Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Daffodils! At the Grace Note

And so, spring rolls in.  As the old homestead has thawed, so many beautiful daffodils are popping up everywhere!  It's been amazing to see them peeking up from all corners (even in one of my compost piles!)
The path down to the basement of the barn is lined with them.  I think it's interesting how a little used area would be so attended to with flowers, but it sure is.  I know they will multiply on their own, so maybe it's nicely fertile for them there or something.  In any case, they are a spring show we've truly enjoyed here.  Also seeing some other flowers popping up, crocuses and hyacinths...
and these crazy beauties.  I'm not sure what they are, but my friend Diane told me she has them, too and they turn into beautiful yellow flowers on tall stalks.  Can't wait to find out what they look like!
I've unearthed the 4 garden beds that were existing here previously.  They are small, but will do nicely for my potatoes and peas for now.  I was cleaning the last one and found it to be overgrown with a very tough root system. So, I hacked and hacked at it, tearing it out so that I could plant in the bed.  Then on the last bit of chopping I was doing, I noticed a slight white root...and I discovered it was an asparagus bed that had not yet started to bud!!!  Ohhh, I was so mad at myself, I have always wanted an asparagus bed and just dug up one that was already here, and quite old gauging by the stalk that was making it's appearance.  So mad at myself!  I have never actually planted it, though always wanted to and didn't know what the root stock looked like.  This is why you should always live in a place for a while before you do something like chop the heck out of the beds.  Now, I know this to be sage advice, but in my eagerness to get this place productive, I didn't follow such advice.  I did manage to rescue some of the root balls and stuck them back in the ground, but it will be years before they are productive again.  Living and learning the hardest way possible.

New meat chicks are doing well.  Going on 3 weeks tomorrow.  We lost a total of 4 birds, not really sure why, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with them in particular.  The heat lamp was a little higher then prudent at one point while we were first working out the lighting situation, and one of them did pass right after that, so not sure if that was the cause or not.  At week 2, Music Man threw together a new enclosure for them as they had badly outgrown the one we thought would be good for a while.  They have about tripled in size since they got here, so it was necessary.  They are happily dust bathing constantly and my house is full of dust, so I'm anxious to get them outside now.  We think another week or so and they can go in the little coop with the lights on, at least that's the goal.  We just need the nights to be warmer and their big bird feathers to come in more.  Right now they are looking like gangly pre-teens. be dust free again!  It's coming, I know it!

Alright so that's the update on our little homestead here.  We've officially named it Grace Note Farm, so, it's on the local agricultural society's map as such. Must be official then, right?  I've got lots of seeds peeking up from their little cells in the dining room, great slider there for that action.  Still working on the hoop house so we can get those outside, too, hoping to get that completed finally this weekend.

As a parting shot, one more of our lovely daffodils, harbingers of spring...

Bienvenue le pretemps!  ~Peacemom

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