Wednesday, August 31

Daily Farm Photo: 8/31/05

Each Bale Is Handled Four Or Five Times Between Field & Barn

Tuesday, August 30

Daily Farm Photo: 8/30/05

From Here To The Barn Seems To Take An Eternity

Monday, August 29

Daily Farm Photo: 8/29/05

Raked Hay Ready To Be Baled Today

Sunday, August 28

Daily Farm Photo: 8/28/05

Discard On Display

Saturday, August 27

Daily Farm Photo: 8/27/05

Running A Farm Is Hard Work

Friday, August 26

Daily Farm Photo: 8/26/05

These Misty Summer Mornings Feel So Peaceful

Thursday, August 25

Daily Farm Photo: 8/25/05

Some Of The Most Cheerful Wildflowers

Wednesday, August 24

Bread Bakers, Start Your Ovens!

Freshly Baked Pain Au Levain

Yes, last month's Ten Tips For Better Bread post is finally complete!
And while I originally wrote it with freeform, crusty loaves in mind, I have realized that nearly all of these tips and techniques can be applied to practically any type of bread you want to bake, including sandwich-style pan loaves.

So if you're ready to begin baking your best loaves ever (or perhaps your first loaf ever!), just tie on your apron and click here. I thank you for your patience and look forward to hearing about your adventures. And remember--even bad homemade bread usually tastes good!

Daily Farm Photo: 8/24/05

Lucky 13 Is First Out Of The Barn Nearly Every Morning

Tuesday, August 23

Daily Farm Photo: 8/23/05

Hardy Echinacea Blooms All Summer Long In The Garden

Monday, August 22

Daily Farm Photo: 8/22/05

Heart Rocks By The Barn

Happy Birthday To My Mom!

Sunday, August 21

Daily Farm Photo: 8/21/05

All In A Night's Work

Saturday, August 20

Daily Farm Photo: 8/20/05


Attention Cat Lovers! It's time for Weekend Cat Blogging #11!
Food Bloggers around the world unite each week and share pictures of our favorite felines. See cute cat photos and discover yummy food blogs. We'd love to have you join us. Just send your permalink in a comment to Clare at Eat Stuff and add a "Weekend Cat Blogging" tag to your post.

This week check out:
Kiri enjoying the great outdoors
at Eat Stuff in Australia
Bella & Tasha at A Few Of My Favourite Things in Australia
Kelly at Annes Food in Sweden
Gideon Greve at A Cat In The Kitchen in Sweden

Miles, a big orange boy, at My Adventures in the Breadbox
Indrid at Tigers & Strawberries in Ohio
Boo's picture of her favourite orange kitten at Masak Masak in Malaysia
Culinary Abe at Restaurant Widow in Ohio
Tsar lying in his basket at Cook and Eat in Australia
Callie and Nick takin' a nap at Sweetnicks in New England

Friday, August 19

Daily Farm Photo: 8/19/05

At Last! Ripe Tomatoes In The Garden.

Thursday, August 18

Recipe: Choco-Oat-Butterscotch-Coconut Crazy Cookies

Wow. Who knew?

They're only slightly less computer savvy than I am.

Welcome to the 21st century, Farmgirl!

Wow. Who knew computer technology had come so far in ten years? Who knew how much better my daily farm photos would look on a fancy flat screen? Who knew it was going to be such an ordeal to set up my brand spanking new computer?

And for those of you who follow along with the comments and were starting to question my eyesight (or my sanity): who knew that you could adjust the brightness on the monitor and suddenly see all kinds of things hiding in the darkness, like New Cat's tail? (If you're now shaking your head in disbelief, please re-read the above photo caption.)

Yep, I'm typing this on my wonderful new computer. I'm still pretty much blogging blindly, but now I look a lot better doing it. I can also blog around a little more quickly, though our speed is limited by a dial-up connection—which I didn't think was a big deal until the other day when a friend said, "You have a website and you're on dial-up?" and burst out laughing. DSL? Cable? Never gonna happen out here. I'm just thrilled we have a local dial-up number.

The arrival of a new computer is definitely cause for celebration. I decided I would make a batch of my Crazy Cookies and rename them Crazy About My New Computer Cookies in honor of this exciting event. But when it was pointed out to me, quite rightly, that my new computer has also been driving me crazy, well, I realized the original name was actually perfect.

These are big, soft cookies that are easy to make and always get rave reviews. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Enjoy!

Farmgirl's Susan's Crazy Cookies
A crazy combination of flavors that works - Makes about 18 large cookies

Melting the butter allows you to skip getting out the electric mixer. It also makes the cookies softer. I simply place a large, stainless steel mixing bowl directly on a gas stovetop burner, set it on low, and melt the butter directly in the bowl, then mix in the rest of the ingredients using a large rubber spatula.

If you can't find butterscotch chips, you might try substituting peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips. Or probably anything else you can think of--this recipe is versatile!

I use unsweetened, organic coconut in any recipe that calls for sweetened flaked or shredded coconut, and have always had great success. It's tasty, inexpensive, doesn't contain any scary ingredients, and can usually be found in the bulk section at natural foods stores.

I highly recommend investing in a couple of heavy duty commercial rimmed baking sheets. At less than $14 each, they're one of the best kitchen deals around. Treat them well—I usually line mine with sheets of unbleached parchment paper, which is wonderful stuff—and they'll last for ages. I've been using the heck out of some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts, not to mention thousands of cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces) organic butter, melted*
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups organic old-fashioned oats
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper,.

Place the melted butter in a large bowl and stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla, mixing well.

Stir in the flour, salt, and baking soda (combine these together before adding in if desired), mixing just until combined. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, and coconut.

The dough will be soft, and the cookies will spread while baking. For slightly thicker cookies, chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

Use a 1/4-cup scoop or measuring cup to form cookies and place on a heavy baking sheet. (Six cookies will fit on a half-size sheet pan.)

Bake until the centers are set, about 15-17 minutes. For crunchier cookies, increase the baking time. (You can also make smaller cookies; just reduce the baking time.)

Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with glasses of very cold milk. Personally I think they taste even better the second day. And, as with nearly all cookies, they freeze beautifully. Just put them in a zipper freezer bag and toss it into the freezer.

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

Daily Farm Photo: 8/18/05


Wednesday, August 17

Daily Farm Photo: 8/17/05

Surprise Bounty On My New Plants

If you would like to see the mature raspberry plants growing on the other side of the greenhouse, click here.

Tuesday, August 16

Daily Farm Photo 8/16/05

Lucky Buddy Bear

Monday, August 15

Daily Farm Photo: 8/15/05

Sunrise On A New Week

Sunday, August 14

Daily Farm Photo: 8/14/05

Morning Glories Are Taking Over The Garden

Saturday, August 13

Daily Farm Photo: 8/13/05

New Cat In The Cat Cabin

Friday, August 12

Daily Farm Photo: 8/12/05

Hornet Nest Under Construction

Thursday, August 11

Daily Farm Photo: 8/11/05

Dinky Donkey Doodle Dandy Greets Our Surprise Visitors

Wednesday, August 10


Are These Guys Gorgeous Or What?

Talk about surprises. Look who came strutting down my driveway the other day.
Bear and I had just finished our early afternoon sheep check and were heading over to see Dan when all three of us heard the chain on the front gate jangling. There was no sound of a vehicle, though. We peered through the trees toward the gate--which is about an eighth of a mile away--trying to figure out what was happening up there. And then something started moving toward us.
Bear, Dan, and I must have made an amusing sight as we stood frozen, staring up the driveway. My first thought was, Amish funeral wagon? Here? Why? But as it came closer, I realized that the little covered wagon was being driven by our friend Steve. He pulled up next to us and smiled. I was so surprised, I can't remember what I said to him. Probably something along the lines of, "Those horses are enormous!" And they were.
Steve said that he was heading to the river to camp for the night and figured he would stop by and show us his latest acquisition. Since they'd just travelled 14 miles from his house, the horses needed shade and water. I suggested we head up to the house, and Steve asked if I wanted to ride. Of course! I shared my half of the bench seat with a charming, black and tan weiner dog named Flash who sniffed my outstretched hand, gave me a smile, and plunked his head down on my leg.
Bear, meanwhile, was going a little nuts. He absolutely loves to chase moving vehicles (he runs along trying to bite the tires while barking fiercely at them), and he is crazy about all animals--especially ones that look as if they might need herding. A four-wheeled wagon pulled by two giant horses? He was in heaven. But unlike tires, horses can respond to noisy ankle biters. Bear received a swift little kick for his stockdog efforts that immediately put him in his place--somewhere well below the horses. He was fine, as he comes from long lines of dogs that are used to being trampled. He cheerfully followed us up to the house, where he proceeded to keep a watchful eye on everything from a safe distance.
Steve offered us sweet iced tea and thick hunks of homemade cornbread, and then he started talking. Pudding and Butter (named by his daughter) were Belgian draft horses. They were about six years old and full brothers. They had just spent a month living with a nearby Amish farmer who trained them to work together with the cart and used them to help harvest his hay crop. They were now back at Steve's farm, where they shared a pasture (but not their daily treats) with his cattle.
The horses' beautiful leather harnesses were handmade by a local Amish craftsman. The wagon was custom built in a nearby town and sported everything from four wheel brakes (quite useful on our very steep driveway) to a backboard that folded down into a handy little table.
Pudding and Butter rested quietly while Steve told us about all of his plans. These included everything from using his horses to train others ("I can teach Dan to pull a cart!") to leading groups of people on meandering day trips through the countryside. In the meantime, he was clearly having lots of fun.

Our surprise visitors stayed just long enough for the horses to catch their breath, and for us to catch up on the latest news. And then, loaded down with homemade peanut butter cookies and a loaf of oatmeal toasting bread, they were off, headed back up the driveway with Bear right on their wheel.

Daily Farm Photo: 8/10/05

View Through The Dew

Tuesday, August 9

Daily Farm Photo: 8/9/05

Robin's Smile Is Infectious

Monday, August 8

Daily Farm Photo: 8/8/05

Show & Tell: What I Did This Weekend

Sunday, August 7

Daily Farm Photo: 8/7/05

Red Russian Kale Is Wonderful In Salads

Saturday, August 6

Looking at Late Night Gratitude

A Gorgeous End To A Lovely Day

Last October, a friend and I decided to begin keeping gratitude journals. We also started e-mailing each other our entries. This very simple act can have profound results. You simply write down five (or more) things that you are grateful for that day. Sometimes they gush out by the dozen, and sometimes you really have to think hard to come up with five. Either way, most of the time the entries end up being about very small things in our lives, rather than big events. But aren't those the ones that mean the most to us? That affect our daily lives and outlook the most?

Today was just a really nice day for me. Nothing exceptional or spectacular happened. There were simply several little things that, when added up, made it the kind of day that suddenly permeates every cell in your self and makes you feel joyful and very alive--and grateful to be so.

I took this photo earlier in the evening, and when I saw how it came out, that was the clincher. I decided I would share this photo and write a brief post about my day. It would simply be my gratitude journal entry. And so, today I am grateful. . .

1. For the luxury of sleeping in and yet still enjoying a pleasant morning walk because last night's (much needed) rainstorm had cooled the morning air. And for making it home just minutes before another thunderstorm dropped almost two more inches of rain on us over the next several hours.

2. For deciding to visit two of my favorite food blogs (Eggbeater and Delicious Days) and discovering that each of their most recent posts mentioned me! I was overwhelmed with surprise and absolutely flattered that these people whom I greatly admire find inspiration in what I am doing.

3. That it was cool enough to turn on the oven and bake two big batches of cookies to replenish our dwindling supply in the freezer. And that even though I was forced to change one recipe due to four-footed interference, the cookies not only came out better than ever, but while they were baking I managed to turn the experience into a story that was almost entirely written by the time the cookies were done.

4. For being late tucking in the sheep, because when I finally walked outside I was greeted by this magnificent sunset sky. For leaning my head so far back to take the pictures that I was able to see three, four, no five little bats circling high above me. And for perfect timing. I ran inside and grabbed the camera, took three pictures, returned the camera to the house, and when I walked back outside there was absolutely no sign that pink sky had ever been there.
5. For strolling out to the front gate after taking care of the animals and having our own personal bat escorts, who darted back and forth just over our heads, gobbling up all of the biting insects before they could reach us. And for being sweetly serenaded as we walked by the frogs and the cicadas and the crickets and all of the other summertime crooners while the thick evening mist slowly wrapped itself around us.
6. That it is bedtime, and for the thought of sweet dreams and restful sleep--and the promise of a wonderful tomorrow.

Daily Farm Photo: 8/6/05

New Cat On The Potting Bench

© Copyright, the furry foodie farm blog where cats often get away with being where they shouldn't because they're simply so darn cute.

Friday, August 5

Daily Farm Photo: 8/5/05

At Sunrise, The Possibilities Are Endless

Thursday, August 4

Chocolate Cake Emergency & My Favorite Easy Chocolate Loaf Cake Recipe

Chocolate cake that's easier than pie.

NOTE: If this is an actual emergency, please scroll down past the text and head straight to the recipe.

Life on the farm is defined by a never ending series of surprises. This, of course, is what makes it so interesting. Ever hopeful, I still write out an ambitious To Do List each morning, though most of the time it simply involves re-copying the previous day's list.

All of these unforeseen events are not true emergencies, but many of them do require prompt attention. When several occur at once, we fall into a sort of triage mode and prioritize our actions accordingly:
1. Animals
2. Plants
3. People
4. Vehicles, Machinery, & Everything Else that Breaks Down

This simply means that if we return home to find that Doll Face has her head stuck in the fence (again), an army of ravenous blister beetles has launched a full-scale attack on the garden, and there are four dogs on the porch instead of two, then it is time to grab a snack because dinner is going to be late.

It also means that we get to eat and sleep before delving into the mystery of why the truck engine died six times on the way home.

Often it is not possible to properly solve a problem right away. If, for instance, the tractor breaks down in a field half a mile from the house, you do the best you can with baling twine and chewing gum and hope you can sweet talk it back to the workshop where there are tools and manuals and a phone to order new parts.

This scenario is the country equivalent of the first-aid kit versus the state-of-the-art robotic surgery wing at the hospital. A first-aid kit offers you the bare minimum: Band-Aids, perhaps some antibiotic cream or gauze, and a roll of that weird white tape that never sticks to anything. It's very basic, but it helps.

And once in a while, you luck out and realize the first-aid kit was enough, and that the baling twine and chewing gum should hold things together for another couple of years.

Sometimes the definition of what constitutes an actual emergency can be rather subjective. Most people would probably agree that a copperhead snake in the farmyard, a rainstorm in the kitchen, or pretty much anything involving blood all require immediate action. But I'm sure there are those who would not consider a desperate need for chocolate cake to be a dire situation. I disagree.

Sometimes—especially if you have just dealt with the poisonous snake, the indoor rainstorm, and the blood—what you really, really need is a piece of chocolate cake. And absolutely nothing else will do.

Producing a seven-layer, museum quality extravaganza complete with three types of filling and dusted with real gold is clearly not an option at this point. That would be the State of the Art Robotic Surgery Wing at the Hospital Cake. No, what you require is the First-Aid Kit Chocolate Cake: fast, easy, and immediately stops the cravings. Here is that cake.

As you can see by the photo, this cake is not glamorous. It does not aspire to be a Gourmet magazine covercake. Of course you could dress it up in an endless number of ways, all to delightful effect. You could serve it with fresh raspberries and a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. Or with tiny scoops of cappuccino gelato sprinkled with crushed, chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Or you could add things to the batter, such as mini chocolate chips, toasted nuts, instant espresso powder, finely grated orange peel, or a splash of good dark rum.

All of these would be very nice. The point is, though, that you don't need to do any of them. The beauty of this cake is that it is absolutely delicious all by itself. It doesn't even need frosting. You bake it in a loaf pan and simply slice it into about eight thick pieces. It's soft and light and moist and offers just the right amount of sweetness and chocolate.

Yesterday it took me less than 20 minutes to go from empty kitchen counter to cake in the oven, and that included licking the beaters. You can even eat it warm.

As with most cakes, this one tastes even better the next day. It also freezes beautifully and defrosts quickly. Just wrap each slice in plastic, toss them into a zipper freezer bag, and you will be prepared for anything.

Since I am the only person in our household who suffers from Chocolate Cake Emergencies, I have never felt the need to double the recipe and make two loaves at once, but it would probably work just fine.

Now, normally this is where I would put the recipe, but first I am going to divulge a little more about what went on during yesterday's test baking.

I came across this cake recipe the other day and realized that I had forgotten all about it. (Actually, I think I may have hidden it on purpose, as I was making it a little too often.) I decided it needed to be shared and immediately came up with the perfect title for a post: Chocolate Cake Emergency. I just didn't realize how appropriate it would be.

Here, then, is the "behind the scenes" part that usually gets edited out of the script. I think these excerpts from two e-mails I wrote to my friend Clare while the cake was baking pretty well describe what turned out to be a Chocolate Cake Emergency of an entirely different sort.

The first e-mail abruptly ended with my saying, "Better go check cake. Smells awfully chocolatey all the way in here already."

Four minutes later, I sent Clare another e-mail. The subject was "Oh Nooooooo!!!" and the message read: Burnt batter disaster in the kitchen! UGH! My own notes said 9"x5" or 8"x4" pan, so I decided to use smaller one since I had eaten so much cake batter. MISTAKE! Batter is oozing out all over the oven!

Just pulled out another stick of butter to soften. Must try recipe again in larger pan. Dilemma is: do I let the chocolate volcano keep erupting or take it out now and eat it half raw? Maybe I should just go muck out the barn or brush Donkey Doodle Dandy or something.

I left the cake in the oven, and it eventually stopped spewing batter everywhere. After plucking off the crunchy edges, the final result was deemed edible. I did, however, bake a second cake last night in a larger pan, and it came out perfect.

If you don't have a 9"x5" pan (I love my Chicago Metallic commercial loaf pans, which are also great for baking sandwich breads), I suggest making a second tiny loaf or a few cupcakes or eating a whole lot of the batter (it's very tasty). As always, I urge you to use organic ingredients; they really do make a difference.

Farmgirl Susan's Emergency Chocolate Loaf Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf cake

**Click here to print this recipe**

1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) organic butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar 
2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic yogurt or sour cream
(or a combination)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. Using an electric hand mixer, cream butter and sugar 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

On medium low speed, add dry ingredients to creamed mixture (you can combine the dry ingredients first but I never do), alternating with yogurt. Beat just until smooth; do not over mix.

Turn batter into prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cool in pan. Cake may settle in the middle as it cools—this is normal.

For small but serious chocolate emergencies.

What else can you do with this recipe? Make Chocolate Babycakes With Mocha Buttercream Frosting!

Still Hungry? You'll find links to all of my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, the sweet toothed foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, & photos from her crazy country life on 240 acres—and we sometimes eat chocolate cake for breakfast.

Daily Farm Photo: 8/4/05

Surprise Lilies Are Also Known As Naked Ladies

Wednesday, August 3

Tuesday, August 2

Monday, August 1

Daily Farm Photo: 8/1/05

Nicotiana Flowers Sweetly Perfume The Thick Evening Air