Friday, April 18, 2014

Sin-a-mon Ice Cream

Now, I wish I could take credit for making this one up, but I got it from the Susan Branch "Autumn" cookbook.  One of my favorites, and if you've not seen her stuff, you gotta take a peek...wonderful artist and it's one of those that makes you feel like you're at your friend's house having a spot of tea and some great conversation.

This stuff is so incredibly good, it truly is sinful.  It's full fat, full sugar and amazing.  Soooo, you won't eat it every week, it's okay, we won't tell if you treat yourself to it once in a blue moon.  And you won't be sorry in the least that you did!  It's wonderful in a cone, all melty on apple crisp, or if you're Music Man he dabs a little in his coffee when it's around.  It does not stay around long here, my boys have some love going on with ice cream, no joke.  Either way, successful ice cream brewing to you and enjoy a nice big bowl yourself!

Cinnamon Ice Cream

1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 c heavy cream (right off the top of the raw milk jug if you've got it)
2 c half & half  (we just use all raw milk cream instead of half & half on this, comes out fine)
6 lg egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon (use the best quality you can, it's the star of the show after all)

Best to measure everything out first, it goes fast once you get started.

Put sugar, butter & vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat, stir 'til sugar melts & mixture is bubbly.  Whisk in 1/2 c heavy cream until smooth.  Remove from heat.  In another pan, combine 1 cup heavy cream w/half & half (or the rest of the cream if using only cream) and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk egg yolks until blended.  Whisk a small amount of warm cream into the yolks warming them slowly while adding more cream, you don't want to cook the eggs.  Pour the egg mixture back in the pan with the cream & stir constantly over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened, 3-4 min (don't boil, it will be lumpy if you do).  Remove from heat immediately.  Pour through fine mesh strainer into large bowl, whisk in brown sugar mixture & 1 tsp cinnamon.  Chill in fridge (or, if you're in a hurry, put bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice & water), stir occasionally until cold.  Freeze in ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


In our pursuit to be more self reliant, we've decided this year for the first time to add meat chickens to our farm.  We spent a couple of days helping friends process theirs and feel that we'll be able to do that when the time comes to do our own.  All except Little Red who has a HUGE place in his heart for any living critter.  He has already told me he doesn't want to be home that day.  I understand, and that's okay. He's 9 and very sensitive and so we'll allow that he may want to do something different then we do.  Maestro, being the polar opposite of his little brother on most things, told us that he wants to "overcome my fears and actually slaughter one".  We'll see.  Though his soft side is not quite as directed at animals as his brother's, he still does love them. 

We've told the boys not to get too attached to the meat birds as they will be food in about 12 weeks.  Even though that's the case, it's tough when they are so stinkin' (and that's in every sense of the word!) cute.  We lost two of them, which was a bummer for Little Red as he discovered one of them, but he actually handled it okay, he told me that it's hard not to get attached, but that it would have been food in 12 weeks anyways.  He gets it.

We decided not to go with the breed of chicken that most grocery stores sell.  This is a white bird, which has been bred that way so that the feathers shafts, when left, don't color the skin.  They also have been bred to have large breasts, which provides the most popular meat in abundance.  However, the downfall to that is that by about 8 weeks, many of them can't walk, or they break legs because they are too heavy to be supported by their legs.  They also often have weaker hearts and so will die of heart related causes due to their huge size.  They eat like machines and gain enough weight to go from a chick the size of the one in the picture above to 5-6 or more pounds in only 8 weeks.  None of this is humane in our book, but this is how the factory farmed chickens that have been developed by man for food have come to look.  In factory farms, they are also not allowed sunshine and fresh air and usually are kept in cages so small they can't turn around.  All they do is eat, sleep, poop and get bigger.  Nope, just can't do it.

So, we've chosen a more heritage type breed, which is a dual purpose bird.  They can be raised as egg layers or meat birds.  They will be red feathered, take 12 weeks to reach a harvestable size and will weigh in about 4 pounds per bird.  The slower growth rate is more expensive in feed as we have to feed them longer, but they are healthier because they are growing at a normal weight rather then being forced into an unnaturally large overfed body.  They don't have the leg or heart problems that the traditional grocery store birds have and so we hope they will live a happier life while they are with us.  One of the considerations that is very important to us is that their lives are honored.  They are food for us, it is the reason we are raising them, yes.  However the life they live before they are food is one of fresh air, sunshine and rain, grass, bugs, walking around freely, companionship of other chickens.  Honoring the life they have by allowing them to be chickens as nature intended the best way we are able.  This is very important to us.  As are the prayers and blessings we will bestow on them the day they are slaughtered, the genuine thanks for the nourishment they are providing us, the true and deep understanding we have of the gravity of the sacrifice being made for us.  We will allow them the dignity of living like chickens, not factory chicken nuggets.  This we will surely do.

I'll do some updates on them as time goes on.  Along with lots of other things we have in process around here.  It's going to be a busy year, and now we're into baseball season for Maestro, starting soccer for Little Red and Scouts for both.  Never a dull or slow moment around here!

High on spring, cantcha tell?  ~Peacemom

Monday, March 24, 2014

Try, Just Try

Brooder box is being planned.  This picture is from the first one we ever had with our adventure into chickens just beginning.  Oh, I remember the excitement of feeling like finally, I'd taken a step towards fulfilling that dream.  That was 3 years ago.  I had dabbled in gardening before that, trying, failing, trying succeeding, learning always.  This was my first livestock, and I will never forget that feeling.  Anyone who's had to wait an entire lifetime before they could really start knows just what I mean.  The excitement was palpable.  And since then, we've been through sickness in our coop and three of our treasured hens died, an aggressively mean rooster that had to meet his maker and another that had to be given away because we just didn't need more then one testosterone maker in the hen house. 
I also started this plot of garden over at the rental house we were living in.  It was also success and failure itself, but never failed to provide knowledge and the feeling like we're finally starting something.  I have wanted a farm since I was a little girl and worked on everyone else's farm.  I needed the knowledge and courage to be able to make that happen for myself.   That, and getting my city loving husband on board.  He lived in a small town for a good portion of his life, one which has grown exponentially enough for us to want to move away from it to find something more conducive to what we are trying to achieve.  But Music Man was not what I'd call a country boy.  It was in there all along, he just needed someone who could nurture that side of him.  He found that in me and now can turn soil, collect eggs and build coops with the best of them. 

We have a strong desire to raise kids who know the value of farming and where their food comes from.  We want them to have a wholesome childhood, not so absorbed in exactly the right label on their clothes or the latest electronic device.  My kids aren't afraid to get dirty, dig in the soil, clean a chicken coop, stack firewood, explore a trail, pick apples, cook those into sauce, or any of the other multitudes of things they know how to do.  We wish they knew more and cared less about those labels and electronics, but they are good farm kids just the same.  This summer, now that we have our own farm, their education will become more hands on.  No, they aren't always happy about having to do those chores, they do complain like all other kids their age.  They have no idea how good they have it, honestly.  But I want to turn out boys into the world of men when it's their time that know how to accomplish things.  Tangible, real and valuable things.  Yes, earning a living is key in that, being a good person is a must (as is not living in our home until they are 30!), but we also want them to know how to provide for themselves. Not just money, because let's face it, though it's important, you can't eat it if you have no access to food to be purchased.  But not just for the survival reason.  Also, because those skills and knowledge give a child confidence in the world.  A firm belief, deep inside, that if they need to, they can really do anything.  Their father is a great example of that, he teaches himself things and learns constantly and puts into practice the skills he gains.  We both try very hard to be living examples of what we'd like to have the boys know and be when they start out.  So that, even if they never pursue farming, they know how it's done and how to take care of themselves and maybe their own families some day. 
We've got lots of plans for the new homestead.  Music Man put my hoop house back together this weekend and I'm hoping to put that to use first as a start to the stuff that needs the extra length in its growing season, and second to house the meat birds we've got coming on April 14th.  However, we woke up to 9 degrees again this morning, so not much will be planted in it until it warms up more then that!  We want to put in some fruit trees, berry bushes and a host of perennials that will supply food for us for as long as we're stewards of this old place.  And, leaving something for the next family to own it in the form of food is a fitting legacy for us, I believe.  The skills I learned and practiced before getting here have me confident in the fact that I have some knowledge now, I can start from a place other then zero, and that's a great feeling.  For anyone thinking about being on a farm "someday" and still in a city on a postage stamp lot, my advice to you is this.  Try stuff.  Don't be afraid, don't feel like you don't have space.  So much can be done in a few pots on your deck or balcony if that's all you have.  Read, read, read the advice and knowledge of the masters.  Join a garden club even if you don't have a garden, tour every farm you are able, talk to people who do it, just do.  Don't think, wish or want, but do.  Do what you can where you are with what you have.  And you'll be more confident and in a place other then zero when you get there, where ever there is for you.

Wishing you the courage to try, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Whole Dirty Secret

Okay, I have a confession for you.  It's kind of a dirty little secret I've been keeping from you. I'm not proud of it, but it's time to come clean to you all.  Have you ever noticed, when I've posted pictures of our barn, that it's always from this view?  Did you ever wonder why I would not include any other view?  I'm going to reveal why I've kept this from you.  I wanted you to think the best of our little barn.  We love it, even in it's current form.  Which happens to include some rather shredded clothing and rotted boards.  Okay, it's shameful, I know, so here goes...

This is the north side of our barn.  The condition behind the tarp isn't much better.  It really needed some love and care and attention that it didn't get years ago, but we're thankful that at least the tarp was tacked up.  It's been there so long that it's actually ripping through.  When we tell people where we've moved to, people usually respond with "oh, the red colonial with the barn with the big blue tarp?".  We're starting to be a little depressed about the fact that the landmark is the tarp.

This is the inside view of our blue tarp.   As you can see, the boards are rotting away, as are the sill under this floor and some of the floor itself.  Kinda tops on our list was getting the siding on at least this part of the barn replaced this year.  But, we've realized that we'll probably need to address the lack of insulation in the house along with the aged furnace.  Oh, and that kitchen renovation will make our kitchen much more functional for me.  Yes, the list is long, and unfortunately, we'll need to have the meager repair funds allocated to the building we actually live in first.  I've tried to find grant money available to repair the barn, it's an oldie for sure.  We're not sure if it is original to the house or not yet, we're trying to figure that out, but some of the building styles in it are the way it was done in Britain.  The sale price on the first deed we have from 1755 is in actual pounds!  So, we hope that the barn is original.  How cool would that be?  The frame of it is actually in amazing shape for it's age, it's mostly the siding and some beams that were allowed to be leaked on that need replacing.  It used to house cows, and so there is some floor and beam rot where the cows stood, I supposed as one would expect.
Yep, here's more of it's warts in all their glory...

The glass is missing in the windows, some boards are rotted on the other three sides, but it's still a beauty to us.  Kind of like how you feel about your kid, you realize that he might not be the best looker in the room, or the brightest bulb in the pack, but you love him with all your heart, just the same.  It's sort of our ugly duckling, but we know it can be turned into a beautiful swan!  There is bittersweet covering what used to be the blacksmith shop, now long collapsed.  You can see the roof line of it on the side of the barn here, see the peak on the left side showing its ghostly image? 
As you can see below, the ruins of the blacksmith shop are covered in copious bittersweet vines, as is a lot of the landscaping here.  The pool fence has a bunch we're going to need to deal with as well.  I, for one, just can't wait to get in there with the metal detector and see what I can discover.  I spy a treasure hunt for the boys for sure!
As we're trying to come up with ideas for raising money to begin the long list of work on the barn, I've been trying to find if there are historic preservation funds.  Most of them want the barn to be of some big significance.  I feel its incredibly important to save old barns, they are a piece of our history that can't be replaced, but George Washington's horse didn't sleep in our barn, it never hid any famous runaways (least ways, we don't think so!) and for the most part it is just a beautiful old barn that needs work to save it.  This homestead absolutely wouldn't be the same without it.  She's seen a lot of living and dying in her 259 years, that's for certain.
 Okay, so now you've seen it with all it's faults, tarps and warts.  We're not afraid of the work involved.  Those of you that may remember us working on a barn that was well on it's way to being torn down a few years ago know, we've seen and done worse.  It's mostly going to be coming up with the funds to make it happen that will be the challenge. But, I know we're up for it, it's a great old place and it needs us.
Ready to begin the adventure, ~Peacemom

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring, oh Glorious Spring, where art thou?

Surely, we all miss these sights.  Birds on the feeders, sprouts in the warm garden soil and almost balmy breezes drifting past our grateful faces.  I know, this winter has been pretty brutal on everyone and it's time for it to bid it's not-so-fond farewell.    I've been as good a sport about it as possible.  I've been very much enjoying watching Music Man, the boys and their friends gliding across our little pond on skates.  I've enjoyed trying some more winter type recipes for comfort on those cold nights, enjoying the fact that we don't have that vertical driveway to deal with this year.  Thankful for many, many things this winter, a new home, a pond at that new home, a better coop situation for the chickens...but, the fact still remains that it's been a long, hard winter.  We ran out of wood about 3 weeks ago, the oil bill is prohibitive so we're cold in the house and we're growing weary of winter root vegetables.  Our produce bill has greatly increased as our taste buds are warming to spring long before the thermometer outside tells us they should.   Yes, we're all ready, I do believe. 

So, I've been trying hard to embrace my spring inclinations.  I've got the garden planned out, there will be much work ahead for Music Man and I as we build and prepare a lot of raised beds, I have a plan for the vast scope of landscape work that will need to be done.  The landscaping is well overgrown here and needs much love and attention.  I'm trying to line up a delivery of some firewood to get us through next winter while ours, which will be cut this summer, has time to season.  I've got the seeds ordered and delivered, have the plan for the chicken order and are gearing up for the eventual arrival of spring.  Now, we just need to to peek it's shy little head for us to start on this long list of work.  We also have a very long list if items that will need to be done to the house and barn also, starting with improved insulation in the house itself. 

What plans have you made to welcome spring in?  Farmer's Almanac called for a long, cold and above average snowy winter here in New England.  So far, they've been right on the money.  For summer, they are wanting hotter and more humid then ordinary (not two of this woman's favorite things, either!) here in New England, so it's going to be an interesting year here on our little farm.  I'm just waiting for that first day that I can open the windows, let in the sunshine and fresh air and hear the birds serenading me.  It's coming...can you feel it?

Wishing you warm breezes and spring blooms, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


As I sit here writing this, I'm looking out the window of my office/guest room.  Watching yet another snow fall and feeling stressed that my husband has to drive home in another bad snow storm.  It feels as if winter will never end this year.  We're about out of wood, keeping a few sticks in order to have heat should the power go out, and we moved in with about 2 cords total.  We keep the heat set at 51 degrees because otherwise we have to refill the oil tank about every three weeks, and at $770 a pop, you can see how that can't sustain itself.  So, I sit in a blanket writing, while my kids are huddled under blankets on the couch doing their homework and wish upon wish that we hadn't moved into this house at the onset of the coldest, snowiest winter we've seen in a long time.  We didn't know just how underinsulated the house was, but we sure are learning it now.  First on the long list of stuff to do around here is beefing up the insulation, starting with the attic.  I'm still loving this old homestead, but the honeymoon has worn off a bit, quicker then we would have liked. I know I will feel differently once we are into spring and can finally get outside to enjoy the surroundings without having to worry about shoveling, freezing chicken water and snowblowing.  Really feeling the length of this winter in particular this year.
Music Man decided a bit ago that he wanted to make some fried chicken.  Now, we tried it about 6 years ago, my first time ever frying it, and it was not good.  That might be an understatement reallly because it was downright bad.  A serious disservice to the poor chicken that sacrificed its very life for it.  So, when he said he wanted to make it, I was, well, skeptical.  He saw an episode of Cooking Illustrated's show on PBS and they made excellent fried chicken, showing all the steps involved.  Music Man is not a practiced cook.  Since we've been married and I'm home, he's been kind of spoiled with not having to do the cooking. I'm a decent cook and honestly mostly just don't like people in my kitchen mucking about in my spices and pots and pans.  But, I do like good fried chicken in moderation, so was happy to encourage him to have a go at it.  He watched the episode a time or two, made some detailed notes and a grocery list and set about his own little winter adventure.  I was basically kicked out of my kitchen (oh, that was okay with me honestly!) and let him have at it, helping only when asked where something was or how to use something.  You could smell the good scents wafting all through the house and we all had powerfully growling stomachs by the time it was done.  And it did take a while, let me tell you!
But, it was worth the wait in all it's honey glazed goodness.  This recipe had an end roll in some warm honey.  But, he just used a brush to apply some so as not to waste it and also, I thought a whole dip would be too much.  It was just perfect, and it didn't take long at all for it to be gobbled up!  Sweet, crunchy heavenly chicken, damned fine stuff.  And now that I know Music Man is capable of doing something so complicated in the kitchen, he's gonna be stepping up with more then just grilled cheese from time to time!
I feel like so much goes on here all the time with keeping up with the boys sports and cub scouting schedules as Music Man is the den leader for Little Red's scout den, I'm treasurer for the pack and we're both on the planning committe for their troop.  It's a lot of time dedicated to the boys and their activities, but we want them to be able to have the fun that we'd have wanted when we were kids.  And we feel its important to be involved in their activities to some extent.  But, as they get older, we weigh how much is too involved, and when do you grant them more freedom and responsibility? 
When I was Maestro's age, I was working at a 60+ horse barn doing chores all day on the days I was not in school.  I was not paid for all the work I did, but would get to ride very occasionally until one of the other people that boarded there took pity on me and let me use her pony that she had outgrown.  Horses were always my passion as a kid, and I never did outgrow it, just got to the point that I understood how impossible it was for me to have them in my adult life.  They just cost too much, especially if you don't own your own farm.  Now that I have my own farm finally and I could have room for them, I don't want my own any more.  Too much responsibility and I've already got two kids that need all my love and attention.  I like to be able to go camping for a week and not have to worry about who is going to take care of my horse while I'm gone.  They are like having another child, in essence.  Besides, we're homesteaders and having an animal that eats that much around that doesn't earn their keep is not good sense.  Now, if I could get a pony that could twitch wood, well, that might be another story entirely...
I guess its time to sign off now, gotta go shovel some more snow.  They are wanting 4-9 inches from this storm, and more tomorrow dumping another 3-5 inches.  I can't wait for those first spring days in the 50's  so I can feel like there's hope of seeing some green grass.
Dreaming of tulips peeking through the snow, ~Peacemom

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bok Bok!

Despite this...
My girls...
have started to lay these in abundance again...
and so it is that spring MUST be on it's way, right?  We're hanging in there the best we can, hope you are too!

Wishing for spring, ~Peacemom