine. And, I reassured myself while gobbling up that first batch, one little cup of cream in a entire pot of soup really isn't that much at all. Besides, think of all that calcium. So waistlines and virtues be dammed - there's no denying that I've turned into a cream soup fan. And after trying this one, you just might cross over, too. Look at it this way: you can always have a smaller piece of cake for dessert.

This easy recipe comes together quickly and contains some of the World's Healthiest Foods. It tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge, so try to make it up ahead of time if you can. As always, I urge you to seek out locally produced and organically grown ingredients whenever possible.

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 onions (about 1-1/2 pounds), coarsely chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained & rinsed
2 14-ounce cans artichokes (packed in water), drained, rinsed & coarsely chopped
1 cup organic heavy cream (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat, then add the onions. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook until onions are soft and starting to brown, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Make a space in the center of the pot and add the garlic, stirring so it all touches the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring, two minutes.

Add the artichokes, garbanzo beans, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid barely cracked for about 30 minutes.

Purée with an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a countertop blender and very carefully purée, then return to the pot. I can't say enough good things about, or imagine life without, my KitchenAid Hand Blender; it's quite possibly the best $50 I've ever spent in the kitchen.

Stir in the cream if desired, let cook a few more minutes, then salt and pepper to taste.

Serve plain or dressed up with whatever you like: a dollop of sour cream; chopped chives or parsley or scallions; some cheddar, jack, or Irish Shannon (my new favorite cheese); a sprinkling of crispy fried shallots; or a few big fat homemade croutons (perhaps from a Four Hour Parisian Baguette).

How about some bread to go with your soup?
Beyond Easy Beer Bread (my most popular recipe)
Quick Rosemary Focaccia
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Onion Rye Beer Bread
Savory Feta Cheese & Scallion Scones
Parisian Four Hour Daily Baguettes
No-Knead Crusty Freeform Bread
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (makes great rolls, too)
Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Italian Black Olive Cheeks
Carrot Herb Rolls (And A Bargain Bread Book For Beginners)
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza

You might also enjoy my other Less Fuss, More Flavor soup recipes:
Broccoli Onion Garbanzo Bean Soup
Susan's Super Spinach Soup
Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup
Hearty Lentil Soup With Smoked Sausage
Use It Or Lose It Lentil & Escarole Soup
Spur Of The Moment Summer Squash Soup
Simple Summer Harvest Soup
Simple Summer Harvest Soup (The Autumn Version)

Still Hungry?
You'll find links to all my sweet & savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the sidebar of the Farmgirl Fare homepage under PREVIOUS POSTS: FOOD STUFF WITH RECIPES. Enjoy!

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Ramona at The Houndstooth Gourmet. Thanks to my foodie friend Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen, food bloggers around the world are now in their third year of sharing information and favorite recipes each week using herbs, plants, veggies, and flowers. Want to join in? Check out the Rules For Weekend Herb Blogging.

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and having homemade soup on hand in the fridge makes it harder to rationalize eating chocolate cake for lunch (which is probably a good thing).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

3/29/08 Daily Dose Of Cute


They're Already Starting To Pack

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog that's home to lightning fast lambies whose motto is Why walk when you can race around at top speed instead?

Friday, March 28, 2008

3/28/08 Daily Dose Of Cute


Milk Face Baby

This little guy was born early Wednesday morning to a first time mother without any trouble at all, but he just didn't feel like nursing. He also didn't feel like drinking from a bottle, which is why most of the milk I tried to give him ended up all over his chin.

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we don't give up until we know you're getting some milk - and it often looks like the newborn lambs are smiling.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

3/27/08: Daily Dose Of Cute


Future Organic Hay Eaters Of America

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where lambing season isn't even in full swing and we're already on the verge of cute overload.

Farm Photo 3/27/08: Little Hearts, Big Love


Happy 50th (!!) Birthday To My Hunky Farmguy Joe

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/27/07: A Lot Of Love On The Farm

Two years ago:
3/26/07: The Bigger The Water Dish, The Happier The Dog
3/27/06: Happy Birthday To My Sweetheart Joe

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the sun is shining, the daffodils are blooming, the Parisian Daily Baguettes just came out of the oven, the wet weather creek and champagne are flowing, heart shaped rocks are all over the place - and a certain farmguy just gets better with age.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3/26/08: Daily Dose Of Cute


Charlotte & Her Baby Girl

Our sheep are mostly Suffolk, a breed distinguished by their black legs and heads. Their lambs are often born covered in spots or are even entirely black, but the colors quickly fade in the sunlight. For example, Cary (who is doing great by the way) was all black as a baby. Our only black lambs that remain black (or brown or grey) are those that are related to the ewes in my original flock, which were bred to a black Border Leicester ram. I have a soft spot in my heart for the true black sheep, and I absolutely love the Suffolk spots, which I enjoy while they last!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan share stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and baby lambs are irresistible, even if they're spotless.

Farm Photo 3/26/08: Donkey Dietary Habits


They Got Tired Of Eating A La Cart

Want to see more than just the ears?
Dolores Photos
Daphne Photos
More Donkey Photos

A year of Farm Photos ago (Lots of Lamb Reports!):
3/9/07: Zelda's Curious Twins
3/14/07: Tana & Her Baby Boy
3/15/07: Gang Activity
3/16/07: The Definition Of Relaxed
3/18/07 Martha's Twin Girls, Age One Week
3/20/07: All Booked Up At The Bonding Suite Inn
3/22/07: Gobble Gobble Gobble
3/24/07: Just Hangin' Out
3/25/07: Baby Gobble

Two years ago:
3/13/06: I'm Gonna Need More Than Spun Gold For Breakfast
3/14/06: On The Breakfast Lookout
3/14/06: A Whole New Way To Start Dan's Day
3/15/06: One & A Half Anonymous Hay Eaters
3/16/06: World's Best Pillow
3/17/06: A Little Green For St. Patrick's Day
3/18/06: J2 On The Potting Bench
3/19/06: Off Duty Dog
3/19/06: Farewell Winter
3/20/06: Happy First Day Of Spring
3/21/06: You Don't Mind Another Daffodil, Do You?
3/22/06: Whitey & Lindy The Chickens Take Over
3/24/06: Uncle Dan Is Back On The Job!
3/25/06: Well Somebody Has To Eat It
3/25/06: Weekend Cat Blogging - Smudge
3/26/06: I Told You They Have No Manners

And out of the garden came:
The Great Compost Cover Up
It's A Bouncing Baby Blog!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the telephone rings and the next thing you know you've bought a little donkey - or two big donkeys.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Farm Photo 3/25/08: Daily Dose Of Cute


Silly Wendy's Twin Girl, Five Days Old

One Little Lamb Not Enough?
Lambing Season 2006 Photos
Lambing Season 2007 Photos
Lambing Season 2008 Photos
More Sheep Stories & Photos
Farm Stories & Farm Life Tidbits

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where snuggling adorable baby lambs so they'll become friendly and used to being handled is just part of the day's work. It's rough stuff, but somebody around here's gotta do it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Farm Photo 3/22/08: Leaves On The Lilacs


Which Means There Will Hopefully Be Flowers Soon

Last year I told you about
my infatuation with lilacs, and you were kind enough to respond with your own personal (and wonderful) lilac stories and memories. I know better than to sniff my lilac flowers before they bloom, as they usually only appear every few years here because of our crazy weather, but I can't help but get excited whenever I see these first leaves popping out. The dreamy scent of lilacs might possibly be in the air.

Do you have a lilac memory or story? I'd love to hear it.

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where unfortunately we're usually too busy to plant flowers, but we always make sure to take time to appreciate the ones that are kind enough to come up every year on their own.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Farm Photo 3/20/08: Oh Baby Baby!


A Sight For Stressed Eyes

The donkey peddling cowboy was held up doctoring some of his cows yesterday and couldn't come check on the sheep, but thankfully we were able to ford the creek river in our big farm ton truck late yesterday afternoon (what an adventure!). I'd put Silly Wendy (who received the second half of her name during our Name That Sheep Contest) in a bonding pen the day before because I knew she was extremely close to lambing - unlike two weeks ago when I kept her in one for four days and finally realized she wasn't nearly as close as I'd thought. I was thrilled to see that while I was stuck on the other side of the creek from the barn she had given birth two a big pair of healthy and adorable twins.

But that's old news. I still remember the first time I read a James Herriot book. I was in junior high school and picked one up because one of my best pals had become totally addicted to them. The first chapter began with Dr. Herriot tending to a prolapsed cow, and, squeamish as I was, I couldn't understand why in the world my friend was in love with these icky books. And while I later fell in love with them, I certainly never pictured myself doing something eerily similar nearly 30 years later.

I'll spare those of you who are here only for the food and cute animal pictures any more details. Just know that tonight was another one of those James Herriot moments - only the vet was nowhere in sight. I've definitely expanded my sheep tending skills, and the mother-to-be has been 'put back together,' but with a broken water bag and no baby in sight yet it's looking to be a very long night. Heading back down to the barn now.

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where living with livestock means there's never a dull moment, and inbetween picking out and picking up five different colors of paint for the new building and dealing with lambing emergencies, Joe found a moment to present me with a beautiful first day of spring gift - a single blooming daffodil he plucked from the yard.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Farm Photo 3/19/08: Flood Watch


No Crossing Zone

Many of you know about our wet weather creek that starts meandering through the farm after a heavy rain or big snow melt. Well yesterday that pleasant little stream quickly became a raging, unpassable torrent. The rain, which continued throughout the night, has finally let up (and now there's light snow predicted), but the creek won't crest and begin to recede for several more hours. The fields are flooding, and the barnyard is pretty much under water.

After driving a truck full of hay over to the barn while we could still get across yesterday, we worked in the pouring rain doing what we could to divert some of the several mini rivers that were rushing down the hillside and into the barnyard. Joe managed to dig out a drainage runoff trench that was already overflowing, and in lieu of sandbags we packed handfuls of wet leaves around a large tree limb in one spot, but the water simply went around it.

At one time there were 40 homes down here in our little valley, and over the years all of them flooded except for The Shack. The new building we plan to move into is located just across the farmyard on one of the only other spots that hasn't been under water at some point in the last 70 years.

So we're safe and dry, but we haven't been able to get over to the barn - which is full of two dozen extremely pregnant sheep - since 4:00 yesterday afternoon. The donkey peddling cowboy will be here soon to check on the girls and feed everyone hay. Cell phones don't work down here, so we'll have to shout to each other across and over the sound of the rushing water. Until then there's nothing to do but wait, wonder, watch, and worry.

Want to see what the creek normally looks like?
3/18/06: Meandering By The House Exactly Two Years Ago
3/26/06: The Bigger The Water Dish, The Happier The Dog
5/15/06: Sheep Crossing
1/15/07: Running Water, Rubber Boots, & Mud (This is looking across the water toward where I was standing when I took today's photo; that's the same little clump of cedar trees, and those bare trees on the rocky beach are the ones now midstream.)
1/19/07: Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life Is But A Stream
2/25/08: A Rare Winter Sight - And Geese!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where some days it's more obvious than others that Mother Nature is the one in control around here - and the donkeys are safe but soggy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Farm Photo 3/17/08: Hey Baby!


Charlotte & Her Baby Girl, Age One Day, Enjoying Brunch

When the vet was here last Wednesday night tending to Cary (who is doing fine by the way), I mentioned that she was our first ewe of the year to go into labor, and I hoped this wasn't a sign that we were in for a difficult lambing season. "Oh, I doubt it," he said assuredly.

"I mean, no offense, but I hope I never see you again."

"I understand completely."

With at least two dozen more pregnant sheep still to go, there's no telling how things will turn out this year, but ewe number two certainly went a whole lot easier than ewe number one. Late Saturday morning two-year-old Charlotte was making signs that she might be getting close to going into labor: hanging back in the barn, bleating, and being extra intolerant of the dogs. It's not uncommon for a ewe to be in labor for several hours, especially a first time mother.

But when I returned to the barn less than an hour later, she was already busy cleaning up her newborn baby girl. When I hiked back up to The Shack and reported to Joe that Charlotte's lamb was up and nursing, he said, "First time mother and she had it all by herself that fast with no problems?"

"Yep."

Then he pumped his fist in the air and shouted, "Yes!"

Now this is how things are supposed to be.

And we have lots more to come.

In the meantime, I desperately need to do some catching up. A lot has been going on. There are several cute new faces on the farm you haven't met yet, and I have a pile of recipes to share, including some cold weather comfort food favorites I'd really like to post before the cold weather is over. Think cozy soups and slow cooked Dutch oven dinners.

I still need to pick the winners from January's contests, and I have more fun books to give away. I'm also incredibly behind answering questions and replying to comments (thanks for your patience). And of course every day there are new stories and photos. It's shaping up to be a very busy spring around the farm, and I'm looking forward to sharing it all with you - hopefully soon!

Need A Bigger Cute Fix?
Lambing Season 2006 Photos
Lambing Season 2007 Photos
More Sheep Stories & Photos
Farm Stories & Farm Life Tidbits

© 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the only thing cuter than a bouncing baby lamb is a couple dozen of them - which makes the nightly 2 a.m. trips to the barn this time of year worth every groggy step.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Farm Photo 3/13/08: Cary, No Baby


Cary

The late night visit from the vet felt like a scene straight from a James Herriot book, only with slightly more technology - and antibiotics. Even the vet admitted he'd been thinking about James Herriot while driving out here, as he read over the directions I'd given him and realized just how far out into the country he was headed.

In the 13 years I've been raising sheep, I've never had to have a vet come to the farm. This was the third one I'd tried to get a hold of. I explained the situation and asked if he could drive over.

"You can't bring her down to the clinic?"

"No."

"It's gonna be expensive."

"I know." It's Cary.

Bear and I watched his headlights make their way down the switchbacks on the driveway and listened to the distant sound of his truck. When he got out he smiled and said, "This is the kind of place you move to when you don't want anybody to find you!" Then he looked around the darkness. "You're out here by yourself?"

"Tonight I am." And I led him into the barn.

Cary didn't have twins as I'd thought she might. That swollen belly of hers was full of one enormous baby, and it was very stuck. The normal position for a lamb about to be born is right side up, both hooves headed out, nose between the hooves. This one had one leg back, and its nose was pointed down. I've never had this happen. I talked to a friend who has more lambing experience than I do. She told me what to do. I tried and tried, but I couldn't do it. I needed help. Cary needed help.

The first priority is to save the mother. We lost the baby - a 15-pound (!!) black boy - but we saved Cary. She's expected to make a full recovery, and was up and nibbling on hay not long after the exhausting ordeal was over. I sat with her for a while in the little bonding suite after the vet had driven back out into the night, my forehead resting against her side, my hand stroking her neck. She didn't have anyone else to bond to. I didn't want to leave her.

I'm sure Cary would have been a wonderful mother, and I'm hopeful that one day she will be. But no matter what happens, she'll always be my baby. As the vet was packing up his things, I told him Cary's story. This morning when I came out of the Treat Room holding a little bucket of grain, she bumped her nose into my thigh like she used to do whenever she wanted her bottle of milk. She hasn't done that in over a year.

This is a short version of the story because I'm headed off the farm and won't be back until late tonight. But I knew many of you Cary fans would be anxiously waiting for an update. I'd been really worried that she would go into labor while I was gone today, and now I know that if she had we probably would have lost her. I'm so very grateful that we didn't.

Lambing Season 2008 has officially begun, and considering that we had seven lambs born in the first 24 hours of lambing season last year, I'm sure the next several days are going to be even chaotic than usual around here. You know I'll keep you posted.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the heart wrenching foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares the ups and downs of life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Farm Photo 3/12/08: Cary Babies?


Room for two in there?

Wondering who Cary is? Meet her in
A Tiny Tail For Mother's Day.

Cary is a twin, and her father is a twin, so there's a good chance that Cary could have twins. This photo was taken back on Febrary 22nd, when I realized that Cary had begun to look wider than all of the other sheep.

More below. . .

Monday, March 10, 2008

Broccoli Onion Garbanzo Bean Soup Recipe & Recharging Your Dead Batteries (Because Setting Them On Fire Isn't An Option)


Donkey Doodle Dandy On Fire Watch Duty

There are many things to love about living on a very remote farm. You can, for instance, go outside and howl at the top of your lungs at the coyotes at midnight, blast the stereo until the speakers threaten to blow, or run around the yard naked because there's no one around to care. (Not that I ever do the naked yard thing.) You also don't have to worry that the neighbors are going to complain about the dogs barking or the donkeys braying or the sheep baaing or the rooster crowing.

On the other hand, there are certain luxuries that I completely took for granted before moving to the middle of nowhere. Like mail delivery. And Chinese food delivery. And garbage pick up. Yes, you might want to take a few seconds to contemplate the enormity of that last one; I'll wait.

We're very fortunate, however, to have a wonderful recycling center only 35 miles away, which is practically down the street by rural Missouri standards. They happily take the feed sacks we've refilled with glass, metal, plastic containers labeled #1 and #2, cardboard, newspaper, and even glossy junk mail.

When you add in the food waste that we toss to the chickens and in the compost bins, plus the bag of stuff earmarked for the thrift store, the magazines headed for the library 'free' box, the empty wine and champagne bottles we leave at the natural foods store for people who make their own wine and beer (we put our homebrewed beer in 12-ounce bottles that we reuse over and over), plus the pile of newspapers we keep for starting fires in the woodstove, we have no fewer than 13 different garbage receptacles. Houseguests are terrified to throw anything away and ask things like, "Do chickens eat avocado skins?" "Can you compost dryer lint?" and "What should I do with this band-aid?"

We also reuse as much stuff as we can around the farm. Styrofoam mushroom containers and plastic food containers become seed starting pots that are labeled with strips I cut from unrecyclable #5 plastic sour cream tubs. Rows of large, clear plastic jugs that once held peanuts now neatly organize metal nuts and bolts and nails in Joe's shop. Plastic seltzer bottles are refilled with water and turned into long lasting ice packs for coolers. And #5 cottage cheese containers hold the homemade dog/cat/chicken food I make up in big batches and freeze.

Paper that's wet or dirty is burned, and anything else is put in what we call the 'trash trash' bag. It usually takes us at least a week to fill up one small plastic grocery sack with trash trash, which I think is pretty neat. You can pay a per-bag fee to dump trash trash at the recycling center, but because we generate so little they usually take ours for free. Plus I bring them cookies.

Burning all of your trash is very common around here, and before I moved in with Joe he routinely burned a little more than he does now, using what he called 'accelerants' to 'help the fire get started.' His motto was Everything burns eventually. He did recycle large glass beer bottles, but I suspect that was only because he couldn't get them to ignite. One day about ten years ago, noticing that some dead batteries had something like 'please call for proper disposal information' printed on them, he decided to call the toll-free number.

As Joe tells it, the guy who answered the phone said that yes, batteries did indeed need to be disposed of properly, "but he wouldn't actually tell me what the proper way to dispose of them was." So they went round and round until finally Joe said, "Well then I'm just going to burn these dead batteries."

"You can't burn batteries!" the guy said.

"Why not?"

"You just can't!"

"Oh yes I can, I just toss them in the burn barrel. I've done it before."

"YOU CAN'T BURN BATTERIES!"

I think this was about the point where Joe hung up the phone. Or maybe it was the battery guy who hung up on him. "He was getting really worked up."

Fortunately even borderline pyromaniacs can be converted into good little recyclers, and we all breathe easier now that my reformed hunky farmguy burns much smaller, more easily ignitable piles of trash. While we do still have the occasional discussion as to whether something is flammable or not (usually as I'm plucking it out of the garbage can saying, "You can't burn this!"), the battery issue was solved several years ago by the purchase of a couple of battery chargers and a bunch of rechargeable batteries.

I highly recommend this Sony Quick Batter Charger, which is the bestselling charger on Amazon.com for good reason. I've been using mine for over two years and love it. It comes with four Sony 2500 mAh AA Rechargeable Ni-MH Batteries and is an absolute steal at around 20 bucks, especially considering the price of disposable batteries these days. I'm still using the original batteries that came with the charger, along with a few four-packs of extra batteries I bought so that I always have four spares charged and ready to go in my digital camera, as well as enough for other things like flashlights. I use my camera several times a day, pretty much every day, and these batteries will last for several weeks. You can also charge AAA Ni-MH batteries with the Sony charger.

So the next time your batteries run out of power, I urge you to consider investing in some rechargeable ones. You'll be easing the strain on your wallet, the environment, and that poor guy answering the battery help hotline. Plus no accelerants required.

And if your own batteries could use a little recharging, I suggest a warm bowl of this deliciously simple broccoli soup. It tastes so good it's easy to forget how good it is for you.

Now if only you could plug in the empty pot and have it automatically refill itself.


Soup's On!

Easy Broccoli Onion Garbanzo Bean Soup

Loaded with onions, garlic, broccoli, and garbanzo beans - which are some of the World's Healthiest Foods - this cozy soup packs a powerhouse of nutrients. It's broccoli season right now, so you should have no trouble finding bunches that are both flavorful and inexpensive. In cooler climates, start looking for freshly harvested, organically grown broccoli at farmers' markets in the coming weeks.

I used to thicken my broccoli soup with a few tablespoons of uncooked rice, but one day I tossed a can of organic garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas, and one of my favorite foods) into the pot instead. I got the thickness I wanted along with more flavor, more fiber, and more protein.

Cans of organic beans are versatile pantry staples and can often be found for the bargain price of about a dollar apiece, or even less when they're on sale. Some stores such as Whole Foods will give you a case discount if you stock up and buy 12 cans at a time.

I like my soups thick and almost sludgy; simply add more chicken stock if you prefer yours thinner. If you're feeling decadent or in need of a calcium boost, you can stir in a cup or two of some nice cream after blending. It'll make your soup taste positively dreamy, but it really isn't necessary.

As with most soups, this one tastes even better after lounging around for a day or two in the fridge. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever possible. They really do make a difference - in so many ways.

2 to 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds onions, coarsely chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large bunch broccoli (about 1-1/2 pounds), stems (peeled if tough) and florets, coarsely chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, preferably organic, drained and rinsed
4 to 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat, then add the onions. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook until onions are soft and starting to brown, stirring frequently, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Make a space in the center of the pot and add the garlic, stirring so it all touches the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring, two minutes.

Add the broccoli, garbanzo beans, and chicken stock. The soup will look too thick; it is not. It's okay if the broccoli isn't all submerged in the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer with the lid barely cracked until broccoli is tender, about 25 minutes.

Purée with an immersion blender (I can't say enough good things about - or imagine life without - my KitchenAid Hand Blender; it's probably the best $50 I've ever spent in the kitchen) or very carefully purée in batches in a countertop blender, then return to the pot and cook a few more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with whatever you like: chopped fresh chives, a drizzle of olive oil, some coarsely grated Pecorino Romano, a dollop of sour cream, a slice or two of sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack, some nice blue cheese crumbles, or absolutely nothing at all. Curl up in a cozy spot and devour, making sure to spend a few moments between slurps feeling grateful for the existence of something as wonderful and warming as a bowl of homemade soup.

How about some bread to go with your soup?
Beyond Easy Beer Bread (my most popular recipe)
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Onion Rye Beer Bread
Savory Feta Cheese & Scallion Scones
Parisian Four Hour Baguettes
No-Knead Crusty Freeform Bread
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (makes great rolls, too)
Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Italian Black Olive Cheeks
Carrot Herb Rolls (And A Bargain Bread Book For Beginners)
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza

You might also enjoy my other Less Fuss, More Flavor soup recipes:
Susan's Super Spinach Soup
Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup
Hearty Lentil Soup With Smoked Sausage
Use It Or Lose It Lentil & Escarole Soup
Spur Of The Moment Summer Squash Soup
Simple Summer Harvest Soup
Simple Summer Harvest Soup (The Autumn Version)

Still Hungry?
You'll find links to all my sweet & savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the sidebar of the Farmgirl Fare homepage under PREVIOUS POSTS: FOOD STUFF WITH RECIPES. Enjoy!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres, and "Come on baby light my fire" isn't just part of a song.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Farm Photo 3/8/08: My Hearts Overfloweth


Heart As Art

The little stone ledge next to the front door of The Shack is now piled high with over 200 heart shaped rocks, yet I can't stop picking them up. I continue to find a new one at least every day or two, so I've started leaving them tucked in various places around the farm. This one is sitting on the rickety old loading chute by the barn.

© Copyright FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where hearts are everywhere you look - which must be because we're surrounded by love. Or doing what we love. Or living in a place we love. Or something to do with love. No matter what, it's gotta be good, right?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Farm Photo 3/7/08: Waiting For Lunch


On Top Of
Breakfast

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/7/07: Baby Cary Turned 10 Months Old Yesterday!

Two years ago:
3/6/06: Freeze Frame
3/7/06: Harbinger

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where sheep can make you smile and nobody likes to be far from the food.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Farm Photo 3/6/08: Do Chickens Ever Smile?


This one doesn't.

Back on Valentine's Day I launched into an impromptu little garden clean-up in the greenhouse, deciding on a whim to clear out my scraggly looking, previously frozen, cat-flattened, permanent arugula bed in order to make way for new spring planting.

I gave an entire bucket of fairly nice arugula scraps to the chickens, figuring they would
be thrilled to have some freshly picked greens. Whitey most definitely was not. I think she'd been expecting a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Want to see more?
Whitey The Chicken
Whitey's Adventures With Motherhood aka Whitey Watch (scroll down to begin at the beginning)
Chicken Stuff
Farm Life Tidbits

© FarmgirlFare.com, the fine feathered oodie farm blog where even spoiled little old hens don't always get what they want - and nobody around here appreciates salad as much as I do.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Farm Photo 3/5/08: Seasonal Eating


Hay - It's What's For
Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

Want to see more?
Snow Photos & Snowstorm Stuff
Haying Season Photos
Farm Landscape Photos

A year of Farm Photos ago:
2/24/07: Curious & Oblivious (aka Patchy Cat & Robin)
2/26/07:
Finding More Foodies (Are you a foodie? Add to the fun list - leave a comment and tell us how you know!)
3/4/07: Daffodils Already? (This year they're popping up through the snow.)
3/5/07: Zelda & Her Twins, Age Two Hours (The first 2008 lambs should be arriving any day now.)

Two years ago:
2/24/06: Falling To Pieces
2/25/06: Anyone Recognize Those Ears?
2/26/06: Start Small, Think Big
2/27/06: First Day Outside For Martha's Baby Boy
2/28/06: Martha & Her Twins
WCB #38: Purrfectly Content
WCB #39: Patchy Cat Keeps An Eye On Everything
WDB #23: Donkey Doodle Dandy Adores Lucky Buddy Bear
3/1/06: I'll Spring To Life If There's Trouble
3/2/06: A Brief Distraction From All The Cuteness
3/3/06: Skinny Chip Checks Out One Of The Little Attention Grabbers
3/4/06: Next?
3/5/06: Lounging Lambies

And Out Of The Kitchen & Garden Came:
Lowly Turnips Are Tip Top

© 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we don't serve up a whole lot of hot meals this time of year, but at least we knock the icicles off for you.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Farm Photo 3/4/08: Auntie Rose


Sometimes Known As Hayhead

This is an actual conversation that took place last November.

My mother: What's that one's name?

Me: Auntie Rose.

My mother: That's kind of a dumb name.

My head turns, my eyes widen in disbelief.

Me: You named her!

My mother: I did?

Me: Yes!

My mother: I don't remember.

Me: It was years ago. For some reason we'd started calling one of The Chippers Uncle Chip, and you said there should be an Auntie Rose to go with Uncle Chip and we needed to name this ewe Auntie Rose.

My mother: I did?

Me: Yes!

My mother: I don't remember that.

Me: I always wanted to change her name to something else, but I was afraid I'd hurt your feelings.

My mother: I really don't remember.

Me: So you mean to tell me that all these years she could have had a better name instead of being called Auntie Rose?

My mother: I don't remember any of this.

Maybe my mother should enter politics.

Want to see more?
Sheep Photos
Farm Life Tidbits
Haying Season Photos
Farm Landscape Photos

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the hay covered foodie farm blog where almost everybody gets a name eventually, but it might take a while—and it might not be a good one.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Farm Photo 3/2/08:
How Do Donkeys Order Lunch?


A La Cart!

Want to see more?
Donkey Photos
Dolores Photos
Dinky Photos
Daphne Photos
Donkey Doodle Dandy
Snow Photos & Snowstorm Stuff

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where country life is crazy and so is the weather. Today it was a blustery, balmy, and bizarre 76 degrees. Tomorrow night and Tuesday we're expecting 4 to 6 7 to 8 inches of sleet and snow, with thunderstorms, flood warnings, and ice before that. Here we go again.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How To Cook Lamb: Onion & Herb Crusted Lamb Spareribs Recipe & Grilled Lamb Leg Steaks


Simple Yet Superb: Onion & Herb Crusted Lamb Spareribs

People often ask me if we eat any of the animals we raise. The answer is yes, and I wouldn't have it any other way. You can read more about my philosphy
on raising animals for meat in my previous post, Book Review: Cooking With Shelburne Farms & A Recipe For Grilled Lamb Burgers With Roasted Red Pepper, Parsley, & Kalamata Olive Relish. And look for more of my Less Fuss, More Flavor lamb recipes to be posted soon. Well, maybe not soon, but in the near future.

There are lots of people in this country who do not eat lamb. Some of them had very bad experiences with mutton many decades ago, usually while in the military. Others consider lamb too expensive, preferring to plunk down the same amount of hard earned cash for a couple of juicy T-bone steaks rather than some itty bitty loin chops they aren't completely sure what to do with anyway. And, sadly, a surprisingly large number of people have simply never had the opportunity to taste lamb in any way, shape, or form. According to USDA's Economic Research Service, each American eats less than one pound of lamb a year.

The most well known cuts of lamb are the chops and the leg. Roast leg of lamb, the year round Sunday dinner of choice in England for centuries, is sometimes found on formal holiday tables in this country, as is rack of lamb. Both are suitably impressive looking, which no doubt helps to foster the reputation lamb has of being a very fancy dish. Lamb in America has become the champagne of meats, and serving it is often reserved for special occasions. But this reputation - as anyone who has ever had a cozy dish of slow cooked braised lamb shanks will tell you - is undeserved and needs to be abolished (as does that whole ridiculous 'champagne is only for celebrations' nonsense). And I'm not just saying that because I happen to raise and sell lambs. There is much more to a lamb than a couple of roast legs and some chops.

When I was a child, lamb chops made a regular appearance on our family dinner table. My mother broiled them, and they were always served with mint jelly. I don't recall having any other cuts of lamb, though once I moved to a farm and started raising sheep, I discovered that my mother has a deep and abiding love for lamb. During her 10-day visit last fall we ate lamb at least seven times. When I dropped her off at the airport, she had a lamb sandwich in her carry-on and a small insulated container of leftover roast leg of lamb in her suitcase.

We sell our naturally raised, grass-fed lambs directly to local individuals each year in late spring. We deliver the lambs to a nearby family-owned processor, and a week later the customers pick up their frozen meat which has been cut and packaged to their specifications. This butcher didn't have a whole lot of experience processing lambs before I - totally clueless and not real good at picturing things three dimensionally - showed up with my battered copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook opened to the page titled 'Lamb Retail Cuts: Where They Come From And How To Cook Them.' The last several years have been a learning experience for all of us.

I ask lots of questions, and they do their best to accommodate me. Can you tell me the exact time to deliver the lambs so they don't have to wait around being nervous and stressed? Yes. Can you hang the dressed meat using this special technique so it ends up even more tender? Yes. Can you hang it for several days longer than you usually do? Yes. Can you make us some lamb salami with seasonings I provide and without any nitrates? Yes. Do you know how to cut a rack of lamb? No, but we'll figure it out.


Easy Summer Supper: Grilled Lamb Leg Steaks & Garden Veggies


Last year, after talking with a new customer who mentioned that he and his wife don't cook roasts ("We're grill people!"), I asked our butcher if he thought it would work to cut the legs into steaks instead of leaving them whole. Yes! Since we probably use our outdoor propane grill 300 nights a year, we decided we would have the legs on one our own lambs sliced into 1-1/4 inch steaks (the same thickness we get our chops). We love roast leg of lamb, and we love having all the leftovers for sandwiches, but we just don't end up cooking them that often, especially during the warmer months.

We grilled two test steaks for six minutes a side and served them up alongside some sauteed veggies from the organic kitchen garden. I took one bite and stared down at my plate as a big grin spread across my face. "It's like eating an enormous boneless lamb chop!" (The legs are actually bone-in, but you barely notice the little piece in each steak.)

When I called the butcher the next day to ask if he could cut up meat that's already frozen, without skipping a beat he said, "You want me to cut up the other legs you have in your freezer, right?" Yes. Leg steaks are now hands-down my favorite cut of lamb.

Nobody's perfect of course, and butchers do make mistakes from time to time. Unfortunately when you're doing custom processing, there isn't a whole lot that can be done once you've messed up somebody's meat. Take, for instance, the time a friend of mine went to pick up her fat hog and found that the two whole hams she'd ordered (and had special plans for) had both been sliced into steaks. It isn't as if they could just be glued back together.

Last year one of our customers was truly distraught when she realized that her two racks of lamb spareribs were nowhere to be found. They'd inadvertantly been turned into stew meat, an understandable oversight since according to the butcher almost nobody ever wants the ribs. Unfortunately they just happened to be this woman's favorite cut, and she'd been looking forward to eating them for months.

It isn't easy to find whole racks of lamb spareribs (which come from the breast) for sale, but this overlooked cut is worth seeking out, and they shouldn't be very expensive when you find them. Check with a good butcher or try searching at Local Harvest for a lamb producer in your area.

As always - and especially during these times of more and more scary recalls - I urge you to pay attention to where your food comes from and under what conditions it was raised. Do you want to eat animals that have been given growth hormones and antibiotics? Or spend their lives crammed into a filthy feedlot eating GMO corn?

Lambs that are allowed to graze freely on pastures, exercising and gaining weight slowly, are happy, healthy animals. Their lean meat is better tasting and better for you than lambs quickly fattened up on grain in commercial feedlots. Studies show that grass-fed meat is lower in fat and higher in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also contains as much as 500 times the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound substance and essential fatty acid necessary for optimal health, as conventional animals fed grains and feed.

One lamb has two racks of spareribs. Ours weigh between 1-1/2 to 2 pounds each. The ribs don't have a lot of meat on them, but they're very tasty. Two whole racks should serve four people, though after a hard day of working around the farm, my lamb loving mother can polish off nearly an entire rack by herself. I roast the racks whole and then cut them up before serving. Eating lamb ribs is a messy but thoroughly enjoyable experience.


Just A Few Minutes Of Prep & They're Ready For The Oven

Onion & Herb Crusted Lamb Spareribs

This is the same way I prepare a whole leg of lamb for roasting. You simply slather on a thick layer of the onion and herb mixture and pop it in the oven. Both the leg and ribs will taste even better if you allow the meat sit for several hours once you've spread the topping on (set it in the fridge if it's going to be more than two hours). You can cook the ribs for as little as an hour, but two hours makes the topping nice and crisp and the meat more tender. You could probably slow cook them at a lower temperature for even longer.

Onion flakes are marvelous little things that I toss into all sorts of stuff. I see them selling in the bulk herb sections of natural food stores for a ridiculous $15 to $18 per pound, but for years I've been ordering them - along with all kinds of other top quality herbs and spices at wholesale prices -for $3.10 a pound from AmeriHerb in Iowa. The minimum order is just one pound of anything, and they only charge you their actual shipping costs. You can read more about AmeriHerb and why I love them so much in my previous post, Onion Flakes & Things For Cakes.

I never measure out quantities when I make this; I just start with at least a couple of big handfuls of onion flakes and go from there. As long as there's enough olive oil to hold everything together and enough paste to make a thick layer, you really can't go wrong with this combination of ingredients, especially if your herbs are freshly picked. Simply adjust the amounts of everything to suit your tastes.

2 whole racks of lamb spareribs (about 3 to 4 pounds)

Onion flakes
Chopped fresh garlic
Chopped fresh rosemary
Chopped fresh thyme
Chopped fresh basil
Chopped fresh parsley (I use lots)
Dijon mustard (not too much)
Nice salt & pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Spread spareribs in a large roasting pan.* Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl to form a thick paste. Using your fingers, spread it all over the ribs. Cook, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 1 to 2 hours. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut each rack into individual ribs. Pile on a platter and serve with plenty of cloth napkins and a bowl for the bones.

Leftover ribs can be reheated in the oven or toaster/convection oven the next day for lunch. Or if you're pressed for time because your mother, disguised as a starving farm worker, is sure she will pass out from hunger before they're ready, you can gently reheat them in the microwave.

* Our lamb ribs come with a couple of separate end pieces that won't fit in my big new roasting pan (how did I survive so long without one of these?), so on a whim I slathered them with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce that I bought at Trader Joe's and cooked them in a separate small dish. Yum. Then I tried marinating two entire racks in the stuff overnight. Double yum. So if you can't get a hold of some nice fresh herbs for this recipe, here's another easy and tasty option.

This is my contribution to Grow Your Own, a wonderful monthly food blogging event hosted at Andrea's Recipes that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. This month's roundup will be posted at Andrea's Recipes in a day or two. Want to join in the Grow Your Own fun? Find out how here.

Still hungry?
You'll find links to all of my Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the sidebar of the Farmgirl Fare homepage.

© 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories and photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and we all eat very, very well.