Monday, February 29, 2016


Everything went well on Friday - and yes, I do have a pot of oxtail soup on my stove right now!  I made some changes to my usual recipe and used soaked cassava instead of potatoes, pumpkin instead of carrots, and Shungiku (an edible chrysanthemum) and cutting celery instead of celery.  It made me happy to not have to run to the store!  And it turned out extra-good this time.

It's good we have a rich soup going, because we are both so tired!  It was a long day and lots of hard work.  You have to quarter the carcass to get it to the butcher.  Ethan did most of the sawing.  There is a LOT of sawing to cut through that large of a carcass.  It was 575 pounds of beef, not including a piece of neck we saved back, the feet, the organs, and the tail, and several huge bags of tallow.

It was Isla we culled on Friday.  She was the first calf born on our farm, and we were sad to do it.  It took us about two years of talking about it to get up the courage.  She just could not get pregnant.  I even gave her the cod liver oil/herbal supplement last winter that seemed to make her start cycling finally.  But she still didn't get pregnant.  Two of her mother's other calves were also infertile, so I think there was probably a genetic/congenital problem.  The vet did an ultrasound on her and said she had atrophied ovaries.

I had really hoped that the herbs and vitamin A would help her get pregnant, but it didn't.  She was bred many times by three different bulls, and AI'd twice.  We thought about doing the hormone treatments that the vet suggested, but didn't like the idea of the synthetic hormones, or trying to get her to cooperate with giving her injections every week.

But we can't afford a pet cow.  She was so, so fat, and she hogged the hay bale and kelp from other cows like Flora who are very productive but not as bossy.  She looked as fat as butter, and she was fat.  Three 2 1/2 gallon bags of butter-yellow tallow, and there will be more when we get it back from the butcher.

She was very friendly, but also very unpredictable.  The first to come over to see if you had something to eat, but also the most likely to kick you in the face.  So while it was very hard to do, now that it's over I mostly feel relieved.  We won't have to pay so much to feed her.  I don't have to worry about being kicked in the face by her when we roll in the hay bale.  And I have oxtail soup, my favorite.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Arrow of Light

This week has been SO busy!  I kept meaning to write, but then not being able to.  Tuesday was Mirin's Arrow of Light ceremony with cub scouts, and I had offered to bake a cake for it.  And then last Friday Clothilde jumped down from the monkey bars at a park - not even a very far drop, and onto soft mulch, but she landed funny and sprained her ankle.  She is still not able to walk, but is getting around surprisingly well by crawling and climbing.  And she can still ride her tricycle very fast.  Somehow it doesn't hurt her ankle.

So I've been carrying her around all week, and she has been extremely bored and needing to be entertained.  I have to carry her to go pee every time.  I have been realizing just how tiny of a bladder she has!  It's like having a small baby again, except she is very, very bored and unhappy about not being able to move, and is about twice as heavy.

Monday was devoted to yet another incredibly stressful shopping trip with all three children.  I bribed them for good behavior with coconut water and dates.  The store had made several big changes, which made me realize how long it's been since I've been out shopping.  Clothilde was actually the worst, because she was mad at being stuck in the cart this time, when usually she can clamber out and run away so easily.  She kept hitting and kicking people if they brushed by, and squealing and shouting obnoxiously.  I couldn't get her to stop, and I still had to get the shopping done.  She accidentally hurt her arm when she tried to hit Rose and  missed, which seemed to amuse other shoppers.  I always get laughed at when I'm at the store with all my kids.  I wonder if that happens to other people?  Clothilde is really a sweet, adorable child if she's not in a store.  Stores are bad for her, hence the incredibly long time between shopping trips.

Tuesday we baked the cake.  I used blueberries to color the frosting blue, but it turned out a very bright and pretty purple.  I was worried it wouldn't be masculine enough for the boy scouts, but Mirin was delighted with how it turned out.  He even showed it off to the neighbors, and I was so glad he liked it so much.  I was very worried about baking a "healthy" cake for everyone and embarrassing him (it was a grain-free coconut flour cake.  It tastes even better than regular cake, I think).

The ceremony was very nice, although I missed a lot having to take Clothilde to pee again.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the cake, and some kids came back for seconds.  It was a little bittersweet for Mirin, because the boys in his group (is it den, pack or what?) are being split up between different boy scout troops.  One of the kids said their favorite thing about cub scouts was visiting Mirin's pit at the farm.

On Thursday Ethan went down to St. Pete to see his grandmother, who was in the hospital.  She's 97 years old, and recently fell and broke some bones.  However, she is already on the mend and seems to be doing well.  I knew it was going to be a LONG day with handicapped Clothilde and the big kids.  We went to a friend's house with three homeschooled children, and ended up staying for five hours.  I couldn't get my kids home.  They were playing so hard and having so much fun running around, they couldn't even hear me.

Now it's already Friday.  Clothilde was up early already, talking a mile a minute about Wiley and the Hairyman (a story we read recently).  She went over to my mom's house on her tricycle, so I have a few minutes to write.  We are getting ready to go slaughter a cow, so I can't write much more.  It's going to be a big day today.  Hopefully you'll hear from me again on Monday, with some oxtail soup!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

I usually grow the long, white daikon radishes for pickling in my fall/winter garden.  They take about as much space as some of the smaller radishes, but they can get enormous.  The winter rains and cold snaps make them sweet and delicious.  This fall, my first planting was fiery hot and spicy because of the very warm weather, and I was disappointed that my pickles this year turned out bitter.

I also grew some new herbs in my winter garden.  Last year I grew a lot of cilantro, parsley, and dill, but this year I added cutting celery (an easy-to-grow substitute for celery - a very intensive and environmentally destructive crop.  However it only replaces the flavor and not the bulk of celery), anise, fennel, and chervil.  When I started them in flats, Rosie and Clothilde were both "helping" me, and I didn't have time/hands to label them.  I tried to have some way I could remember which was which, but it didn't stick, and I forgot.  I think I planted the new, unfamiliar ones at the edges....or maybe it was the middle.  One of the herbs did very well.  I have maybe 15 plants, and they are all thriving.

I tasted it, and it had a mild anise flavor, so I naturally assumed it was anise.  It looked a lot like poison hemlock, and Ethan didn't want to try it at first, until I assured him I had certainly grown it from seed!  I was going to let it go to seed, as I had planted it along with cabbage for a saurkraut seasoning.

When I ordered seeds for the summer garden and was perusing the herb section of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I noticed that their picture of anise didn't look anything like what I had planted!  It turned out to be chervil, which is supposed to be excellent in herb butter.

This week, while looking for a French recipe to try out, I discovered that the first vegetable appetizer in La Cuisine was for radishes. In France, radishes are usually served fresh, with butter, and that is exactly the recipe from R. Blondeau.  I also added some chervil and garlic chives to the butter.  The taste of the chervil changes in butter, becoming very complex and herby.  It makes the butter taste almost like herbed cheese. 

Although R. Blondeau says hors-d'oeuvres, or appetizers, are served usually at lunch, and soup is the start of supper, I have been slicing a freshly-pulled radish and setting it out on the table while I get the rest of dinner ready.  Everyone, except maybe Mirin, who can be very picky, has been enjoying the crispy white radish slices with chervil butter.  

Hors-s'oeuvres, as R. Blondeau writes, "without being very being very substantial, nevertheless have much to offer, to stimulate the appetite, and happily begin the meal, so that everyone will wait patiently for the main dishes."

Les Radis - Directly Translated

Wash them with care, cut the little end of the root, and also half the leaves.  Wash in a bath of water, and then, drain and arrange on a tray.  On a second tray, along with the first, have some fresh butter.

Radish Appetizer - A Modern Version

Fresh radishes, 2-3 small ones per person, or l long radish for several people

Fresh butter, softened

1.  Wash the radishes well, trim the leaves and the ends.  (Chickens love the radish tops). If the radishes are large, cut into slices.  Small radishes can be served whole.

2.  Serve with fresh butter.  The slices can be dipped in butter and eaten, or whole radishes can be served with a butter knife.  Put a knob of fresh butter on the end of the radish and take a bite.  Repeat.

Notes:  I've tried salted and unsalted butter, and I personally prefer salted butter.  Or unsalted with a side-dish of salt.  The recipe says "fresh butter" not cultured, but cultured butter is tasty with it, too.  To make the herb butter, de-stem parsley, dill, cilantro, chives or chervil.  Put the herbs in a cup and snip them up finely with kitchen scissors before adding them to the butter.  Cream them in with a fork.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating From The Earth

My garden is finally starting to look like something.  I was so behind this year, and the cold weather was a long time coming.  A lot of the brassicas really didn't like the heat.  They are finally looking happy.  It's a small garden this year, compared to other years, but we are getting so much out of it. 

I just didn't know, before, how to eat from the's different, very different.  You have to be thrifty, you have to be creative, you have to do the right thing at the right time, you have to figure things out, you have to let things go and be happy with what you DO have.  It's all about working with what you are given.

At first I would plan a meal around something I had from the garden - squash or cucumbers or something.  And I would find I'd have to buy all kinds of things to go with it, to make it a meal.  Every now and then we would have a meal that was all home-grown, and it felt very special.  Now it's like that all the time.  The exception is when we have to buy something.  And I'm never very happy with it, when I do.  It doesn't seem very fresh, but it's very expensive.  Vegetables are rubbery.  Eggs are pale and old.  Herbs are limp.  I'm used to ripping something out of the ground and cooking it for dinner that night.

But it took me awhile to get here.  I've had winter gardens that were brimming with vegetables, and I didn't know yet how to use them right.  We got sick of them very quickly.  Much was wasted, a lot went to seed.  I just didn't know how to be thrifty.  It felt impoverishing to not have as much choice as I was used to. 

And I know now that it wasn't choice I was was imagination.  I had to re-learn how to cook!  I had to learn to work with what I was offered.  Real home economy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Baby On The Wall

Clothilde said, "I want to be in picture."

 On Monday Ethan was off of work, and we met some friends at the park.  They brought along an out-of-town sister-in-law with two children, and we had a mass of children running all over the park, along with what seemed to be two bus loads of disaffected high schoolers, for reasons not entirely clear, as it was a school holiday on Monday.

This particular park was surrounded by a high brick wall with lacy decorative brick work so that every here and there a brick was missing in a pretty pattern.  The older kids found these very good foot and hand holds to climb up on the wall with, and they climbed up and then jumped off into the spiny hedge a few times before running off to the swings.

Clothilde had been milling about in the sand, playing with my friend's youngest son, who is almost exactly her age.  For whatever reason, she became inspired to ditch the plastic play equipment (this seems to happen to us a lot at parks) to climb the wall.  She ran over and began trying to get a foot hold.

I had just been telling my friend and the sister-in-law that I still feel traumatized from when Clothilde began walking at nine months.  It was having to keep all the chairs tied up, and the climbing.  I've never gotten over it.  The sister-in-law laughed knowingly.  Of course she thought her children were just the same.

We spotted Clothilde trying to get a foot in the first missing-brick hole.

"It looks way too high for her to actually get her foot up there," the sister-in-law said dismissively.  Clothilde got her foot in, and began climbing.  She pulled herself up on the top of the wall and began walking on it.  The wall was taller than Ethan.  She began clambering up the very high archway that went over the park entrance.  It looked impossible, and she struggled a little, but she managed to slither up in under five seconds.

"Wow," said the sister-in-law in considerable awe.  "She got up there really fast.  I can't believe she got up there!  She's climbing higher!"

Several of the disaffected teenagers were watching tensely from a nearby pavilion.

"Dang!" they said, "that baby's climbing the wall!"

"Look at that baby!"

"Oh my god, I can't look.  That baby's on the wall!"

They went to another part of the park, looking shaken.  One of them was clutching her chest and glancing back at Clothilde.  The sister-in-law laughed nervously, and seemed to regret comparing her children.  By this time Ethan was already over there, coaxing Clothilde to jump down to him.  It was the only way to get her off the wall, she was so high up.  Of course we are numb to it by now, so we were not even very anxious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

OEUFS DUR AUX CREVETTES - Hard-Cooked Eggs With Shrimp

{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

With Valentine's day just behind us, all the stores seem to have seafood on sale.  Ethan found some good shrimp for me.  Shrimp was my favorite childhood food.  Ethan was always crazy about salmon, but he feels funny if he eats shrimp.  On the rare occasions we get seafood, it's invariably salmon, not shrimp.  So he knew I would be excited about it - I am.

We've been getting so many eggs lately.  Our layers this year were young in the fall, and they could hardly stand to take a break around the Solstice.  Now that we are approaching the Equinox, they seem to be laying full steam ahead.  That means like 25 eggs a day.

So I've been perusing the egg section of La Cuisine, trying to find a recipe for this week.  And this kind of came together - the shrimp and the eggs being right there.  It is an egg salad with shrimp.

R. Blondeau, the author of La Cuisine, says that eggs are the perfect, nutritious food, not only for children, the convalescent, and the elderly, but also for tout le monde (everyone).  He (or she - I can't be sure) goes on to say that - to be perfectly healthy, they must be extremely fresh.  Old eggs, apparently, can cause indigestion, or more serious problems.  There then follows a way to be sure if they are fresh - you put them in a bowl of water and see if they float or not.  If they float at all, they are not edible.

I remember plenty of Easters when we piled a couple dozen grocery store eggs into a pot of water, and many of them floated.

There then follows instructions for preserving eggs through the winter, when chickens do not lay.  We modern people, accustomed to technology, don't usually notice this, because factory egg chickens are kept with lights to make them think it is the summer Solstice constantly.  Many people might find this surprising - in fact, we had a friend...someone who is really into seasonal eating, nature, and being green....who, when asked if they would like any of our extra dozens, replied, "I don't eat eggs in the summer because they are too high protein.  Eggs are a winter food for me."   

The instructions for preserving eggs for the winter say that air is what makes eggs spoil, as it goes through the pores in the shell.  To preserve them, mineral lime is mixed with water, and left to sit for a week to slake.  You have to stir it once a day.  Then fresh eggs are packed into earthen jars, and the lime is poured over.  They are left in a cool place, and apparently keep for months.  R. Blondeau says that you must make the preserved eggs in September.

First of all, to begin this recipe, you have to know how to boil eggs.  I know that sounds elementary, but there are plenty of people who don't know how.  There is a big assumption in this cook book that the reader is already fairly proficient in the basics, so this is the recipe for hard-cooked eggs:



Cook your eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, and then plunge into cold water, peel the shells, and rinse them.  Wipe dry with a fine cloth.

 Now you're ready for the real recipe:


Peel 125 grams of shrimp and incorporate it into a mayonnaise with sliced whites of egg.  Naturally, you have already crumbled the yolks into the mayonnaise.
Remember:  Hard-cooked eggs cut into slices go perfectly with all green salads:  lettuce, romaine, endive, and chicory.

Hard-cooked Eggs With Shrimp (a modern version)

1/4 lb of shrimp
5 eggs or so

1 cup mayonnaise (you could use store-bought, but I have a recipe here)

1.  Cook the shrimp in boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until they are pink.  Drain and run cold water over them.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel them.

2.  While the shrimp are cooling, boil the eggs (see above).  Peel them, cut in half, and pull out the yolks.

3.  Put the cup of mayonnaise into a salad bowl and crumble the yolks into it.  Slice the whites up and add them to the mayonnaise.  Add the shrimp and mix well.  I also seasoned it with salt and pepper, and sliced up some green onion tops from the garden to garnish.

Notes:  The shrimp I used were quite large, so I cut them into bite-sized pieces.  Also I doubled this recipe for my family of 5.  We had it on crackers for lunch.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Hoggetown Medieval Faire 2016

We were in the way while the King and Queen of the festival were going by, so they stopped for a picture.  Mirin got into it, but not my other children.

Last week we took advantage of the Medieval Faire's cheap school-day rates.  I was hesitant, because we almost went with some friends last year, and ended up not going, and then it was in the paper that some 15-year-old girl was attacked and raped by a convict who was working at one of the greasy food vendors called The Queen's Buns.

It was actually really fun this year, and I think the mistake of previous years was not going on the school day.  There were tons of kids and families, rather than the usual dirty-men-with-neck-tattooes or ancient-wrinkled-women-in-revealing-bodices you see on the regular days.  Sorry, I know that sounds so judgemental, but the crowd is decidedly seedy, and my children don't exactly stay close or listen to me.  And this year I feel like Clothilde could have really used a leash - I spent a lot of time chasing her while she ran squealing away and tried to get lost in the crowd.  (Just joking about the leash, but it's tempting sometimes).

Another problem is the sheer rip-off factor.  Like $5 for a few minutes to sit on a horse and walk twenty feet and back.  Or $5 to be swung around in a circle for a minute.  Or $5 to walk through a lame fabric maze.  Or $5 to ride on the unhappy camel.

The trick is to not bring any extra money at all, and that cuts out all the whining for this-and-that.

Mirin was reprimanded quite sharply at a knife tent, for unsheathing the knives and looking carefully at the blades.  He had brought some money to spend, and wanted to see if he could get a new knife.  After the vendor shouted, "Don't you dare touch that!" at his potential customer, I couldn't help saying, "Oh, come on, Mirin, nothing here holds an edge anyway," and the vendor flinched visibly.  He knew it was true - everything there was useless-but-stylized for people that want to wear knives and swords that look like something out of a Hobbit Adventure Quest rather than actually use them for anything in real life.  Mirin was shaken, but at least he didn't add a pathetic and expensive new knife to his collection.

We met some friends and watched the jousting, which was very entertaining.  The horses were beautiful and very well-trained.  We saw some acrobats, and hung out in the kid area for a while (I've never seen it before - it is a good addition) where we ate the snack we brought and Clothilde got chalk all over her.  The SCA tent was my favorite, despite the square yards of faux-fur synthetic fabric hanging up outside (the streaky coloring of it seemed to indicate it came off of a magic unicorn/woolly mammoth cross).

I got to talk to some fellow fiber enthusiasts and a woman who did natural dyeing while my older children ran amok with more friends we ran into.  Clothilde got lost just after that, and I found her after a desperate glance-around rolling on the ground with a couple of service dogs.  The lady who was attached to them said, "She's mugging our dogs!"   She was kind of joking.

On the way back to the exit, my big kids ran ahead and got stuck up in the very front of the audience for the super-lame "Human Chessboard," which is more like a "Theatrical RPG Fantasy Show."  Years ago they did away with bothering about the chessboard part of it.  I couldn't get to them, so we had to suffer through the whole thing.  It was actually quite violent, although very fake violence, but there was a scene with a woman getting fake-horsewhipped by a pot-bellied man dressed as a warrior that was really awful.

We also stayed for the second round of jousting, because it was at the very end.  Clothilde was doing acrobatics all over the metal gate for the show, but luckily the guy who was dressed up as the "guard" knew us from volunteering at Dudley farm and didn't yell at us about it.  Instead he cooed at Clothilde, and laughed at how she was dangling.

We left, happy, tired, and pleased with all the friends we met and saw.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Free Knitting Pattern # 2: Little Hearts Mitts

It's been ages since I had picked up any knitting, and I had a big bag of lovely yarn staring at me from my knitting basket on top of the piano.  I just wasn't inspired.  It was just too hot in December to think about knitting.

When the cold weather hit at last, I remembered that I had really wanted to knit myself a pair of fingerless mitts.  My hands get so cold when I am out doing the chores, but mittens - and even gloves - are clumsy or get splashed with water and then make my hands even colder.  Sometimes I remember to wear something with pockets, but unfortunately my warmest clothes don't have pockets (it's hard to actually find good, practical warm clothes in Florida!).

When I had first started to knit about five years ago, I had tried out a cabled fingerless glove pattern - I only had enough yarn for one, because I had used some left-over yarn from another project, and I wasn't good at eye-balling it yet.  The one glove was heavenly - I would transfer it from hand to hand to share the warmth - and like all wool, it was warm even if it was wet.  I kept thinking I would buy more yarn and knit the next one, but then that one got lost, and I never got around to another pair.

Until now....

I thought this would be a nice February knit.  Knitting on it made me think of strawberries, raspberries and chocolate!  I love the way the color rounds make little hearts.  I hope you enjoy it also -

- Little Hearts Mitts -

Gauge:  6sts/inch

Needles:  6" double-pointed needles size 3.50 mm (US 4)

Yarn:  2 skeins Quince & Co "Chickadee" in bark color (Main color, or MC)

1 skein Drops Alpaca #3770 Fuscia (Contrasting Color 1 or CC#1)

1 skein Drops Alpaca #3720 Pink Violet (Contrasting Color 2 or CC#2)

1 skein Drops Alpaca #3112 Dusty Pink (Contrasting Color 3 or CC#3)

Also have on hand 5 stitch markers or loops of scrap yarn

Note:  I haven't tried it, but if you need a larger/ smaller size, you could probably add or subtract the number of stitches on N2 and N4.  You would have to change the decrease rows to decrease in the middle of whatever number of stitches you chose.

Also, I used a marker to mark the end of each round, rather than a beginning-of-round marker.  With all the markers on N1, I found it got too crowded.  You might not need an ending marker - it's only purpose was to alert me that I had finished the round - but it was certainly helpful when I was reading aloud to the children and knitting at the same time!

Size:  I made these to fit my wrists.  These are my measurements that I made the pattern around:  10.5 inches/27 cm near the elbow, 6.5 inches/ 16.5 cm at the wrist, 8 inches/20.5cm from bottom of cuff to wristbone.  My palm is 8 inches/20cm around.  The cuff is close-fitting (I made several early, floppier versions, and I think this version is just right).  The garter stitch borders keep the cuff from curling annoyingly.

- Make two -

To begin:  Cast on 52 sts with the long-tail cast on, and distribute over 4 needles as follows:
N1:  10 sts
N2:  16 sts
N3:  10 sts
N4:  16 sts

Using the tail to mark the beginning of the round, start the six rounds of garter stitch for the bottom border:

R1:  K (knit all sts)

R2:  P (purl all sts)

R3:  K

R4:  P

R5:  K

R6:  P

R7:  Decorative Yarn Over (YO) border:  *YO, K2tog* until end of round.

R8:  K

R9: - Marker placement -

N1: K4, place marker (M), K2, place M, K4
N2:  K all sts
N3:  K4, place M, K2, place M, K4
N4:  K until 1 st remains, place M to mark end of round (slip this marker on all rounds)

R10: (Yarn Over row - this stays the same for the entire mitt)

N1 and N3:  K4, sl M, YO K2 tog, sl M, K4

N2 and 4:  K all sts

R11:  - Decrease round #1 -

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K7, K2tog, K7 (15 sts each on N2 and N4 - 50 sts total)

R12:  Colorwork Round #1 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* , repeating from * to * until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R13:  YO row

R14-15:  K all sts

R16:  YO Row

R17:  Decrease Round #2 -

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K7, K2tog, K6 (14 sts on N2 and N4, 48 sts total on all needles)

R18:  Colorwork Round #2 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R19:  YO row

R20-21:  K all sts

R22:  YO row

R23:  Decrease Round #3 -

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K6, K2tog, K6 (13 sts on N2 and N4, 46 sts total on all needles)

R24: Colorwork Round #3 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #3* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R25:  YO row

R26-27:  K all sts

R28:  YO row

R29:  K all sts

R30:  Colorwork Round #4 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R31: YO row

R32-33: K all sts

R34: YO row

R35: Decrease Round #4 - 

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K5, K2tog, K6 (12 sts on N2 and N4, 44 sts total on all needles)

R36:  Colorwork Round #5 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R37:  YO row

R38-39:  K all sts

R40:  YO row

R41:  K all sts

R42:  Colorwork Round # 6 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #3* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R43:  YO row

R44-45:  K all sts

R46:  YO row

R47:  Decrease Round #5 -

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K5, K2tog, K5 (11 sts on N2 and N4, 42 sts total on all needles)

R48: Colorwork Round #7 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R49:  YO row

R50-51:  K all sts

R52:  YO row

R53:  K all sts

R54:  Colorwork Round #8 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R55:  YO row

R56-57:  K all sts

R58:  YO row

R59:  Decrease Round # 6 (last decrease) -

N1 and N3:  K all sts and slip all markers

N2 and N4:  K4, K2tog, K5 (10 sts on N2 and N4, 40 sts total on all needles)

R60: Colorwork Round #9 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #3* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R61:  YO row

R62-63:  K all sts

R64:  YO row

R65:  K all sts

R66:  Colorwork Round #10 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R67:  YO row

R68-69:  K all sts

R70:  YO row

R71:  K all sts

R72:  Colorwork Round # 11 -  *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R73:  YO row

R74-75:  K all sts

R76:  YO row

R77:  K all sts

R78:  Colorwork Round #12 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #3* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R79:  YO row

R80-81:  K all sts

R82:  YO row

R83:  K all sts

R84:  Colorwork Round # 13 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R85:  YO row

R86-87:  K all sts

R88:  YO row

R89:  K all sts

R90:  Colorwork Round #14 -  *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R91:  YO row

R92-93:  K all sts

R94: YO row

R95:  K all sts

R96:  Colorwork Round #15 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #3* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R97:  YO row

R98:  Cast-off for thumb -

N1:  Cast off all sts, removing both markers as you go.  Set N1 aside for now.  You'll need it again in a minute.

N2, N3 and N4:  K all sts

R99:  Shape thumb hole:  Cast on 4 sts onto the needle that had been N1, place marker, cast on 2, place second marker, cast on 4 more sts.  Now move on to N2, N3 and N4 - knitting all sts, of course.

R100:  YO row - skip the YO on N1 for this round (I found it too tricky with the newly cast-on sts, however, if you are adept enough, YO here if you'd like.  It does not stand out at all to skip this one, I should add.)

R101:  K all sts

R102:  Colorwork Round #16 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #1* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R103:  YO row

R104-105:  K all sts

R106:  YO row

R107:  K all sts

R108:  Colorwork Round #17 - *K1 in MC, K1 in CC #2* until end of round.  Switch back to MC again for the next round.

R109:  YO row

R110-111:  K all sts

R112:  YO row

R113:  K - remove all except the end-of-round marker.

R114:  Decorative YO border:  *YO, K2tog* until end.

R15:  P all sts

R16:  K all sts

R17:  P all sts

R18:  K all sts

R19:  P all sts

R120:  Cast off with stretchy cast off:  *K2 together through the back of the loop, slip st back on to left needle* and repeat from * to *, until all sts are cast off.

Thumb:  Begining on inside of palm, pick up 18 sts along thumb-hole on 3 needles, 6 sts per needle.

K 3 rounds

1st decrease on R4:  K1, K2tg, K until 3 sts remain on N3, K2tog through the back of the loops (a left-leaning decrease that I prefer to SSK, though you could SSK here, if you prefer), K1.

K 2 rounds

2nd decrease on R7:  K1, K2tg, K until 3 sts remain on N3, K2tog through the back of the loops (a left-leaning decrease that I prefer to SSK, though you could SSK here, if you prefer), K1.

Begin 5 rounds of garter sts, starting with Purling.

R8:  P

R9:  K

R10:  P

R11: K

R12:  P

R13:  Cast off all sts with the stretchy cast-off above.  Weave in ends (there are a lot of them!)

Please write to me with any questions!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

  Here is the next French recipe from "La Cuisine," featuring two things we've got from the farm:  Pumpkins from last year's summer garden (I still have six!  The Seminoles keep so long!) and milk.  According to Chef R. Blondeau (the author), soup must be served at the beginning of dinner if it is not part of lunch.

When I was in France, my friend Sunil's dad told me that petit déjeuner for breakfast, déjeuner for lunch, and Dîner for dinner were the modern, Parisian French.  He was very amused to hear that I had been taught those words in American school.

He said those were the terms for big city people in Paris who stay up late and wake up close to noon.  He explained that déjeuner means literally "to stop fasting," just like our word breakfast means "to break the fast" of the night.

In French, lunch was traditionally called dîner, just like lunch was called dinner in English long ago.  Supper, which is what everyone calls dinner now, is souper in French, because soup was traditionally served.

 I've been inspired and have been making a soup to go along with dinner (and leftovers for lunch).  We actually eat a lot less of the rest of dinner, and I end up feeling very full and satisfied.  R. Blondeau divides soups into two categories:  Rich or Thin, depending on whether or not meat or meat broth is added.  This soup could be "Riche" or "Maigre" depending on if you use broth or water.  Many of the soups that do not have broth, meat, or seafood include milk.



 Remove the skin, seeds and strings from a slice of a beautiful, well-fleshed pumpkin. Cut into pieces and boil in a pot with just a little water and salt and pepper, for a little more than a quarter of an hour.

Remove from the heat, and add half a litre of milk. Return to the fire and cook until it boils again. Serve this soup hot, after adding a pat of butter.


1 small to medium-sized pumpkin (I used a Seminole pumpkin from the garden), or half a larger pumpkin – it really depends on how much pumpkin soup you want.

water or broth

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of milk

butter to serve

1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Cut into smaller slices and peel off the peel with a sharp knife. Chop into bite-sized pieces and put in a medium-sized pot with a little water.

2. Season pumpkin with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook until pumpkin is soft, a little more than 15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of milk. I also blended the soup at this point. Return to the fire and cook until it boils again.

4. Stir in a pat of butter, taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

Notes:  The original recipe does not call for this soup to be blended, but I did blend it, for a couple of reasons - first of all Ta-ta Gaby, my great-aunt who is French, makes a similar squash soup that is blended.  Second of all, my picky offspring won't eat pumpkin if they know it's in something, but they said they liked this soup.

This soup turned out to be a lovely, creamy pink color.  It was a delicious mixture of sweet and savoury, and brought out the nutty, sweet flavor of the pumpkin.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Soaking/Fermenting Cassava

 I started growing cassava three years ago.  My friends and fellow gardeners Paul and Ginny Campbell gave me the first stalk.  Cassava is propagated that way - by saving the stalks to plant the next season.  The trick is to store them until the spring without them drying out or molding.  Some people wax the ends.  I've found that wrapping them in paper feed bags works.  It has to be something that keeps in just enough moisture that they don't dry out, but not so much that they mold.

The first year I had four plants.  They came up with enormous root systems.  The next year I had more stalks, and a whole row of plants.  Last summer I planted three rows of cassava.  The plants were huge, twice as tall as Ethan, taller than my house.  I planted them in layer-cake compost beds, and they love the sandy soil.  Just before the first frosty night, I cut the stalks and wrapped them up in the barn for the spring.

The root systems are enormous and have been sustaining us all winter.  One root system feeds us for about a week.  I boil it and serve it with butter and sour citrus juice, or gravy or soup, or fry it "American-style" in lard where it turns out golden, crispy and tender.

The tricky thing about cassava is that it has cyanide all through it.  It must be thoroughly cooked to get rid of most of it, and even then a small amount remains.  In other parts of the world where cassava is a year-round staple, people soak or ferment it to get rid of the cyanide.

Another problem is that it spoils very quickly once out of the ground.  Some people pull it, peel it, blanche and freeze it.  Our freezer space is precious, so we have always cut the stalks and left the roots in the ground to over-winter.  It works, as long as rabbits and other wild animals don't chew the roots (they will, cyanide and all). 

It also can have an almost bitter flavor that my children don't like.  But I've found that soaking/fermenting solves all three problems - the cyanide, the spoilage, and the flavor.   It took me a while to start trying it out, because I wasn't quite sure how to begin. Now I pull a root system, peel it, chop it up, and soak it, and it will keep until we finish eating it, as long as I change the water every 24 hours.  I can smell the cyanide coming out when I pour off the soaking water and wash them.  Every day we cook and eat some, and each day it soaks it becomes lighter, more tender and delicious - and my children will actually eat it, which is great.

So here is the process, from Earth to table:

First, harvest the roots.  De-leaf the stalk and snap the very thin top part, and any side branches, off.  Save the stalk carefully away from wet or damp, extreme dryness, light, and frost for next summer season's planting.  You can also save the tender top leaves, but they will need lots of boiling to make them edible (please read about it first).  The roots will have sand clinging to them.  You can wash them, but I usually leave them sandy for now.  Towards the stem the roots can be quite tough.  I use a machete to cut them free.  Keep in mind that once pulled, they have to be dealt with right away.  Even after two or three days they will start to spoil.

 Next, I peel them.  Cutting the long roots into smaller chunks makes it easier to peel.  Use a thin, sharp knife and be careful.  There are two skins - the rough brown bark-like skin, and the inner pink skin.  The pink skin has lots of cyanide and should be peeled away.  I haven't washed them, so I usually do this outside.  I wash the peeled roots and put them into a big bowl of cool water right away to soak until I am finished peeling them all.

 Once everything is peeled and washed, I pull them out of the water and slice them into slices.  I put them into a fresh bowl of water now.  They fit better this way, and the increased surface area seems to help the soaking.  You can add whey if you want to, although I've gotten some funky-tasting results with it.

The important thing is to make sure all the roots stay covered.  They will oxidize and start turning black if exposed to air even for overnight.  At least once every 24 hours, the roots must be drained and washed, and filled with more cool water.  I tip the bowl so that the dregs also run out, and run cold water around before filling the bowl with all fresh water.  They will keep six or seven days this way, getting more tender and tasty every day.  But as soon as I forget to change the water, even for just a few hours, they start to spoil and taste bad.  They are probably still edible, but I don't like the flavor.  It tastes like rotten cheese.

To cook them, pull some out of the water and put in a pot with more fresh water.  Boil them until they are soft.  Then you can serve them with butter and lemon juice, chopped cilantro, gravy, soup, or fry them in lard, butter, chicken fat, drippings, etc, until they are golden and crisp.

And to finish, here's a little riddle I came up with last year about cassava:

Straight and tall I stand

Firmly grounded in the sand

And all around I spread my hands

Each vertebrae of mine

Becomes another of its kind.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Planting Potatoes And Sharing Beans

This morning my great uncle called.  Years ago he had passed along a bag of long beans that he had grown.  He originally got the seeds from my great-grandfather, and has been growing them ever since.  He was calling because his basement was repainted last fall, and in the muddle of re-painting, his collection of bean seeds was lost.  He was glad, and I am glad, that he passed them along, because I can share them back.

I planted my potatoes this week.  Last year they did not do well at all.  The ground needed to be tilled, but only Ethan can work the tiller, and he was not willing.  This year the pigs and chickens have tilled it for us, and the soil looks darker and richer than ever in the place I am planting.

These grubs just emerged from my onion patch one day.  They had the most interesting way of scooting on their backs to move around.  I wasn't sure what they were, but I moved them out of the garden in case they ate roots.  Ethan looked it up, and, as we suspected, they were cicada grubs.  That same evening, a huge bug that I never got a good look at (but it sounded like a cicada) kept flying at me when I was in the garden.  We joked it was the mother cicada, mad that I had moved her children.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Tad Bad

Clothilde is at the age now that everything she says is cute, even if she is also being very naughty.  Things like:

"Don't touch Firefly's butt, you'll have to wash your hands."

This inspires a quick poke with a little finger and, "I already did."  And then there is a massive hand-washing, accompanied by cries of distress.

If you tell her not to do something, the response is usually, "I gonnaaaa...." in a soft, little sing-song voice.

I think the hardest part with baby #3 is all the bad things they pick up from the older ones.  The other day I plucked her away from something destructive she was doing, and she said, "Hey!  Let me go, you big greedy goat!"

Last week Ethan stayed with her while I brought the goats back to their pasture.  The last time I had taken her with me, David tried to attack us, and it was very scary.  I keep a long stick handy by the gate to poke David as he goes by, because otherwise he tries to brush against me, and he is so stinky!  Ethan and Clo were milling about by the gate, and Clothilde was mad that I had not brought her along, too.  She picked up the stick.

"This for whacking goats," she said.  "I use it for people, too," and began hitting Ethan's shins with it.

We've been hanging out with friends a lot lately, and it's been really fun. Last year I tried breaking out of my self-induced social isolation, and have even gotten out of my fear of mom's groups enough to have joined a homeschooling group recently.

Yesterday we met my friend and her three home-schooled children at a park.  We walked back along a trail to a lovely meadow with rolling hills, and had a picnic under a giant oak tree.  The children climbed trees and Mirin and the oldest boy hauled logs out of the forest and constructed a small cabin, thatched with pine straw.  Everyone, even Clothilde, worked together on it, and at the end they all climbed inside.  It is amazing what children will come up with when they are just left to play.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I have an ambitious idea for this year - and I hope that you will also be excited about it.  My grandmother was French - she was born in Nice, France, but immigrated to the US after meeting my grandfather while he was there as a US soldier in WW II.  She passed away when I was about 15 years old, and I was given a very old French cookbook from her (said to be from her mother).  It was one of the only things I inherited from my grandmother, as I was the only one in the family who could speak French.

It is so old and fragile, it has to be kept in a plastic bag.  I tried taking it out ten years ago, but it started falling apart, so I put it away again.  Last week I went to cook one of the old stew hens we had butchered, and wanted to see if it had a recipe for Coq Au Vin.

It didn't, actually, but it had lots of other interesting recipes.  I have to read it with Google translate on hand, because it has a lot of vocabulary I'm not familiar with - like le gesier (gizzard) or Egoutez-les (drain something after soaking).  Stuff I've never heard or had to say and isn't in my French dictionary.

I am fascinated by the fact that the poultry section begins with how to kill and clean a bird, and distinguishes between old hens, chickens, capons (castrated male chickens), and pullets.  It's very old-fashioned.  And it doesn't have any lists of ingredients, just a paragraph or so explaining what to do.  I looked it up on Amazon to see if I could find a modern, not-falling-to-dust copy.  I did find it on the French Amazon page - one copy in slightly better condition, for 93 euros!  I also found that it was published in 1930.

The title is La Cuisine:  Guide Practique De La Ménagère by R. Blondeau, Chef de Cuisine.  Google translates it to either "The Kitchen:  Handbook of Household" or "The Kitchen:  Practical Guide to the Housewife," depending on how the words are typed in.  I thought it sounded more like "The Kitchen:  Practical Guide of Managing," as it is not written for housewives, but for cooks hired to cook for a family, but don't quote me on that, because I don't actually know what La Ménagère means.

So....the ambitious plan?  I thought it would be interesting to translate the recipes - not just into English, but also into a format that we lazy, modern folks can work with, and test them out with seasonal goods from the garden.  I'll start out with a translated version of the original recipe, and then have a more modern format, with notes for what worked for me in the kitchen.


Cut 125 grams of lean bacon into pieces, and brown with a spoonful of butter in a casserole pot.  When it is browned, take it out and set it aside.  In the same pot, brown a whole chicken.  Remove and set aside.  Add a spoonful of flour, and allow it to brown slowly in the fat to make a roux.  Mix in a half litre of broth, add a carrot, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and put back in the bacon and the chicken.  Leave to cook for five hours.

An hour before serving, sautée a half-litre of small onions until soft in butter, and add to the pot with the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper on top, and serve when the onions are well-cooked.


1/2 cup of diced lean bacon
1 Tablespoon butter

1 whole chicken

1 Tablespoon flour
1 quart of broth or stock

1 carrot
A bouquet of fresh parsley
Several sprigs of thyme (or a teaspoon dried)
A bay leaf

2 cups of small onions
More butter for sauteeing
Salt and pepper

1.  In a cooking pot that can hold the whole chicken, brown the bacon in the tablespoon of butter.  When it is browned, removed from the pot and set aside.

2.  Add the chicken to the pot and brown on all sides.  When it is browned, remove and set aside.

3.  Add the tablespoon of flour and mix with the hot fat in the pan.  Lower the heat and let the flour brown slowly, stirring constantly.  When it is toasty-smelling but not burned, add the broth slowly while stirring to avoid lumps.

4.  Add the carrot, the bouquet of parsley, thyme and bay leaf.  Add back the chicken and bacon and leave to cook on a low flame for four hours.  The recipe does not say to cover, so I left it uncovered and added more water to cover the chicken better.  You could add more broth if you had it.  An old hen, rather than a broiler as I used, is smaller and would fit under the broth better.  I also turned the chicken at the end, to make sure the breast was cooked.

5.  After four hours, sautée the onions in more butter (not specified - I used a chunk that was about a tablespoon) until they are soft, but not browned.  Add them on top of the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper, and leave to cook another hour on gentle heat (I covered the pot at this point).

Notes:  Really you are supposed to use a hen with this recipe, but I used one of our broilers, and it was still very good (an older hen would have more flavor).  I also used onions from the garden, sliced, as they had not bulbed much yet, and we had it over boiled cassava, which is very like potatoes.  We found this dish to be intensely savory and flavorful.  

The broth or stock I used was part chicken stock and part stock from boiling the last ham Ethan cured, and the bacon was the home-cured stuff that didn't taste exactly like the bacon you find here.  I imagine the flavor of this dish changes with what kind of ingredients you use (personally, I like things changing in flavor, as long as it's good - no matter what the food industry says about it having to taste as similar as possible).

This recipe might sound like a pain with the long cooking-time, but it was actually not that bad.  I got it all set to cook early in the afternoon, and it cooked until we got back from doing the chores.  I quickly sautéed the onions and added them, and left it to cook while we peeled the cassava and made a salad.