Thursday, August 25, 2016

In The Garden: Late Summer Foods

The summer garden is winding down - even the eggplants and okra have slowed down and are looking stalky.  The bushel gourds are still ripening, but the last of the pumpkins have been pulled out of the garden.  Half the garden is fenced off with electric netting, and the pigs are helping prepare it for the fall/winter garden.

I planted the melons late this year, and we just recently got a few melons from the neglected vines.  The orange melon with green stripes is a rare melon from India that was so good.  I will certainly grow more next year (and hopefully save seed - I have tried many different melons, but this one was the best).

Ethan discovered that the sweet potatoes were ready to pick.  This looks like a record harvest this year.  They are huge.  It's funny because I was sure we wouldn't get any at all.  I planted the slips and then got so busy with everything this year I barely even watered them  They are so weedy, you can hardly tell there are sweet potatoes growing.  I think this actually helped them develop, because it kept the vines from rooting in other places while they were struggling with sunlight competition with the weeds.

This was also the first year I didn't build special compost beds for them.  The compost beds seemed to encourage pill bugs, which ate them to pieces.  So apparently planting into bare sand, no weeding, and neglect is the secret to big sweet potatoes!

Foods from the garden now are:  pumpkin, sweet potato, eggplant, okra, cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, malabar spinach, peppers, passion fruits, wild grapes, melons.  Not too bad.  The roselle will be ready soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016



It's been busy around here lately - getting ready for homeschooling again after our summer break (more on that later!).

We caught two raccoons who were pilfering the barn.  They were extremely sleek and plush.  We've tried so many things already to deter them...locking, rodent-proof bins with cinder blocks on top, metal trashcans tied shut, and finally locked wooden bins with reinforcing.  They are like the super-raccoons from the Pom Poko film.  We released them at a nature preserve several miles away, but there are still a lot more attacking the barn.  A friend of ours loves eating raccoon and will take any we can catch, but they were so cute and looked so much like our cat Teasel, Mirin and Rose insisted we let them go.

We got a few pears for the first time ever from our stone pear trees.  A wild grape vine growing low in a cherry tree on the second grazing line was covered with delicious grapes this year.  They were sweet, but pleasantly tart and had so much more flavor than regular table grapes.  It's amazing how wild plant foods have so many more phytochemicals than domestic fruits and vegetables.  That's why I can't help chuckling to myself when I come across Paleo blogs fantasizing about being cavemen and making grain-free donuts.  All the fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores are so modern and hybridized.  They are all bred up for things like shipping and storage qualities.  Even with gardening, I have to admit that things like carrots as we know them are a very modern food.

We made pickled eggs by putting cold hard-boiled (peeled) eggs in pickle juice with a slice of beetroot.  It's a nice way to re-use pickle brine once the pickles are gone.

Clothilde was in rare form last week.  She got a tamarind seed stuck up her nose on the drive home from the farm.  It had been a rainy, unpleasant evening, everyone was tired and grouchy, and she had not been thrilled to be buckled into her carseat.  It took us a minute to realize she was crying and screaming because of the tamarind seed, and not because she was cranky and wanted to be home.  In distress, she was not very articulate about it.  Luckily it came out easily once we got her to hold one of her nostrils and blow.

As always this time of year, we start longing for winter.  Rose and Mirin decided we were going to make gingerbread cookies and have a tea party one day.  It wasn't as nice to have the oven going in August as it is in December or January, but it was a fun diversion from the bugs/humidity/heat outside.  This is our version of deep winter - going outside under the wrong circumstances actually can kill you (I almost got heat stroke seeding the pastures in August one year - luckily we had the cold plunge filled up and I just jumped in). Generally we celebrate this season by inventing cold drinks and ice pops, eating watermelon and visiting the springs, but baking cookies was fun.

Despite the heat, the cherry leaves are changing color and starting to fall.  The seasons are shifting.

Monday, August 22, 2016

You've Got To Be Kidding....

The baby goats are two months old now - time to be weaned!  On Saturday we spent hours rounding them up.  We are putting them in the orchard, as it hasn't been grazed in ages, and could use a trim.  Besides, they can all slip through the weaning paddock gate this year.  When we repaired the gate post last fall, I think it got moved over just an inch, and they are easily slipping through.

Luckily, three of them were already over by the orchard, and were easily shooed in.  That left six to catch - Titania, Mustardseed (who is now called Moose because she's so big and fat), Oberon, George, Cobweb, and Mab, who looks part antelope.  All the difficult ones.

Mirin, Rose and I managed to corner and catch Oberon fairly quickly.  Cobweb, who is painfully shy and flighty, took some time to round up.  They were upset to be carried down to the orchard, but once they were in they started devouring the partridge pea, and were very happy.

Next I caught George.  George, Tamlin's twin, is about twice as big as Tam.  He's a brick.  I thought my arms would give out carrying him down.  He weighs more than Clothilde, and wiggles.

Ethan pitched in to help catch Titania.  While Ethan was struggling to get a good grip on her, she flipped around and kicked him in the face, knocking his hat off.  She weighs as much as George, and her nickname is now Titanic.

 Moose was easy to catch - not so easy to carry down.  She has always been a large kid.

Mab was last.  I knew Mab would be a real pain.  Ethan, Mirin, Rose and I all had to help catch her.  We cornered her several times, but she kept slipping past and pronking away after April.  It was like catching a baby gazelle with your bare hands, but finally, after a lot of chasing, cornering, and sweating, she was weaned.

The next day we went out early, anticipating lots of milking and bottle-feeding kids (less for their nutrition, more to make them friendly).  The mama goats were hanging out in the milking paddock that had been left open, with a bunch of smug-looking kids at their sides.

We had to round up Titania, Moose, Mab and George again.  George was right by the orchard gate, and showed us how all the kids had gotten out - just at the point of being captured, he leaped and slipped through the third rung of the gate (there is chicken wire all over the bottom of the gate).  So Ethan wired a cattle panel to the top.  We rounded up and carried down Titanic and Moose.  We had Mab cornered in the old weaning paddock, and with all four of us it didn't take (quite) so long the second time.  When we put Titania in the orchard, she gave the most pitiful hoarse little bleat.  It would have been heart-wrenching had my arms not been about to fall off from carrying her (again).

After the chores, we all went in the cold plunge (what we call a large metal water trough we fill with water - it is large enough to be like a small swimming pool).  We were all cooled off and clean, and just getting dressed for the trip home again, when we saw a bunch of little goats out at the top of the garden, smugly following their mothers.  They had gotten out of the other gate (blocked off with electric netting - but not well enough).

So we will be chasing them again this afternoon.  Ethan wants to put George and Titania in the dog kennel and move them with a dolly this time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1846 Lace Mystery

I've mentioned before my latest inspiration to learn to knit lace.  One day I spent searching all over Ravelry for knitted lace patterns, and was surprised that there was almost nothing.  I know it must be possible, and was commonly done, because I've read in Victorian and Edwardian novels about ladies knitting lace, but sadly, today, crochet seems to dominate the practice.

I did at last find something satisfactory, called "1846 Point Lace Edging" and was pleased to find that the lady who had created the pattern had gotten it out of a book called Knitting, Crochet, And Netting, With Twelve Illustrations on Project Gutenberg.

As soon as I got some satisfactory yarn, I cast-on and began trying the pattern.

However (and this is probably my fault) I could not get it to work.  It begins with "cast-on 17 sts" and yet the first line of knitting only has 15!  After failing with it for awhile, I thought I might look on Ravelry for errata and found a link to her blog post about the pattern.

On her blog, she wrote that she had knitted up the original pattern, which looks like this:

Pins No. 19, boar’s head cotton 34, cast on 15 stitches.

1st row—Knit 2, make 1, (knit 2 together twice,) make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 3.

2nd row—Make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, make 1, knit 3, make 1, knit 3 together, make 1, knit 3, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together.

3rd row—Knit 2, make 1, knit 2 together, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, make 1, knit 4.

ect.  (the pattern continues).

It was a puzzle, because when knitted back-and-forth according to how modern folks would read the pattern, it turns out awful and muddled, and not lace at all.  She couldn't figure it out, and so created her own pattern sort of based on what the original pattern was.

This absolutely intrigued me...a puzzle!  A mystery!  I immediately had a theory I wanted to test out - all the lace patterns I've knitted into various garments always have a row of purling (or knit if in the round) between the lace rows.  Could this old pattern have assumed the knitter knew to purl back every other row?

Having translated so many recipes from the 1930's French cookbook, I know that old instructions assume WAY more knowledge and freedom of thought than modern ones, where people trust that they will be properly led and guided every step of the way (preferably with pictures, or perhaps a youtube video).

I had to test my theory.  I was visiting with a couple of friends, and in the midst of an intense discussion on abortion rights and the miracle of life, I knitted up the pattern several times.

It seemed to work out, actually, only on row 11 (or maybe it was row 9...I've forgotten now) there was a problem.  You end up with the wrong number of stitches to continue. 

My friend, at one point, commented on how I kept frogging it, and so I told her about the puzzle, and how hard it was to find knitted lace patterns.  She answered me by holding up a crochet hook.

"But I don't know how to crochet!" I told her.  She said that was silly, because there are so many youtube videos showing you how.  So I had to admit that actually I was enjoying solving the mystery.

When I got home, I wrote the pattern up into graph paper, and added what was missing from the erroneous row.  Actually the pattern knitted up fine after that.  It wasn't quite as pretty as the lace pattern on Ravelry, but it did work out.  Curious to test it out again, I tried the next pattern in the same book, called "Scallop Edging."

It also worked out until row 13, where you end up with two extra stitches.  Also the pattern is not so clear as it tells you to simply repeat rows where you have more stitches than the row you are repeating, and it is an odd number.  It's not a big deal, but it isn't clear how to center the yarn overs (which I assumed was what was meant by "make 1").

I drew this pattern onto graph paper as well, and made the necessary corrections.  I knitted it out several times so far, as you can see, although it really needs blocked properly before I can show off the pattern.

If I have time (this is a very big IF) I will try to write up the corrected pattern to share next week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meet The Goats

We were reading a book that was a childhood favorite of mine - Our Animal Friends At Maple Hill Farm, and it occurred to me that I am always writing about our many animals that to us are familiar and almost like extended family, but that it must seem confusing to anyone who hasn't followed along with us from the beginning, when we only had a few animals.

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce everyone...

This is David.  He's our buck we got last winter.  We were thrilled to find a buck who has also been organically raised, just like our goats.  He was very friendly when we got him, because the guy he grew up with was always petting him and scratching between his horns.  I don't know how he could stand to.  David is always peeing on himself, and he smells so awful.  It's so disgusting watching him pee on his face (he always laps some up), and then he stands up, his beard and face dripping with goat pee.  The last thing I want to do is pet him.

BUT  he's made some great babies, and we really appreciate him for that. 

This is May, and her little kid (well, big kid now) Titania.  They are so cute together, because Titania is just a smaller version of May.  They are always napping together, and Titania always rests her head on May's shoulder.  I was trying to get a picture of it, but she jumped up and ran away when I approached.  Ethan has picked her up and cuddled her too much.

Ellie, our very first goat, was May's mother.  May also had a twin who was born very weak, and that Ellie rejected.  We helped her along until one day she just suddenly died.

May has always been very healthy.  When she was little, she was always getting out and eating where she wasn't supposed to, and she was always the fattest little goat.  She is one of the friendliest goats, too, and it's easy to get close to her, since she's always thinking about her stomach.

This is Cricket, in mid-bleat.  She has twins this year, Tamlin and George, two bucklings.  Cricket is pretty because she has a reddish brown coat.  She is the boss of the herd right now.  We tried dehorning her, but she still has one horn, so she is a unicorn goat.

Here is Tamlin, one of Cricket's kids, resting on top of the broken water trough.  He is named after a romantic  old English ballad about a knight who was caught by the fairies.  His sweetheart, Burd Janet, has to wait by the crossroads on Halloween, the night he is going to be given as a tithe to Hell by the fairy queen, and rescue him.

He is a nice little goat.  His twin, George, is plain-looking but very husky and playful.  I thought I had a picture of him, too, but he was probably too quick.

This is April.  April is May's granddaughter, but they don't get along very well.  We called her April because she was born on April 1st - her mama, June Bug, was born on June 1st.  May, June Bug's mama, was born on May 1st.  It's complicated, but we had this funny pattern going for awhile.  She was from the crop of kids where we desperately borrowed a buck from our friend who was three different breeds:  African Pygmy, La Mancha, and Nubian.  His dad was a kinder (Nubian/pygmy blend) who accidentally got in with the La Mancha goats.  He was very funny-looking with waddles and Shrek ears, but he did a great job breeding the girls.

April inherited the Shrek ears, and the bossy African Pygmy personality, even though she is very short.  She is an interesting little goat.  She is very smart and not very friendly.  She hates being petted, but is happy enough to get in the milking stand for some food.

This is Mab, April's kid.  We were so relieved to see she has normal Nubian ears.   She has such pretty black markings on her forelegs and face now, but she and Titania looked exactly alike at birth.  April and May couldn't tell their babies apart, and it made them anxious.  Occasionally they started letting the wrong kid nurse, so they started cautiously sniffing them first.  Mab is a climber.  She is always trying to climb things.  A few times she's managed to climb up into an oak tree.  We are hoping she will grow out of it, but it does not bode well.

This is half of June Bug, running away from me with her kids.  June Bug was May's baby, but unlike May, she is not very friendly.  Even though May was heavily pregnant, she jumped out of the fence and gave birth in the middle of the paddock where the cows were going to be moved next.  We had to move them back with the rest of the goats, but this was very, very traumatic for baby June Bug.  I carried her carefully while Ethan led May.  She has never liked us ever since.

She is running away because I have been drenching her with worming medicine.  She hates being caught and drenched.  I've been worrying about her, because she is looking pale and thin.  I am planning to give her a B12 injection, too, if I can catch her.  She is a real pain to take care of, because I can't handle her very well.

The kid running behind her is Oberon.

This is Oberon's twin, Cobweb.  She is also not very friendly.  We are going to wean the babies this week, and I am hoping she will get more friendly after that.

This is Twilight Sparkle (my children named her after spending time with my brother, who showed them tons of My Little Pony cartoons).  We usually call her Sparky.  She does have huge, beautiful amber-colored magic unicorn eyes.

She is April's sister, from the same buck, but her mother was Nougat, May's sister (we gave Nougat away to a new home because she was not being very nice around Clo).  She also has little Shrek ears, but otherwise she is a very pretty goat.

She was the one I worried about with kidding this year.  She was so large, I thought she would have twins.  She is a small goat, like April, and David, the buck, is huge.  It was her first kidding.  She actually didn't have twins - just one kid, who was huge.  We named her Mustardseed (after the fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream), but we call her Moose.  She looks part Percheron.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Given that most things in the garden have so far come to pass (until next season, which is already beginning - time to start things for fall and winter), I decided to try another egg dish.  We might not have any more tender green beans, fresh tomatoes, or cucumbers, but eggs, milk, and butter are abundant.

The recent rains have made the grasses grow and grow - this year there seems to be more grass than ever before (a good thing, since we have more cows than ever before).  Was it the lime we put on last fall taking effect?  The mowing we did last year to knock back the brambles?  The extreme rotational grazing (cows are moved once a day - other people move WAY more than that, but for around here, where constant grazing is the norm, it is extreme).  The pounds-per-acre of livestock pressure we have now?  Waiting to graze during the spring until the grass was well established?  Something seems to be right.

Eggs this time of year tend to be uninspiring.  We just have so many, and it's been like that for several months.  We get sick of things after awhile.  It's part of the cycle.  If you have too much of anything, it loses it's appeal (well, that might not apply to passion fruits or Kajari melons.  I have yet to find out).  We will be so happy to have them back again in the spring.

The souffle was good - crispy on top, tender on the inside.  It was different, and cheesy.  I made it for weekend breakfast and everyone liked it.

SOUFFLE AU FROMAGE (Direct translation)
Melt a pat of fresh butter the size of an egg over a low fire; add a spoonful of flour, mix well, add half a cup of boiling milk, and stir until you get a smooth sauce.

Continue stirring until the sauce sticks to the spoon.

Remove from the fire, and add four egg yolks, incorporating them one after another, and then add the four egg whites beaten into stiff peaks.

Add 150 grams of grated Gruyère cheese, and mix into the batter.

Pour into a well-buttered oven-proof cooking dish, which is deep enough so that the batter reaches only two-thirds of its height.

Cook in an oven that is not too hot; remove when your souffle has begun to rise, after about 15 minutes.

Cheese Souffle (a modern version)

 3-4 Tablespoons of fresh butter

1 Tablespoon of flour

1/2 cup milk

4 eggs, separated

 150 grams of grated Gruyère cheese (It turned out to be about 1 cup finely grated and lightly packed)

A pinch of salt (not mentioned in the original recipe, but it would have been better with a pinch of salt,  in my opinion)

1.  To begin, butter an oven-proof casserole dish with fairly high sides (so the souffle won't spill out all over the oven), and pre-heat the oven to 350 F. 

2.  Separate the eggs.  Keep the egg yolks whole, but beat the whites up into stiff peaks and set aside. 

 3.  In a pot, begin warming the milk over a low fire.  In a sauce pan, melt the butter over a low fire and add the spoonful of flour.  Mix them into a smooth sauce called a roux.

4.  When they are well mixed (no lumps!), slowly pour in the hot milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Continue cooking and stirring constantly until the flour cooks and the roux will thicken and stick to the spoon.

5.  Remove the sauce pan from the fire, and stir in the egg yolks, one at a time.

6.  Now carefully fold in the egg whites, and then the grated cheese.  Now pour the batter into the buttered baking dish, and pop into the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes or so (my souffle actually took more like 20 minutes to fully cook).  The souffle will rise and puff up at the top.  The recipe didn't mention it, but I have heard that opening the oven will make the souffle fall, so I kept the oven closed and checked on it through the window.

Serve right away!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Eight Little Piggies

Star had piglets!  Eight little piggies!  They are up and running around now, and there are the cutest little squeaks and grunts coming from that area.  Occasionally there are horrible squealings when the favorite nipple is being fought over (we thought one was stuck in the fence or getting stepped on, but it was only being deprived of the one favorite nipple).

Of all the kinds of babies that are born out here, I think piglets are my favorite.  They are so fun to watch.  It seems like the goat kids are always lethargically napping in a big puddle when we are out there, and the calves are always very flighty.  The piglets are always up to something.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


{These French recipes 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 a family.

 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} 

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
The tomatoes are finally succumbing to the drought and heat in the garden, so this is the last of them.  And the last of the onions, too.  For this recipe I had to make a few alterations because we have the tiny cherry tomatoes (no, I am not skinning and de-seeding every single one - they are smaller than grapes!).  Also, it is not parsley season, and the dressing calls for parsley, an herb that grows beautifully in the spring, fall and winter, but bolts in the heat.  I substituted basil, which is still growing in abundance.  I also subbed elephant garlic (actually not a garlic, but a kind of shallot) for the shallots, because I still had some from the garden.

At this point my big kids are "sick" of cherry tomatoes, and won't eat anything that has them in it.  They'll make an exception for tomato sauce, as long as it's been milled and you can't see the cherry tomatoes in it.  Rose helped me assemble this salad, and made the comment, "Wow, this looks good.  Maybe I'll actually try some."

"You're not allowed to," I said, joking.  "You don't eat cherry tomatoes, remember?  You said they make you gag."

"But I want to try this!" she replied. "It's better than what you usually make."

So if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.


Remove the first skin on five or six large tomatoes, cut into slices, remove the seeds, and arrange them in layers alternating with sliced onions, with salt, pepper, vinegar.  Allow to marinate two hours, remove and drain your tomatoes, and serve them with a vinaigrette.


 Slice finely together parsley, shallots and onions; add salt, pepper, a spoonful of good vinegar, and two spoonfuls and a half of oil.

Mix well together, serve in the salad bowl or the saucière.

Tomato Salad With Vinaigrette Dressing

5 or 6 large tomatoes (or, in my case, about 2 cups of cherry tomatoes)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced

salt and pepper

vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, but wine vinegar or balsamic would be wonderful, and could change the flavor and character of this salad for variety)

1.  Peel the tomatoes - I skipped this step as mentioned above, but an easy way to peel tomatoes is to plunge them into boiling water for just a minute, and then immediately submerge them into cold water.  This loosens the skin and it can be easily peeled off once the tomato is cool enough to handle.  Also slice them open and remove the seeds.  Then cut the peeled and de-seeded tomatoes into slices.

2.  Lay some of the tomato slices on a plate or in a bowl, add onion slices on top, and then salt and pepper and a sprinkle of vinegar.  Repeat until you run out of tomato slices.

3.  Allow to marinate for two hours.  Then drain off the liquid (actually I saved it and used it as vinegar in the dressing - it tasted too good to discard).  I think you are supposed to also take out the onion slices, but they were really good as part of the salad.  The vinegar had taken the bite away, and they were just sweet and onion-y.  Do as you prefer....

4.  Dress with vinaigrette:

For the dressing:

 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or basil

1 small onion, chopped fine

1 shallot, chopped fine

salt and pepper

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

Mix all ingredients well.  Serve either on the side, or tossed into the tomato salad.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mangoes and Junk

I have been slowly recovering from being sick.  Everyone felt better for awhile, and then got very sick again.  I think it turned into a sinus infection for me, and I was sick all last week.  It wasn't until Saturday that I felt well enough to go out.

We had a failed expedition to the Repurpose Project.  I had never been there.  Anything that's actually nice has a crazy high price tag on it, and then there's also lots of creepy junk.  I know that rotting junk is hip - Satchels has made use of it.  It's nostalgic, and has artistic appeal.  For some reason I always think it's creepy.  I don't like looking at decaying seats, leaf-filled toilets and ripped open speakers.  The old dentist chairs looked psychotic, but maybe that's what everyone likes about it.

They had broken heartpine siding, with rusty nails sticking out of it, and lead paint for $2 a foot.  It's not so much for practical projects as artists who make junk sculptures or makeover random things into art; people who want to feel like they have dumpster-dived and gotten some good stuff, but don't actually want to get in the dumpster; and that privileged suburban hipster culture one sees frequenting it.  What the place needs is a tornado to sort it out.  They could never tie down all the stuff, and it would probably destroy the whole East side of Gainesville. *

 On the way back, we stopped by Mango Mike's on Waldo Road in Gainesville (thanks, Selma!!).  He has a mango orchard in the South.  Everyone has their own mango trees down there so it is difficult to sell them in mango season, but up here it is too cold, so everyone is happy for mangos.

We bought about 50 mangoes from him - they were cheap, and between the five or six different kinds that all taste different it was hard to decide.  We planned to freeze some and make chutney, but they got eaten in just a day.  There are only a couple left today, and they are still green.  We only just managed to make the chutney out of Sudha Koul's Curries Without Worries before they were gone.

*I know repurpose project is ultra-hip, and it's probably very uncool to be critical, but I had way too high expectations of it after hearing everyone's glowing praise.  If you want to find junk, there is certainly junk.  But if you are looking for anything useful, you might as well just go to a thrift store.  If you are looking for construction materials for a lower price....look somewhere else.  I'm sure it makes me unhip just to say it, but even their rusting, twisted roof metal pieces were freaking expensive, and honestly had already lived out their useful life.