They’re here…

We were out of town for Memorial weekend, living it up at the Hampton Inn with its creature comforts.  It was nice to get away.  It was nice watching TV.  It was nice taking long guilt free showers.  But, now we are back to reality, and it's pretty good.

We came home to find that Agnes' eggs did in fact hatch.  While she was out getting food for her newbies, I snapped a few pictures.  I wouldn't call them cute necessarily.  They are a bit unrecognizable.  I can't really distinguish body parts yet, but I'll be taking pictures everyday to document their progress.

I was a little concerned when I saw that Agnes was not in her nest with the baby birds.  They look so pink and vulnerable, and it hasn't been warm.  I wanted to intervene and put a hot pad under the nest or something, just to make sure they stayed warm.  Was she ditching them?  Did she not sufficiently bond with them?  I decided to trust that Agnes knew what she was doing.  And, it turns out she does.  When she returned, I secretly, and very quietly glanced out the door.  I could see her tail feathers shaking a bit with each regurgitation she unloaded into her babies mouths.  Good job Agnes.  You got this.

The lilacs are filling the air with flowery goodness.  They surround the old farmhouse, and bring it back to life a bit.  I can picture Emma flinging open the windows to let the springtime smell clean out the winter doldrums.

These old trees come back every year with new blossoms.   Old, dark, knotty bark contrasted with fresh new blossoms gives them an instant face lift every spring.

Apple blossoms are "snowing" right now, according to Axel.  And, speaking of snow, the rivers are HUGE because of all of that snow, huh?  While we were driving west, I was amazed at how much water is forging through the various rivers we passed.  We are definitely in surplus.

Rhubarb finally got my serious attention.  I cut a bunch of stalks and am making strawberry-rhubarb pie with it.  I'm thinking of making some rhubarb preserves too.  Anybody ever try that?  Seems like it would be a good thing to have mid-winter for a pie filling or something.

Thank you lilacs for making my house smell better than it usually does.

We have a plethora of eggs and spinach currently, so what better to use those up than quiche?  I got this recipe from my new favorite food blog Smitten Kitchen.  It turned out awesome.  It's made with half and half, cheddar and parmesan cheese, spinach, green onions and eggs (of course), so you can't really go wrong.  I used the spinach from our garden instead of frozen, which is what the recipe called for.  Again, it was super good.

And, with that my friends, I shall end this post.  Happy Tuesday.

Today, today…

Dreaming about planting carrots like last years.

Hoping for a garden that is as spectacular as last years.

This spring is already picking up speed, and even though as I look out the window right now, there is snow on the mountains, by July I will be warm, tanned, and in garden-shape.

Our girls, or, as Asa says, "gewels", are laying again.

I'm ready to start wearing tank tops, skirts, lightweight dresses, sandals, you know?  I'm going to satiate my spring fever with some sewing of vintage-style house dresses like these. They seem perfect for any occasion really.  In the garden, in the house, out on the town, at work.  I like the idea of a zippered front as well.

Here is how we all feel about it not being as warm as we would like yet.

Happy Tuesday!





red necks

Today was the first day it has felt like a warm spring day.  Right, Missoula?  It was breezy, even a little chilly in the shade.  But in the bright sun, under the blazing blue sky, it was warm and whistling.  With birds: They were in heaven today.  Holy.  I wish I could have recorded them.  The woodpeckers were going crazy in the orchard and against the tin roofing on the barn.  Meadowlarks were talking to me all day, seriously.  The males I'm pretty sure are totally flirting with me.

We spent the entire day outside.  Doing stuff.  I planted Swiss chard with my shirt off.  It was awesome.  Axel got a red neck from sitting in the sun too long while putting rocks and dirt into the watering pail, rendering it useless when I tried watering the chard I had just planted.  But that was alright by me, because it gave me a chance to pump water out of our glorious water pump.  I love the sound of the squeaky handle and the rush of water hitting the tin pail.  Very satisfying indeed.  No need for music at all outdoors in the spring.

Thank you Mother Nature.  You rule.  I love you.

A little this, and a little that…

It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of summer.  It just doesn't seem possible!  But, alas, the wind is smelling just a tiny bit different.  Apples are on the trees, cherries have been picked, moths are out in droves, and rainy thunderstorms are sweeping through.  I freakin' love it!

I was begging for summer so hard during February and March, just wanting some life after our long frozen winter.  I wanted so badly to be able to run outside without coats, and stay outside ALL DAY LONG.  And, that is just what we have been doing, as much as we can.  But, I'm getting tired.  I'm looking through knitting and sewing books, planning my winter projects.

And, as much as I don't really want to admit it, after all the complaining I do during the winter,  I am just about ready for Fall.  Inch by inch, I feel it coming on.  Fall harvest, leaves dropping, pumpkins, apples, wind, darker earlier in the evening, cider, baking, knitting, sewing.  Oh, and, the young bucks are growing fuzzy antlers, even though they still look way too young to be sporting such grown up attributes. sigh.

Beautiful road to Randolph/Waterworks hill.  I run along this as many mornings as I can, which is far fewer than I would like.

Lovely August evening.  Trying to take it all in before it all turns brown and gray. The August rains have been helping!

My handsome men.  Aren't they a good lookin' bunch?

*side note*

I have been wanting to find a dress pattern that has big pockets, because, being a farm lady, I need pockets.  I came across this on Farmama.  Perfect.  It looks like a vintage pattern, so, I'm not sure of it's accessibility.  But I'm gonna try to find something like it anyway.  Any suggestions out there?

We have been trying like crazy to use up all of the pounds of food our great garden is producing.  I am currently baking zucchini bread.  It's 11:22 pm.  What have you been making?

What to do with surplus…

Andy has a knack for finding funny folk recipes for things that grow in abundance around these parts.  For a bachelorette party, he once made, um, "marital aids" out of fruit leather from apricots gleaned from neighbors, friends, etc.  No, we didn't give them a try, if you are wondering.  And, I guess marital aids aren't folksy, exactly, but fruit leather is. He's always making some sort of mead, wine, or syrup out of chokecherries, dandelions, or, lately, rhubarb.

We have a few rhubarb patches here on the homestead that were carefully planted and tended by William Randolph Sr. and William Randolph Jr.  They have been around for decades.  They come back every year, without us having to do a thing.  Permaculture, no?  So, besides my rhubarb pie, which is definitely delicious, Andy makes Rhubarb-o-nade.  And, although I scoffed at first, it's AWESOME.  It has a really lovely pink-lemonade hue, and tastes tart and sweet in good ratios of both.  Super refreshing on a summer night.  I added a lemon slice to mine, but I imagine some mint, cucumber, or basil might go well with it, too.  How do you like the Pabst Blue Ribbon can in the background of this picture?  Wicked classy.


Pick a pound or two of rhubarb and chop into half-inch pieces.

Place in large pot with water to cover and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and let simmer for twenty minutes.  DO NOT STIR.

Strain rhubarb through colander (made easier by not stirring).

Add sugar to taste. Flavor can be sharpened slightly with a few tablespoons of lemon juice if desired (not quite as homestead, though, unless you've bartered for the lemons with coal or something). Allow to cool a little before drinking over ice.

I decided to try some ferment-y recipes out of my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.  Pictured here are what will become pickled turnips and gingered carrots.  They are the first (of many, I hope) jars filled with food that we have stored in our newly repaired root cellar. The recipes are super simple.  Vegetable, salt, and water is all you really need.  If you have some whey, you can use that, too.  I'll try them in a few weeks, and report back.

We decided to plant a kitchen garden in the tiny yard in front of our house.  This old bathtub was probably left here by the Randolphs, and we planted it with lettuce and beans that will crawl up the bed spring attached to the wall above the tub.  Love those reusable bathroom appliances.

Like this one as well.  An old toilet becomes a planter for a tomato plant.  Lucky plant.

The goat on the right, formerly named Chloe, kind of came with the homestead when we took over in 2007.  When her close companion (and niece) June was killed by a dog in 2009, Chloe had a mid-life crisis and split the scene, taking up with the 300 or so sheep grazing as part of a weed-control program on Mount Jumbo.  The rancher whose sheep she took off with adopted her with our blessing.

About a month ago, she had a kid up in the hills, and the farmer decided it would be best for both kid and mother for them to take up residence here on the homestead, where they would lead an easier, less risky life for the summer. Unfortunately, right before they were to come back to the stead, the kid went missing, and Chloe came back to us full of milk and kid-less.  I felt really bad for her: she not only lost her baby, but she was also really engorged.  Speaking from experience, that is really uncomfortable.

So I milked her.  I tried to be as tender as possible,  but she's a total bitch to milk.  I have bruises on my forearms from her kicking them against the metal frame of the stanchion many times, and really hard.  I finally gave up.  I'd rather not sacrifice my arms for milk, and besides, we have another nursing goat that is sweet as peaches to milk, so no big deal.  To make a long story short, the kid showed up a few weeks later with an injured leg, but otherwise looking pretty good and much bigger than we would have expected.  Time will tell if the leg will heal.  The farmer thinks it might be infected and told us to wait it out.

The teenaged chickens are faring well in the coop with the big ladies.  Asa really loves to go in the coop to pick them up.  They don't really love it so much, I don't think.  He is fairly loud and rambunctious, and although I consistently remind him to be gentle he can't really help making them a little nervous with his energy.

Here is a snapshot of one of the laying boxes in the hen house.  The bigger gals are so generous.  They lay the best eggs in town.

I have decided that every article of clothing that I wear must have deep pockets.  This is the pocket of a favorite dress of mine.  It's a cute one, but mainly I love it because of the two huge front pockets!  I can fit a camera, eggs, sunscreen, cell phone and water bottle in them, plus a snack or two.  I've decided to make myself numerous skirts with big pockets.  More on that later.  Meanwhile, happy summer everyone!

Homestead Happenings…

Here are some pictures of just a few things happening on the homestead lately.  So much more to tell about, and I will, in due time.  For now, let me ease back into this blogging thing by giving you a tiny photo essay of what we have been up to.

Alex, our garden guru.
Zimbabwe, one of our "on loan" milking goats. She's dreamy.
Two of the thirty sheep and lambs that we have on loan for the spring and summer.
A double rainbow we saw one early June evening. Axel is now obsessed with rainbows, and believes that I can make them appear when he asks. Shoot. Wish I could.
Asa turned five on June 14th! He had a "Mad Monster Party".
Mad Monsters!!
Root cellar almost done! Just in time for gingered carrots!
Sugar snap peas. Asa says: "They taste like cotton candy".
Perfect little head of cabbage, ready to be made into slaw!

Fresh Greens…

We ate some greens from our garden today. It was time to do some thinning, so away we thinned, and ended up with a bowl full of baby greens. Then we marched straight up to our house to make a salad to go with our quiche lunch--made from our hens' eggs. I put bleu cheese in the quiche, and apparently kids don't really dig bleu cheese. But I sure appreciated it. And the greens? Oh they were explosive with flavors,  the most standoutish being spicy, sweet, bitter and, yes, even nutty.  It was glorious. Even the kids ate 'em.

Rudimentary toys=lots of fun. Axel is sorting dried plum pits his brother found on the ground. Asa is playing with a bone, a rock, and some leaves of grass. Where is Walt Whitman, you ask? I'm sure he would love this place.

Feeling drowsy and satisfied after this long day outside in the sun. The back of my neck was really, really dark when I looked in the mirror: farmer neck. But some of it turned out to be dirt. Anyway, time to fashion a neckerchief.

It feels good when your kid eats veggies.

We have three families on board for our Homestead CSA program. They will be doing work on the garden every week in exchange for veggies. That feels good too.