Monday, April 24

Monday Farm Photos: Happy Monday.

Wishing you a week filled with little pockets of peace. (And for the rest of the time, there's always this.)

More (15-year-old!) Lucky Buddy Bear? Here and here.
More farm landscape photos? Here and here.
More of the wet weather creek here and here (which we're thrilled is already running for the second time this month, and even more thrilled that it isn't as high as it was on this day six years ago).

Sunday, April 2

Growing (and Using!) Your Own Fresh Garden Herbs: My Six Favorite Easy to Grow Varieties

Dividing and planting chives, one of my favorite herbs in the kitchen garden. Read more about them and my five other easy to grow favorites here. (I've been using my beloved hand-forged Korean garden tool to do nearly every job in the garden for over 22 years.)

The other day I read in a magazine that one $4 herb plant grows 15 to 30 of those $3 grocery store packs of "fresh" sprigs. Wow. So besides all the other joys and benefits that come from having your own little herb garden, even if you end up killing off your plants in a month, you'll still most likely have already eaten more than your money's worth.

A friend once told me she used to stand by the fresh herb display at the supermarket and try to convince everyone who reached for a packet of rosemary that they really should go buy a live plant instead.

Homegrown culinary herbs are an inexpensive luxury. They're easy to grow, cheap to keep, don't require lots of space or attention, and aren't usually bothered by diseases and pests, making them perfect for the organic garden. They're pretty to look at, smell divine when you run your fingers through the plants (thanks for the reminder, Sherlie!), bursting with flavor, and are far fresher than those pricey little packets at the store, which may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals. Fresh herbs make everything better.

Have you always wanted to try growing your own herbs? Early spring is the perfect time to start an herb garden, and I'm here to give you a little push. You'll find lots of helpful information and inspiration in this post I wrote a while back, Growing and Using Your Own Fresh Herbs: My Six Favorite Varieties.

Chives, basil, Greek oregano, lemon thyme, Italian parsley, and lemon balm have been favorites in my organic kitchen garden for years, not only because they taste good, but because they've all done well in our challenging Missouri conditions. The bounty starts in spring, and I'm often still harvesting well into November.

And because the chives, oregano, lemon thyme, and lemon balm are all cold tolerant perennials, this means you plant them once and they come back year after year.

One of the nicest things about growing your own herbs is that, unlike many vegetables, you don't need a whole bushel to make a worthwhile harvest; just a little bit will go a long way. Many can be grown in pots, and most herb plants actually benefit from from being regularly snipped back, even when young.

Are you ready? Let's get growing!

Looking for more kitchen garden inspiration? Check out these posts.

©, where a little freshly snipped flavor goes a long way.

Friday, March 10

Friday Farm Photos: Have a Long Eared Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? We watched this great movie last night (which we somehow didn't realize was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood until after it was over) and this song is still going through my head. But most of the time I keep hearing Michelle Pfeiffer's version from this great movie, so I'm thinking we may have to dust off our copy (on video!) and watch it tonight. Speaking of Clint Eastwood, we both really liked this movie too.

We're having freshly baked pain au levain and butter for dinner tonight in celebration of my finally making a 100% wild sourdough starter (I hope it tastes good!) maybe with a salad on the side, and then tomorrow I'm planning to roast a locally raised, pastured chicken on a big pile of sliced onions, carrots, and whole cloves of garlic tossed with salt and olive oil (which I finally learned to put in the oven 30 minutes before the chicken to cook off some of the moisture) while it snows.

Of course the best thing about roasting a chicken is making chicken salad with the leftovers: shredded (not diced) chicken (it takes longer and is messier but is worth it), chopped celery, scallions, and parsley, fresh chives if you have them (and you could because they're so easy to grow), lots of Hellman's/Best Foods mayonnaise, a little dijon mustard, a splash of vinegar (I use white balsamic), and my secret ingredientsome of the leftover roasted onions with their olive oily/chickeny sauce. Tastes even better the next day.

Meanwhile I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that it was 75 degrees and sunny yesterday, and now they're calling for temps back down in the teens with ice and snow. Oh, and late yesterday afternoon a noisy thunderstorm blew in, put on a flashy light show, blasted everything with gumball-sized hail (my poor little seedlings out in the garden) and then rained for several hours before blanketing the fields with a light frost. March in Missouri always keeps you guessing.

And while my plan for this afternoon (sunny, breezy, high of 48°), after we work a couple of sheep, is to dig through my seed stash(es) in the freezer for the heat loving peppers, tomatoes, and basil that I probably should have already started in flats—along with more lettuce, swiss chard, and beetsI'm really in no rush for spring.

A good snowstorm is just the excuse I need to curl up with a mug of hot tea, a couple of cozy vintage blankets, and a riveting book (I can't decide whether to start this one or this onewe love Virgil!) and grow a calm and peaceful, hail-free, bug-free, disease-free, temperature controlled, overflowing-with-bounty, picture perfect garden in my head.

P.S. The donkeys are all doing fine, although they'd probably tell you they're in desperate need of a lot more treats.

Friday, February 24

Friday Farm Photos: Hot on the Trail

Of an exciting adventure.

Any plans this weekend? We're staying around the farm (quelle surprise!) and I'm hoping to take advantage of the break in this freaky hot and humid February weather (the daffodils are already blooming!) to start in on all the kitchen garden fall clean up and bed prep that I never actually do in the fall. The good thing about these too warm temps is that all the cold tolerant greens I decided on a whim to direct seed in the garden two weeks ago have already sprouted.

The few dozen broccoli seedlings, cilantro, and 96 plugs of lettuce (seven cold tolerant varieties) in flats under fluorescent lights in the mudroom are also doing well (no need for fancy grow lights; $10 two-bulb fluorescent shop fixtures from the home improvement store work great), but I have no place ready in the garden to put them yet. At least the ground isn't frozen solid like it usually is when I decide it's finally time to pull up all the dead tomato plants. Who knows, I might even turn the compost pile.

Tonight we're having lamb burgers with raw milk sharp cheddar and dijon mustard, and tomorrow I'm planning to slow roast a couple of lamb shoulders in the oven with lots of fresh rosemary from the two plants I've miraculously kept alive on a kitchen windowsill for years, served with rice (we love this organic rice so much we buy the long grain white and the short grain brown by the case and keep it in the freezer) and a freshly picked kale salad tossed with dried cranberries and pecorino romano and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

I'm also hoping to finally get around to mixing up a sourdough starter to replace the one I accidentally killed a couple of months ago. After 22 years of baking bread and acquiring a small mountain of bread books (some of which still feel overwhelming when I flip through them), I always go back to where I started, with my bread baking hero's easy to understand, now classic book when I need to make a new levain starter, or when I just want a little bread baking inspiration. (It was such a thrill to talk to him on the phone for nearly an hour last summer!)

I use the levain to make everything from Basil's simple and delicious pain au levain (page 189) to homemade pizza. Years ago I tried the San Francisco sourdough recipe (page 212) and with one bite was instantly transported back to the Bay Area where I grew up. I've been meaning to make it again ever since. The rye sourdough starter is also wonderful for making rye breads, but lately instead of trying to keep two starters alive I've just been using the levain to make my sourdough ryes. No complaints yet.

Since spring has apparently already sprung, there are several cleaning and decluttering projects in the house I'd also like to start (and finish) tackling, but that's a never ending, never very exciting year round list, at least around here. What's much more likely to happen is that I'll blow off the cleaning, close my eyes to the mess, and take a nice long walk with the dogs. It's a simple matter of priorities. Good food and time with the animals win out every time.

Tuesday, February 14

Tuesday Farm Photo: Happy Valentine’s Day (And a Few of Our Favorite Things)

Sending you valentine wishes from our hearts to yours!

And since I always enjoy reading about other bloggers' useful discoveries and favorite finds, I thought I'd share a few things we’ve been really loving lately:

—Getting back into print magazines with $5 subscriptions to Country Living, Martha Stewart Living, and Better Homes and Gardens. (I’ve also been lusting after a subscription to the gorgeous Country Living England version ever since my dear friend Beverley brought me several issues when she visited back in 2010, but it's a little more than $5).

—Using Dr. Bronner's pure-castile organic liquid soap​ instead of regular shaving cream. Works great, no scary chemical ingredients, and you need to use so little that the 32-ounce citrus scented bottle I bought several months ago will literally probably last for years, though you can also use it for everything from hair washing to floor mopping.

—Our Aeropress coffee and espresso makers. Two years ago we ditched temperamental espresso machines for these handy little gizmos and have never looked back. We have two and use one for coffee (we've been really enjoying this small batch organic coffee, which is only $16.99 for two pounds) and one for Crio Bru roasted and ground cocoa beans (so good, and so good for you; Joe likes it plain and hot, I drink it cold with lots of milk).

We heat the water in an electric kettle (also ​great for making tea; why didn't we get one years ago?​​) and check the temperature with a digital thermometer (another thing I waited far too long to buy; it's so much better than the dial kind) that ​I​ also use to check everything from roast chicken to rising bread dough.

—On a whim we bought a round Lodge cast iron bacon/grill press recently and are so happy we did. It works especially well with pork jowl meat, which curls up in the pan so much that it's hard to cook evenly. Not anymore!

—It was a bedtime reading life changer (for both of us) two years ago when I switched off the blinding spotlight small lamp on my nightstand and turned on this cute Mighty Bright book light instead. I use these rechargeable batteries in it, as well as in a bunch of other things around the house.

—Speaking of turning down the lights, all the natural light in our airy, upstairs ​bedroom is wonderful, but I don’t ever want to be without these ​Lewis N. Clark ​sleep masks​. We ​fell in love with ​them ​five years ago after trying so many others that were uncomfortable ​​or ​just ​didn’t work. I use mine every night.

—And lastly, these pretty blue glass spray bottles I bought a few months ago may not have been life changing, but they’re so much nicer than plastic. I’ve been filling them with homemade window cleaner and essential oil sprays and they always make me smile.

Okay, time to head outside to do chores, scare up some champagne and chocolate (and probably dinner too, I guess), and curl up to watch—what else?Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 30

Recipe: Classic Meyer Lemon (or Regular Lemon) Scones

These oversized scones are crunchy outside, moist & tender inside (recipe here).

It's citrus season! Meyer lemons are beautiful little fruits that are mostly grown on backyard trees, but their rising popularity in recent years means they can often be found at farmers' markets in warm climates, as well as at natural foods stores and supermarkets around the country. They're sweeter, less acidic, and have thinner skins than regular lemons. They also have a wonderful floral scent—and make delicious scones.

If you can't get your hands on any Meyer lemons, these scones—which freeze beautifully—are still very nice when made with regular old lemons. Or you can even use oranges instead.

This recipe is a variation of the traditional currant scones I used to sell at the little bakery cafe I had in my previous California life, back before I moved to the wilds of Missouri and became an enthusiastic but clueless farmgirl. British ex-pats loved them.

They taste great plain, but you can fancy them up by adding currants or raisins and/or sprinkling coarse sugar on the tops. Butter, berry jam, and a proper pot of your favorite English tea are optional. I recommend serving them warm.

More Farmgirl Fare recipes for lemon lovers:
Really Lemony Lemon Bars (so easy, low sugar)
Lemon Coconut Quick Bread (made with unsweetened coconut)

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

©, where homemade scones are always in season, but they're especially nice to cozy up and munch on during winter.

Tuesday, January 10

Recipe: Healthy and Hearty Roasted Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup

So good for you and so good tasting, this thick and hearty vegetarian white bean soup is cold weather comfort food at its best (recipe here).

After an unseasonably mild fall (including a swim in the river in October!), it finally feels like winter on the farm. In the last week we've had a snowstorm, a couple of arctic blasts, and one -5 degree F morning. Today it's supposed to get up to a freaky 60 degrees, but ice pellets, rain, and 40 mph winds are in the forecast. It's time for some homemade soup!

This Roasted Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup, which is so thick it should probably be called white bean stew, has been one of the most popular winter recipes on Farmgirl Fare ever since I originally shared it back in 2006.

It's packed with flavor and is so simple it can be made by nearly anyone. It can also be eaten by nearly everyone: it's vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and fat-free, and any ingredient except for the beans and water can be successfully omitted if necessary.

This recipe also happens to be cheap to make, freezes beautifully, smells divine while simmering on the stove, and is really good for you. But more important than all that? It tastes delicious—and it's even better after sitting for a day or two in the fridge. Enjoy!

P.S. Quick and Healthy Cream (or not) of Artichoke Soup and Ina Garten's Roasted Leek and Potato Soup with Arugula.

©, the winter loving foodie farm blog where there can never be too many cozy vintage blankets and quilts—or too much homemade soup.