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Archive for the ‘Dark Days Challenge’ Category

My friend, Jess, and I are working on putting together a Community Market in Barrington.  It will be in the evening, from 5-7, on the first Wednesday of each Month for July, August and September.  There will be live music, a farmer's market, artisans, local crafters and maybe even some local authors.  The event will be at the Christmas Dove, which has a beautiful pond area and lawns, prefect for a picnic with the family followed by some grocery shopping with the local farmers, gift purchasing for yourself or others, with local artisans, maybe pick up a good summer read. 

Calef's and the stores in, and around, their building will be staying open late that night.  It's also the night the Town Hall and Library are already open late, so we are hoping this will give the residents of Barrington the opportunity to spend time getting to know, a bit better, their community and what it has to offer.

Jess and I went to Calef's today, during their Easter event, to hand out flyers, and start spreading the word.  If you live in Barrington, and would like to join in as a vendor, please let me know.  Or if you know someone that lives in Barrington that should be there, I'd like to know that, too.

It's been a couple weeks since I posted anything for the Dark Days challenge.  The challenge has not been eating local, it's been remembering to post!  I made a fabulous soup yesterday with local ingredients, that even the girls gobbled up!

My yard: Garlic

Local: Onion (Purcell Farm), Beef Stock made by me with Lasting Legacy beef bones, Veggie Stock made by me from local produce, Beans I used the Bean soup blend from Baer Beans, which was beautiful, and yummy, Salt (Maine Salt Company), Goat Burger (Riverslea Farm), Sage (A friend's garden), Cabbage dried by me last fall (Brookford Farm).

Not Local: Pepper

I hope you all have a great Easter!

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Today is part two of my Dark Days meal from last week.  I decided, instead of making ravioli, I would make ricotta gnocci.  I made gnocci with friends before, but it was potato gnocci, and when I saw mention of Riccotta gnocci on another blog, I thought that would be a prefect use for my homemade ricotta from yesterday!

I searched online for a recipe and found a very basic one: 2 Cups Riccotta, 2 Cups Flour and 2 Eggs.  Perfect!  I beat the eggs, added the ricotta and flour, stirred, then a little kneading, and on to the fun, shaping.  I used a fork to put the little indents.  It worked well, dropped into boiling water, and they cooked up perfectly.

I shredded some cabbage, steamed it, and then heated the sauce from yesterday.

Roll Call:

My yard: Eggs

Local: Ricotta made by me with Brookford Milk, Cabbage (Brookford Farm)

Not Local: Flour

Roll Call reminder from yesterday's components:

Pasta Sauce Roll Call:

My yard: Peppers (frozen from summer)

Local:
Carrots, onions and tomatoes (Nippo brook farm all dried or canned by
me to preserve), Goat sausage (Jenness farm), butter (made by me from
Brookford Milk), Kale (Black Kettle farm (frozen in the fall), Oregano,
basil and parsley (a friends garden), Salt (Maine Salt)

Not local: Pepper

Ricotta Roll Call:

Local: Milk (Brookford Farm)

Not Local: citric acid to make the curds for the ricotta

I'm not in a photographic mood lately.  I didn't take a picture of today's meal, even though it was beautiful, and I whipped up a little night gown, and there are no pics of that either.  I love Angry Chicken…the blog.  It's the first one I read if there is an update, when I check in on my Google Reader.  She was on a streak of making underthings for a while and I was jealous.  I loved all the things she was making, (like this, this, and especially this!) but had no pattern to work with and was intimidated to wing it. 

Well, necessity being the mother of many things, she became the mother of "taking a leap", today.  My night ware is so lame.  I never see what I want in stores, and I really wanted something new, comfy, cute, that fit nice, and would be easy access for breastfeeding.  I grabbed a piece of inexpensive cotton knit jersey, one of the few nightgowns I have that fits well, and some fold over elastic.  Perfect!!  This nightie fits, is comfy, worked great when breast feeding, and despite it's inexpensive origins and slapping together construction, it's quite cute.

I'm now going to need a nice shopping spree!  Pretty knits, new fold over tape in coordinating colors.  I'm just giddy at the prospect of a new night wardrobe.  Oh, and the whole project, including "drafting the pattern", a term I use loosely, took less than one hour.  

Why do I procrastinate?  Seriously, when I finally jump in, it usually does work out, so I don't know why I put some things off for so long.  Maybe I'll feel more photographically inspired when I make the other nightgowns.

The other thing I did today, was sign up for an E-Course.  The subject is Nourishing Traditions Style cooking, and I'm excited.  I've been wanting to make sprouted breads and figure out some of the lacto fermentation stuff, and this seems like a fun and clever way to learn about it.  I also bit the bullet and ordered a Vitamix. 

I've put this purchase off for a VERY long time.  Mom bought one a year ago and she tells me CONSTANTLY of all the things she makes in it.  I've actually asked her to either crush/grind or let me borrow the thing several times, and finally decided I have enough uses for it.  It's recommended for the E-course, though is in no way necessary for the course, but it was the last little nudge I needed, along with getting a check in the mail from my insurance company for an overpayment…that's as close as I'm going to get to unexpected money, as I never get a tax refund.  Now I'm anxiously awaiting the UPS trucks arrival…in 7-10 days.

Well, I'm awful chatty when pictures don't need to be involved! 

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I realized I did not post a Dark Days meal for the past week.  I have been eating things that would qualify, but never actually blogged about them…Soup, egg meals (of course), even a couple meals at friends homes, one was a curried dish with eggplant, squash and such, and one was a fabulous quiche.  But, I was planning a great one for tonight, and then got side tracked.  I did make the pasta sauce, and some Ricotta Cheese…which was fun, but did not have a chance to make the pasta dough for the raviolis.  I'm hoping to do that for Monday's dinner, instead.

Pasta Sauce Roll Call:

My yard: Peppers (frozen from summer)

Local: Carrots, onions and tomatoes (Nippo brook farm all dried or canned by me to preserve), Goat sausage (Jenness farm), butter (made by me from Brookford Milk), Kale (Black Kettle farm (frozen in the fall), Oregano, basil and parsley (a friends garden), Salt (Maine Salt)

Not local: Pepper

Ricotta Roll Call:

Local: Milk (Brookford Farm)

Not Local: citric acid to make the curds for the ricotta

Tomorrow there will be Ravioli…stuffed with more local ingredients.

Oh, and making ricotta, is ridiculously simple.  Put milk in a stainless steel pot (must be stainless as it's non reactive) add citric acid heat until 195 degrees, stirring to keep the milk from scalding.  Curds from, once that happens and it's up to temp, remove from heat.  Let set 10 minutes, separate the curds (chunky bits) from the whey (liquid) using a muslin or butter cloth.  Done.  It's crazy yummy!  Whey way better than the store kind…<grin>

I have 2 of the rabbit furs almost done the tanning process.  I thought they were done, but when they dried the skin a bit brittle.  One worse than the other.  I'm going to dampen then with a sponge and work more oil into the leather and see if that helps.  More on that when I have an update…so today is photo free. 

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I have been meaning to make a seafood chowder, for a while, but never get around to it.  Since I picked up shrimp from the Market yesterday, I figured now would be a good time.

I sauteed some potatoes, then added shallots, and garlic.  Next came the shrimp, cod and lobster, browned quickly, followed by the milk, cream, salt, pepper parsley, and thyme.  Let simmer for the afternoon. YUM!

I figured I needed something fitting of the butter I made yesterday, so out came the buttermilk for some tasty biscuits…heart shaped of course.  I think I've had these heart shaped cookie cutters for 12 years, and I'm not sure I've ever used them before today!

My Yard: Garlic

Local: Potatoes and Shallots(Meadows Mirth), Lobster (A friend of a friend in Kittery ME), Shrimp and Cod (Eastman Fish), Salt (Maine Salt), Cream and Milk (Brookford), Thyme and Parsley (A friend's Garden), Butter and Buttermilk (Made by me, from Cream from Brookford).

Not Local: Baking Powder, Pepper, Flour

We did have some fun with the hearts today.  Heart shaped pancakes made with Raspberries, making them pink, for breakfast, with a little Mama Made card and felted heart, greeting Mini, this morning. 

Valentines

Husband found little hearts tucked around his morning routine with little thoughts from me.  He commented that I was very thoughtful and he was very predictable, since I knew every step of his morning.  I think he is pretty predictable, but I like that in a man, especially since he does have a spontaneous flare, keeping him predictable, but not boring.

I hope you had a nice day, spent with someone you love, too.

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I finally made butter.  I've been meaning to for a long time, but with my local dairy offering 1/2 gallon cream and finding that great butter mold, I just had to try my hand.

I did what this other blogger did and her pics are better than mine, so go check it out, if you want to see what I did, or you want to do it yourself.  I used cream from Brookford Farm.  I have mixed reviews about my experience.

Pros:

  • Very Easy
  • The Mold was easy to use and made a beautiful presentation
  • I was able to do something I've wondered about for a long time
  • I learned more about butterfat content
  • The Butter was delicious
  • All local ingredients, Raw Milk from Brookford Farm and Salt from Maine Salt.

Cons:

  • The yield was low. 
  • The cost was high.  I was able to make 1 pound of butter from 1/2 gallon of cream.  That 1/2 Gallon cost me $18.00.  The butter is delicious but not worth $18.00 a pound.
  • I found something I want to start collecting…never a good thing…antique butter molds!!

I did some research, and what I have learned, since embarking on this adventure…Milk and Cream are graded based on butterfat content.  The higher the butterfat content the higher the grade.  Whipping cream has about 30% butterfat.  Heavy Cream is between 36-48%.  I think the Brookford cream contains slightly less than standard "store bought" whipping cream. 

The butterfat content is what makes a cream "whippable".  I have found Brookford cream to whip okay for whipped cream, but it doesn't hold it's form as long as other whipping creams, and takes a bit longer than "standard" whipping cream to reach a "whipped cream" consistency.  This same characteristic, I think is what caused a lower yield than what I had read I could expect.  Most bloggers and online instruction were indicating that from one quart of cream a yield of 1 pound of butter.  That is twice what I experienced. 

In conclusion, I think Brookford cream would be classified as a light whipping cream, in butterfat content, which makes it great for baking and cooking, making creamy drinks, and you can use it to make whipped cream, with a little effort, but while it makes delicious butter, it is not cost effective for such an endeavor, for general use.  However if you want to make a special treat, it sure is delicious.  I'm going to ask Luke at Brookford about my findings.  I'm curious if my hypothesis is correct and if he has different grades of cream, as I would love to do this again if I can get a higher yield.

Has anyone else made butter from local raw cream, or from store bought?  Do you recall what your yield was?  I'd love to hear what you have experienced.  Are you in the know on cream, to tell me if my assessment would be accurate?

But look at this beautiful butter:

Butter

My Dark Days meal was a simple one, but it was so yummy and used up more eggs…yes I'm still swimming in eggs around here, but I have found a way to stay ahead of the avalanche that was impending…more on that, but what I had for dinner…

I made a savory custard.  I always think of custard as a sweet desert.  I love custard and have been thrilled with the maple version I've been enjoying this Winter.  When leafing through my new Egg cookbook (The Good Egg: More than 200 Fresh Approaches from Breakfast to Dessert) I saw an option for a savory custard.  I made the basic custard recipe, then added chopped sundried (actually I dried them in the dehydrator) tomatoes, and basil.  The house smelled terrific, and they were fabulous.  I scrambled up some Goat Sausage (a little too salty for straight eating like we did, but it was still yummy) and then threw in some chopped up bok choy to steam on top of the cooked sausage.  I'm going to use the extra sausage in a dish to cut the saltiness.

Roll Call:

My Yard: Eggs, Dried Basil

Local: Milk and Cream (Brookford), Bok Choy (Backriver Farm), Goat Sausage (Jenness Farm), Tomatoes that I dried last summer (Nippo Brook Farm), Salt (Maine Salt)

Localish: Cheese (Cabot Creamery in VT)

Not Local: Pepper

How am I staying ahead of the egg avalanche?  I picked up a great Universal Meat Grinder from the Antique Store, the other day, and started grinding eggs, which will be a regular weekend chore.  If we have stocked my parents, and the friends who are buying eggs from us, and we have leftovers, I'm going to hard boil them and feed them back to the birds. 

This a normal approach that homesteaders have done for decades, and it keeps me from feel overwhelmed by the eggs.  They birds love it, and now that I have my own grinder, so I don't need to borrow mom's I'm set.  The new grinder works PERFECTLY, even better than the electric grinder I borrowed from mom.  I love this, and am excited to try Muscovy Duck Sausage next fall when I have Muscovy ducks to butcher.

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The does all have names, nice, sweet names and not descriptive (of their worst trait) names.  Clementine is the mom of all of the girls.  Her oldest three are Molly (formerly Scrawny, who is really not so scrawny anymore), Calliope (Black Earlacing), Hyacinth (This is poor Big Boy, of the mistaken Gender.  I decided on Hyacinth when I saw that it was originally a boy's name until using flower names for girls came into vogue…how appropriate).  The little doe, who isn't old enough to breed yet is Josie.  She's so sweet and cute.

Clementine, Molly, Calliope, Hyacinth and Josie…and Almanzo.  I have named a few different animals on this little farmette, and find that the rabbits, though I wasn't going to name them, are the animals that most need a name.  When you breed an animal you need to have some way to track the lineage.  This can be done with numbers but remembering a name is just easier.

Tonight's Dinner was just thrown together by the seat of my pants.  I had some burger so figured fried fingerling potatoes would be a good match with that.  I fried them in local butter (the last of my little tub), added some onion and garlic.  The meat and potatoes were crying out for some sort of veggie, so I finely diced a half cabbage head and added it to the meat, covered and let it cook in the beef juices.  Easy, fast, yummy, and the fun purple cabbage helped me avoid another beige meal!

Darkdays10

Roll Call:

Local: Beef (Sunnybrook Farm), Cabbage and Onion (Brookford Farm), Fingerlings (Meadow's Mirth Farm), Butter (Nezinscot Farm), Salt (Maine Salt), Garlic (Osprey Cove Farm)

Not Local: Pepper

We caught up on Eggs… Husband hard boiled them, and I ground them with a meat grinder and made some chickens very happy! 

Hardboiledeggsa

Chickens are omnivores.  They are not meant to just eat grains, and on free range, with no snow on the ground, they scratch for bugs and weed seeds, but the bugs are very important source of protein. The eggs will provide that extra boost of protein they need in cold weather, when bugs are not readily available.

Hardboiledeggsd

Tanning Update:  I check the hides and they are not quite done soaking.  The way you test is you cut off a bit and put in boiling water.  If it curls up and get's tough it's not done.  The test piece did just that, so they are going to sit until tomorrow, when I'll test again.

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I've been wanting to make beans all winter, but have continued to resist because most recipes call for molasses and brown sugar, and with how we have avoided most sugars with Mini, I was conflicted about using them now, when there are plenty of other perfectly good things to eat.  Then I stumbled across a recipe that didn't use Brown Sugar, but rather used Maple Syrup!  Perfect, a sugar source we are comfortable with, AND local…as brown sugar and Molasses aren't available at my Farmer's Market.

Roll Call:

Local: Maple Syrup (Sugarmomma's), Beans (No. Conway farm), Salt Pork (New Roots Farm), Onions (Nippo Brook Farm)

Not Local: Dry Mustard, baking soda, salt (I'm out of Maine Salt and need more!)

I learned a very cool tip about cooking beans.  If you add a small amount of Baking Soda to the bean water, it takes away the propensity to cause flatulence.  So you can enjoy the meal, and still enjoy your friends after the meal.  

Dinner was shared with our friends, who made cornbread to accompany the beans.  Jessica and I had spent the afternoon knitting.  I'm teaching her how! 

Bunny Breeding…went better than expected, with an interesting twist.  Where to begin.  I guess I will say that Almanzo preformed quite well, being his first time, and all.  If all took, he will be the papa of the babies of 2 does, with a third spending time with him tomorrow.

The Twist came in when I was at my friend's house.  We were housing one of my bucks over there because he had more room, and this buck was the biggest of the bucks we had, so we wanted him as an option for breeding.  Well, we put the doe in, and she ran to the furthest corner, seeming very frightened and he hunkered down in the opposite corner ignoring her…hmmm.  Not proper behavior at all. 

While we stood there waiting to see if any romance would be initiated, we discussed the possible issues.  Was it too cold, sometimes they won't mate if it's too cold…but it wasn't that bad, besides the other male bred with his appointed doe.  Was he too big…well, no, he'd at least surely try, size might prohibit it all from connecting, but the effort wouldn't keep him from giving it a go. Finally, I suggest we pull him and and make sure he was in fact a boy… 

Nope, a Doe.  Big Boy is really a Doe.  She is now, if all went well, a pregnant doe, as when we put her in with my friend's buck, the buck was very interested, she was quite submissive, just like you'd expect of a good doe.  Too funny.  She'll be coming back over here to finish out her pregnancy with the other others in the Maternity coop.

MuscovyLoner

In other animal news, we have 4 Muscovy again…sort of.  The female who ran off the day we got them came back a couple days ago, after being gone for a week.  She hangs out with the crew during the day, but in late afternoon sometime, she heads off, to who knows were, and doesn't return until the next morning.  This is not a good routine, as she's really risking her safety by this little show of freedom, but she does impress me. 

Here she is with her daytime playmates.  She's the one in the back.  The other two females are in the front and the Male is standing all proud on the far end of the log.  I wish the trees weren't shading him, as he looks very impressive with the sun on his beautiful chocolate feathers.

Muscovygan 

If you have an interest in Muscovy's my friend wrote a very impressive article in the February/March issue of Backyard Poultry, on the unique duck.  He has a lot of history with the bird.  The photos on the front of the magazine, and those in the article were taken by my other friend, who is quite the hobbyist photographer, selling great cards with his images, as the Farmer's Markets.  Check them out at Yellow House Farm.  If I understood them correctly, some of my Muscovy females are among those that were photographed in the article. 

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