Friday, March 30

A Year In Bread Has Begun!

Homemade Pesto On Homemade Pizza

The baking stones are nice and hot, and scrumptious homemade pizzas have been flying in and out of ovens around the world. Beth, Kevin, and I are thrilled and amazed by the enthusiastic response to our new project we're calling A Year In Bread. It's 3 bakers, 12 months, 36 original recipes, and more fun than should probably be allowed in the kitchen.

The first bread we're tackling is pizza. Kevin and Beth have already posted their fantastic looking pizza dough recipes. Part of the project calls for us to test each others' recipes, and I can't wait to try these. Although I've been noticeably absent on the site, my pizza post will hopefully be up next Thursday, April 5th. I haven't started writing it yet, as things have been kind of crazy around here (I warned Kevin and Beth that lambing season was going to coincide with the launch of A Year In Bread), though last night I did manage to bake six different pizzas, including the one you see above.

Click here to read more about A Year In Bread. And click here if you're ready to jump in and start baking. Just remember--the site is a blog, so each new post is 'stacked' on top of the previous one. To begin at the beginning, you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page. And don't miss the comments sections--they're packed with all sorts of questions and answers, as well as helpful tips (yeah, yeah, none from me yet of course).

We've also created A Year In Bread flickr group, where you're invited to share up to three of your bread photos a week. I'm just getting the hang of flickr (and it really doesn't like dealing with dial-up), but I'm Farmgirl Susan if you'd like to add me as one of your contacts.

Ready, breadie? Then come bake bread with us!

Thursday, March 29

Farm Photo: 3/29/07

Last Night's Late Supper, Picked By The Light Of The Moon

Once upon a time I worked in an upscale stationery store that was tastefully packed to the brim with gorgeous papers and glorious artwork. As a graphic designer, I was in heaven. As a low-paid employee, I was a bit of an idiot. I probably spent what amounted to several paycheck's worth of my hard earned cash (this was not the type of place where you were allowed to laze around behind the counter reading a book when things were slow) on merchandise. Even with my employee discount (which only served to make my buying sprees that much easier to rationalize) it was still quite a bundle. Seventeen years later, I've hardly made a dent in my stash. I will never have to buy another blank greeting card in my life.

There are two reasons I still have so much of my bounty. One is the invention of e-mail, which I both adore and abhor (because there are never any handwritten envelopes in the post office box anymore). The other is the fact that I have a hard time parting with many of the cards because I love their photographs and illustrations so much. It's like I have my very own art museum I can visit whenever I like. And if I mailed them away, how could I be sure the would-be recipients would appreciate them as much as I do?

Like most museums, the vast majority of my collection is in storage--meaning a couple of large boxes. My very favorite card, however, has been prominently displayed ever since I acquired it. At the moment, it resides right above my computer on one of my two large bulletin boards (which are supposed to be full of important notes, papers, etc. but are actually covered with all sorts of eye-catching ephemera).

It has become dirty and scuffed after all these years, so I couldn't send it to somebody if I wanted to--although I do wish I'd bought a dozen or two of them. It is, I am told from the back of the card, die stamped and printed by craftsmen from dies hand engraved on steel. The artwork is courtesy of the Medici Society Ltd. in London, and it was printed in Switzerland. In the center of the circular illustration by Minnie Aumonier is a quote in beautiful calligraphy:

When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the Garden.

My garden isn't receiving anywhere near the attention it needs right now, as Lambing Season 2007 has taken over my life (it's the end of March and I haven't planted a single tomato or pepper seed!). But that is how it works on a farm--there is always something stealing your attention away from the task at hand. And animals must come before plants.

Fortunately there are overwintered Swiss chard and arugula plants* in the greenhouse, my faithful chives have made their early spring appearance once again, and the seeds I did manage to get planted over the past few weeks have already become promising little sprouts.

Of course you don't need two dozen raised beds or a greenhouse to find solace in the garden. It only takes one small clump of flowers to bring on a smile.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/29/06: They Certainly Do Learn Early
3/28/06: It Seems Like They Never Stop Moving

And out of the kitchen came: Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup
Note: This recipe was included in "Something For Nothing," a one-time event hosted by Lindy at the always delightful and delicious Toast. It celebrates favorite recipes for low funds, empty cupboards, and hard times--but you'd never know it from looking through this wonderful collection of mouthwatering dishes.

*Now is the time to plant arugula and lettuce in many areas. Click here to learn how easy it is to go from seed to salad bowl in less than a month--no matter where you live, and even if your garden consists of a couple of buckets and a plastic dish tub. Really.

Tuesday, March 27

Farm Photo 3/27/07: A Lot of Love on the Farm

Rosebud, her newborn twin girls, and Lucky Buddy Bear

Lamb Report:
Things have been crazy. There are stories, but there isn't time to write them down. There hasn't even been time to change my hats. I've been wearing them piled on top of each other for days: shepherd, vet, midwife, nursemaid—and undertaker.

Current lamb count: 25. Number of Nanny Bears having the time of their life (and wishing we could have baby lambs all year round): 1. Number of farmgirls who never in her wildest childhood dreams pictured herself at 38 years old, wearing dirty overalls and a big straw hat, kneeling in the hay in an old barn, listening to the rain hitting the leaky tin roof while holding a baby bottle and trying to milk a sheep named Snugglebunny: 1.

Update: Click here to read "A Tail Of Two Mothers: A Mother's Day Story From The Farm" and learn why I was trying to milk Snugglebunny—and why I was able to stop.

More below. . .

Sunday, March 25

Farm Photo: 3/25/07

Baby Gobble

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Well Somebody Has To Eat It
WCB #42: Smudge On The Old Well House Roof

Saturday, March 24

Farm Photo: 3/24/07

Just Hangin' Out

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Uncle Dan Is Back On The Job!
3/23/06: That Rose!

Thursday, March 22

Farm Photo 3/22/07: Treat Time

Gobble Gobble Gobble

Lamb Report:
Current lamb count: Holding steady at 18. Thank goodness, as none of the current five guests at The Bonding Suite Inn are ready to check out just yet. Although hungry Bloomie did jump out this morning. Apparently she doesn't like the fact that I keep serving breakfast and dinner to the other girls first, so today she simply leaped over the fence panel in front of her pen and made a mad dash at the feed bucket. As my eyes were shrinking back to their normal size, I wondered for a split second if she'd hop back over the fence when I filled up her dish. She didn't.

Current number of adult sheep not staying at The Bonding Suite Inn who think they should also be getting treats twice a day instead of just once: 48 (that would be all of them).

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Fresh Frozen Chives
3/21/06: You Don't Mind One More, Do You?

And out of the kitchen garden came: A Bouncing Baby Blog! (Which I have been sadly neglecting but hope to get back to tending soon--there's so much going on in the garden right now. Or, I should say, there's so much I should be doing in the garden right now.)

There was also a lot of squawking in the henhouse a year ago. Perfect timing for a re-visit to this post, too, as this morning I was shocked to discover that everybody's favorite chicken, Whitey, has once again gone back to laying her distinctive little white eggs. She's seven years old and showing no signs of slowing down (or losing the attitude).

As for my plan to order a new batch of spring chicks--it's been put on hold until after the lambs stop arriving. I don't think I can handle two batches of babies at once--though chicks don't require nearly as much cuddle time as lambs do.


Tuesday, March 20

Farm Photo: 3/20/07

All Booked Up At The Bonding Suite Inn!

Rose & Her Three Day Old Baby Girl, First Afternoon Outside Together

Lamb Report:
Whew. Starting first thing yesterday morning, we had seven lambs born in just over 24 hours--definitely a new record. There are two sets of twins, two first-time mothers (one of which, Bloomie, had twins) and three lambs who are having to be bottle fed around the clock.

I didn't get to bed last night until 3:30am and was back down at the barn by 7:30. Sally Vincent, who, among other things, raises sheep and donkeys (she even has one named Dandy Dan!) in Devon, England, said in her latest post on Raining Sideways that "You can always recognise sheep farmers in spring by their yawns and the way they fall asleep, dormouse style, in their soup."

If I had any nice homemade soup hanging around, I'm sure I would probably be falling asleep in it. As it is, I'm just glad I managed to bake up another batch of Blueberry Bran Muffins on Sunday--and that I don't mind eating them for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

When I told my pal Clare about all the new lambs and the No Vacancy sign at The Bonding Suite Inn (despite the forced early checkout of Rose and her baby girl), she said, "I think The Bonding Suite Inn needs to become The Bonding Together Hotel!" And the way Silly Wendy and Serena were looking earlier, I think she may be right. We're probably going to have to start assigning suitemates and doubling up.

Need more cute lamb photo fixes? My amazing shepherdgirl pal Katherine at Apifera Farm is knee deep in lambing season, too. And like she says, sometimes
there are no words needed.

So how was our first day of spring on the farm? I think Rose and her baby pretty much sum it up in this photo (click on it to enlarge)--smiling but tiring. (Some of you may remember that Rose was the 2005 Menu For Hope prize lamb--how quickly they grow up!)

Current Lamb Count: 18. Number of tired but smiling farmgirls headed back down to the barn for one last check and bottle feeding before grabbing a few hours of sleep: 1.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/20/06: Happy First Day Of Spring
3/19/06: Farewell Winter, I'll Miss You
WDB#26: We've Found Another Use For All That Uneaten Hay

Sunday, March 18

Farm Photo: 3/18/07

Martha's Twin Girls, Age One Week

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/18/06: Our Wet Weather Creak Meanders By The House
3/17/06: Same Scene, New View
WCB #41: J2 On The Potting Bench

Friday, March 16

Farm Photo: 3/16/07

The Definition Of Relaxed

A year of Farm Photos ago:
World's Best Pillow (That's Martha and her 2006 twins. This year's mom pillow isn't quite as nice since Martha has already been sheared, but her new twin girls don't seem to mind.)

Thursday, March 15

Farm Photo: 3/15/07

Gang Activity

A year of Farm Photos ago:
One And A Half Anonymous Hay Eaters

Wednesday, March 14

Farm Photo: 3/14/07

Tana & Her Baby Boy On Their First Morning Outside

This was taken a couple of days ago. Joe, who just got back from a quickie barn check because "One of the miniature ones wouldn't stop crying," (it stopped as soon as he walked all the way down there) has informed me that "Tana's lamb has got things figured out. He said, 'I'm black, and I get hot in the sun,' so now he lays under the bunk feeder in the shade while Tana eats around him." That is, when he's not racing around the farmyard looking for trouble with his little woolly compatriots. . .

New lamb alert!
Yesterday morning second-time mother Bruisie gave birth to a huge baby boy. When Joe first saw him, his jaw dropped anad he stared at him in disbelief. "He looks like he's two weeks old!" His enormous size wasn't that surprising to me, though. After all, Bruisie got her name (which is officially Bruiser) because when she was born she was so much bigger than all the other lambs.

Speaking of other lambs, it looks like more will be arriving soon, including at least a couple more sets of twins. Annette is so big she now swaggers. Snugglebunny, on the other hand, does more of a waddle. They both look hysterical, but I try my best not to laugh in their faces. Extremely pregnant girls can be very sensitive.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/14/06: On The Breakfast Lookout
3/13/06: I'm Gonna Need More Than Spun Gold For Breakfast
3/12/06: Misty Morning Rose
3/11/06: When It Comes To Food, My Sheep Have No Manners
WDB#25: Resting But Ready For Anything
WCB#40: New Cat Lives His Life Above Dog Level
And: A Whole New Way To Start The Day

Plus out of the garden came: The Great Compost Cover-Up

Welcome New Visitors!

Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Saturday, March 10

Farm Photo: 3/10/07

Something Good Is On The Rise

More details
soon. . .

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Fleeting Heart
And Life When You're Twelve Hours Old

Friday, March 9

Farm Photos 3/9/07: Double Trouble

Cats Aren't The Only Ones Who Are Curious

Nibbling On My Knee

These are Zelda's twins. They were born Sunday evening (taking me completely by surprise), and have been staying with Zelda at The Bonding Suite Inn. Zelda had been bunking in a special pen adjacent to the barn with eight other pregnant ewes who, because they are either very old or probably carrying twins--or both--are receiving special treatment and lots of extra food.

They are known as The Spoiled Rotten Gang. I am such a pushover when it comes to these girls. (Okay, you're right. I'm a total pushover in general.) When my mother was visiting a few weeks ago, she couldn't believe how quickly I gave into them. I went from "No, girls, I don't think you need any grain right now" to filling up a bucket in about seven seconds. It's those big, beautiful, pleading eyes boring straight into me. That and their incessant, starving-sounding baaing. (Is that a word, baaing?)

Anyway, Zelda gave birth in that pen, which meant the three of them needed to be transported to the Bonding Suite Inn, which is located in the barn. If we had been in the barnyard (or even out in a field) I would have picked up the twins and, holding them close to the ground (because moms know lambs can't fly), walked in a backward crouch while mom (hopefully) followed us. But this time I needed to get Zelda and her twins out of The Spoiled Rotten Gang pen without the rest of The Spoiled Rotten Gang making a break for it, and then into the barn without any sheep escaping--hence the halter.

Moving the twins was a cinch--I simply tucked one under each arm and carried them to their comfy new quarters. Zelda, however, had to be dragged, pushed, and cajoled the entire way (which felt like about half a mile even though it was probably only 50 or 60 feet).

Moving a single sheep is rarely an effortless task. They do not like to be forced anywhere, especially if they are wearing a halter that is attached to your wrist. Those docile, obedient, incredibly clean sheep you see being led around in show rings by very small children at county fairs? Those are not

I'm sure each shepherd has their own way of coaxing a haltered sheep somewhere. My technique utilizes a running monologue of sweet, encouraging words inbetween my struggling moans and groans.

"Come on now, Zelda. We're almost there. You're doing great. You are so pretty! And your twins are adorable! What a wonderful job you did! I'm so proud of you! Almost there! Almost there! Yes, I know you can do this! Come on, Zelda, PLEASE!"

I also try to see the bright side of the situation. "There's definitely. . . yank!. . . no need. . . pull!. . to go. . . tug!. . .TO THE GYM!" (Yes, I really said that while moving Zelda.)

Watching me move a sheep might actually be more entertaining than Barn Cam. Actually, after looking at these two photos and thinking about moving Zelda, I had an idea that I think might be better than Barn Cam. You know those tiny cameras people wear on their foreheads like a miner's light so you can see everything they see. . .

Of course I probably would have destroyed the camera this morning when I bonked my bean in the barn (damn those low ceilings). Unfortunately I excel at running into things with my head. Today's whack was so good it knocked me right to the ground. I skipped my chores and staggered back to the house where Joe quickly administered ice, aspirin, and some very nice chocolates. But it's a little unnerving when you're holding a bag of ice to your head and realize it actually feels good.

So I guess the camera idea isn't such a great one after all. I am, however, thinking seriously about keeping my hardhat down at the barn.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/9/06: I Think They're Born Addicted To Treats

© Copyright, the cute times two foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Thursday, March 8

Farm Photo: 3/8/07

Doll Face & Her Baby Boy Bonding In Their Bonding Suite

Lamb Report:
No new babies to report. The current lamb count remains at seven, though I'm sure it won't be there for long. The number of cute lamb photos I've taken, however, keeps going up and up and up (which should make some of you very happy, and others wondering when I'm going to get back to the food).

And it looks like it's going to be a banner year for Bouncing Sickness. After only a couple of days of being alive, every single lamb is already bouncing all over the place. It's hysterical--a perfectly normal looking lamb is standing around doing nothing, when out of the blue it bounces straight up into the air, head twisting, legs flying everywhere.

Just wait until they get outside in the farmyard where they can bounce and race around. Who needs TV when you can tune into Lamb Watch? I know, I know, share and share alike. I need to make a little movie with my camera so you can see Bouncing Sickness in action. But assuming I even can figure out all the technical details, I don't know if I'd be able to upload it since I'm on dial-up. Hmmm.

Which reminds me--Bean's idea for Barn Cam was too funny. I think she meant that we should install a nanny cam type thing so we could keep a remote eye on what's going on in the barn without having to trek down there. But some of you meant a Barn Cam that you could watch, didn't you? That had me seriously laughing out loud.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/8/06: Another Farmyard Still Life
And Counting Sheep, Not Getting Much Sleep

Wednesday, March 7

Farm Photo: 3/7/07

Baby Cary Turned Ten Months Old Yesterday!

I actually had the right day this time (no really, I did)--I just didn't have a chance to post these photos. A month after bravely surviving her first shearing, Carybunga is as cute and as crazy as ever. But of course we all know she isn't the baby anymore. . . (Don't know who Cary is? Click here to read her story.)

One Of Annie's Triplets, Less Than An Hour Old

Yep, triplets. Two boys and a girl, born yesterday morning without any problems. All three little darlings are doing fine so far. They're much smaller than the other lambs; the tiniest one is only about the size of The Doodle. (I really should weigh them. I suppose I could just plunk them down on my kitchen scale--how cute would that be?) Second time mother Annie, who had just one tiny boy last year, is extremely pleased, if a bit tired. I am thrilled.

That makes 7 lambs born in less than 48 hours, which is a record for us. Studly Do-Right Jefferson certainly did right.

Each day brings more surprises. Add sunshine, blue skies, and a non-stop parade of hundreds and hundreds of squawking geese high overhead flying north (one of the neatest things about living here), and, well, things on the farm are good. Crazy, but good.

There are stories. Stories I want to remember but know I will forget. Stories I need to write down. But right now there simply isn't time. Right now I'm headed back out into the sunshine and down to the barn--surprises await.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Freeze Frame

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

Monday, March 5

Farm Photo: 3/5/07

Zelda & Her Twins, Age Two Hours (Give Or Take A Few Minutes)

But they're
yesterday's news.

About four hours ago, during a (thankfully) much more humdrum afternoon than yesterday, eleven-year-old Doll Face (who is from my very first lamb crop in 1996 and is also Liselotte's mother) had a healthy baby boy covered with tight gray curls of wool. And about 30 minutes ago (after a lightning speed labor--thank you!), Tana gave birth to a beautiful black boy.

Mothers and sons are resting comfortably, along with Zelda and her twins, in private quarters at The Bonding Suite Inn. Ready for some rest myself, I hightailed it back to the house before anybody else could decide that tonight was the night. (Yes, that would be foolish farmgirl logic in action. At the rate we're going, I wouldn't be surprised if there are one or two more lambs by morning--and you know when I wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. I won't be able to go back to sleep before throwing on jacket, hat, gloves, and boots and trekking down to the barn to find out. But just to exert my authority, when I go back for one last check tonight, I'll order everyone to please cross their legs until morning.)

Lambing Season 2007 officially begins this coming Saturday, March 10th. Joe is starting to think I can't read a calendar--and I am beginning to think he might be right. All I know is that I only have one blueberry bran muffin left, and life is getting very unpredictable. I think I'd better make another batch. Or two. Or maybe three. . .

Did you enter the Group Recipes $6,000 Kitchen Giveaway yet?
Click here to join Group Recipes (it's free and takes about two minutes), and you'll be automatically entered in the contest, which ends Tuesday at midnight (Eastern time I think). Click here to read more about Group Recipes, a delicious new place for foodies to hang out.

And speaking of foodies. . . Thanks for all the great comments you left on my recent Finding More Foodies post--this 'project' has been so much fun. And for those of you who object to being called a foodie, my pal Beth (aka kitchenMage) has t-shirts and more fun stuff at CafePress for foodists and the foodarazzi. (But, like it or not, her best selling item is the 'foodie in training' infant creeper, which I adore. I've been bugging her for months to make adult-sized 'foodie in training' stuff, but she still hasn't gotten around to it. Please feel free to go over and harass her--because turnaround is fair play, right?)

3/6/07 Update: Ha ha! It worked! Click here to see all sorts 'foodie in training' items for adults. And I forgot to mention that Beth also has stuff with snappy slogans created especially for all you food bloggers out there, including 'i cook, therefore i blog' and 'eat, drink, blog.'

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/5/06: Lounging Lambies
WDB #24: Bear The Babysitter

Sunday, March 4

Farm Photo 3/4/07: Daffodils Already?

Apparently so.

Though as you can see by the little specks of ice, we're having a little struggle between the tug of winter and the pull of spring. But that's March in Missouri for you; there's no telling what you're going to get. Two days ago it was sunny and 60 degrees; yesterday morning it was snowing. By April we'll be seeing temps in the upper 90s.

Personally I wouldn't mind a few more months of winter—snowstorms, ice, 46 degree mornings in the living room (the warmest room in The Shack!) and all. As a non-summer person who could happily spend the rest of her days cozied up in turtlenecks, polar fleece, and thick flannel sheets, I feel this way each time March rolls around and things start heating back up.

Lately the wind has been blowing around like crazy lately no matter what the weather. What do they say about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb? I don't know if it'll go out like a lamb, but I do know that it will go out with lambs.

The first babies should begin arriving around Saturday, though there are a few mothers-to-be who look like they are more than ready to jump the starting gate. As for me, I'm trying to get ahead on sleep before I spend the next several weeks staying up all hours and clomping down to the barn for 2 a.m. checks.

Newsflash! Newsflash!
We interrupt this partially-finished post written earlier today to bring you an up-to-the-minute report from the barn. During what can only be described as Yet Another Crazy Day On The Farm, this evening Zelda gave birth to an adorable and healthy set of twins: a black boy and a black & white spotted girl. In the midst of the lambs' unexpected arrival, there were howling dogs and guns, a broken down pickup truck and blasting blues music, a loudly braying donkey, and frantic wives in fancy dress (but don't worry, nobody was shot or maimed).

And we're off! Now if only there had been something simmering in the dutch oven for the past five hours. . .

A year of Farm Photos ago:
3/4/06: Next?
3/3/06: Skinny Chip Checks Out One Of The Little Attention Grabbers

3/2/06: A Brief Distraction From All The Cuteness
3/1/06: I'll Spring To Life If There's Trouble
2/28/06: Martha & Her Twins
2/27/06: First Day Outside For Martha's Baby Boy
2/26/06: Start Small, Think Big
2/25/06: Anyone Recognize Those Ears?
WDB #23: Donkey Doodle Dandy Adores Lucky Buddy Bear
WCB #39: Patchy Cat Keeps An Eye On Everything Around The Farm
WCB #38: New Cat Hanging Out Of The Snowy Cat Cabin

And In The Garden:
Lowly Turnips Are Tip Top