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!