Maine Fiber Frolic 2017 Poster
MOFGA Common Ground Fair Poster

new wheels

I was all excited about my new wheels and was going to post about them but it turned out that Jim was more excited about my excitement…so excited that he put the story of my new wheels on the home page of our website!  Eesh!  

What Jim didn’t cover in his story was my complete and utter surprise when the wheels were revealed on Christmas morning.

look at those spiffy new wheels!

I’d been asking… pleading… begging for them for over a year!  I was told the research had shown that new wheels weren’t happening.  There was no hope.

By now you’re surely wondering why I didn’t just buy a new cart.  Well, it has to do with weight.  I haven’t found another cart that is as light weight but still as sturdy as this one.  The Vermont Cart Jim bought to replace mine weighs just about the same as mine with 2 bales of hay in it.  When you add 2 or 3 bales of hay to it,  I can barely move it.  And that’s why it’s now Jim’s cart!

Now for my Dark Days meals for weeks 5 & 6.  We woodland-raised some Berkshire pigs last summer and kept one for ourselves.  We enjoyed a dinner of pork chops with caramelized onions, potato pancakes, apple sauce and steamed carrots.  I made the apple sauce from wild apples that grow on our land…no sugar needed.

Berkshire pork chop dinner

I have no idea of the variety but they’re very tasty despite no care.  The trees self-prune during winter storms.  Potatoes, carrots and onions were from our CSA and the egg that held the potato pancakes together came from our own hens.

  Mother Nature gifted us a few 50 degree days…what a treat!  We were ready to bring out the lounges and the grill called to me.  (We never really put it away but 50 degrees makes it much more appealing)  I grilled a lovely london broil — part of the grassfed beef quarter we bought from our friends at Meadowsweet Farm in Swanville.  Assorted potatoes along side were simply roasted in a little olive oil, salt & pepper (not local) and

grassfed beef london broil

 we enjoyed their different flavors and textures. Steamed green beans finished the plate. Veggies were from our CSA.

It may have become obvious that carrots and green beans are on the menu often around here…way too often if you ask me!  I’ve never met a veggie I didn’t like.  Problem is that Jim isn’t a big fan of cooked veggies.  Carrots, green beans, wax beans, ummm…that’s about it for him.  I’m working on him, though.  Hey! when we got married, he didn’t eat tomatoes and thought iceburg was the only lettuce on the planet.

the between days

I love the days between Christmas and New Year!  It could well be my favorite week of the year.  I get a lot done and, if only for a short time, I feel somewhat organized.  I might even have time to do something new and different…or something that’s been put off for lack of the good chunk of time it requires.

The pile of mail that lives on the kitchen table is gone and we can actually eat there.  The kitchen counters are uncluttered except for the plates of goodies we’re grazing.  The Christmas tree has settled into its spot where it greets friends who come to our door. When we take it down, the room will look as though something is missing.  I really prefer the tree to the chair that usually lives there.

Chores get done of course, but at a different pace and with less time taken out of the day.  That’s because we’ve “winterized” and everyone is close to home making chores more streamlined.

The blizzard that dumped on us earlier this week was a gift of sorts.  There wasn’t any point in trying to shovel or clean up.  It snowed most of the day and the wind was wild!  So after wading through knee high drifts and sledding hot water from the house to all the critters (all Jim’s doing!), getting hay out to all the sheep and clearing a small spot for the hens to come out into for their scratch and warm water, it was back to the house for a nice relaxing day.

We read and napped, we ate cookies and drank tea…and nursed sore calves and thighs.  We enjoyed an effortless dinner of Christmas leftovers and watched a movie.  Even Gemma got in on the laziness of the day and spent most of the afternoon napping with Skye.

snoozing dogs

lazy afternoon snooze

skye & gemma

I'm awake now...let's play!

Not wanting to hurt ourselves, we’ve been working on the snow removal in stages…there’s a lot of it!  The days have been sunny and unseaonably warm so we’re getting some help from Mother Nature and it’s fun spending time outdoors.

snow hens

The hens venture out into their newly shovelled yard.

On Thursday our spinning group, The Salt Bay Treadlers, made a field trip to Portland and what fun we had!  We had a fabulous fresh pasta lunch at Paciarino and then dropped in on the Port Spinners and joined them for a few hours of spinning at the Portland Fiber Gallery.

pasta lunch

The Salt Bay Treadlers enjoy some yummy fresh pasta at Paciarino in Portland.

spinners

We joined the Port Spinners for an afternoon of fun.

Before heading home, we did a little shopping at Terra Cotta Pasta Company in South Portland…laying in some comfort supplies for the rest of the winter ahead.  

Happy New Year!

always learning…

These are my Dark Days Challenge meals for weeks 3 & 4…

Week 3 — braised lamb with beans — was a dinner that promised to be quite tasty but I kind of rushed the beans a bit and grossly underestimated the amount of liquid the beans would need to cook properly.  It wasn’t a total disaster because I discovered the need for more liquid before it was too late but the beans could’ve been cooked a little longer.  I don’t use dry beans very often so this was a departure from my comfort zone.

lambnbeans

braised lamb shoulder chops with cannellini beans & carrots

  I learned a lot and will try this again because I think it has good bones.  Next time I may use shanks because I think they’d hold up to the longer cooking time.

Here’s what I put together —   Hatchtown lamb shoulder chops from our freezer; cannellini beans, onions, garlic, carrots and celeriac from our CSA (Bluebird Hill, Jefferson, ME); a cup of homemade CSA tomato puree and 2 cups of homemade chicken stock from our freezer; a couple of sprigs of rosemary & thyme, salt & pepper.

The beans were brought to a boil and then set aside and left to soak for about 2 hours. I browned the shoulder chops in a bit of rendered lamb fat and then removed them from the pan. I added the veggies (except for carrots) to the pan and cooked them for a few minutes, then added the herbs, beans and all the liquid.  I settled the chops into the bean mixture and laid the carrots on top of everything.  It then went into a 325 degree oven, tightly covered.  After an hour, I checked it and discovered that most of the liquid was gone.  Here’s where I went wrong… I should’ve heated the extra stock before adding it but I didn’t and I think adding it cold pretty much stopped any cooking. Of course that meant it had to get back up to speed before it started to cook again. After another hour, the lamb was falling off the bones, the carrots perfect, the beans not so good…still a bit al dente.

eggybread

french toast on the way

Week 4 — french toast & canadian bacon — OK…another breakfast and a repeat performance of canadian bacon but the package our friends at Three Little Pigs Family Farm (Wiscasset, ME) gave us was huge so we’ve been picking away at it…and enjoying every minute of it!

We were scheduled to pick up a load of hay on Boxing Day so I cooked up a breakfast that would keep us going until it was put up in the barn.  The french toast was made from our own hen’s eggs, a little local milk and bread made locally from wheat grown in Aroostook County.  I used Kate’s* butter to fry it and the canadian bacon and served Maine maple syrup from our CSA along side.
*Kate’s butter is made in Maine but buys milk from New England farms. I’ll be looking for a more local source of butter.

coming and going

If you’ve checked us out on Facebook recently, you may have already seen a photo or 2 of our new family member…Gemma.  She’s a Goldendoodle pup who joined our family a week ago Friday.  We’re having a whole lot of fun with her.  She’s really quite laid back for a pup, smart as can be and CUTE!  Here are some puppy love photos for you…

gemma

gemma tongue

big puppy tongue

 

gemma sleeping

snoozing Gemma -- yes, that's the couch -- but she's not spoiled!

gemma & skye

Ple-e-e-ase play with me!

On the farm front, last week we brought all of our sheep home from their off farm pastures.  With the possibility of snow at any time now, it makes sense to keep chores as simple as possible. Close to home is simple.  At the same time, we pulled the rams out of their breeding groups…which brings me to the news that there will be lambs arriving this Spring!  Twelve ewes were with the rams and all were marked.  Now we wait. 

It was sort of like musical sheep around here for a couple of days with sheep arriving from here and there and various groups being merged.  The boys always have to figure out who’s boss when we put them back together so for a day or two, they’re shakin’ the barn walls. Even the ewes get into it a little…there’s a pecking order to be established you know!  But everyone is settled in now. 

Ina Mae & Iona

Ina Mae & Iona (front) in the RAV4 and ready to roll.

We had 2 bred ewes leave for their new home, too. Ina Mae and Iona have gone to live on North Haven island at Cider Hill Farm…lucky girls!

Now that the animals are organized, we’ll put some time into getting ready for Christmas.  Does anyone have a few elves they could spare? 

breakfast

It’s my favorite meal of the day… but only when someone else makes it!  I don’t eat a good one nearly often enough because I’m too lazy to make it but the  Canadian bacon that we’d be given was calling to me and I was inspired.  This is what I cooked up…

A 3 egg omelette — pullet size eggs by Hatchtown hens —  with sharp cheddar inside from Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, Maine.  On the side, homefries made with potatoes and onions from Bluebird Hill Farm, Jefferson, Maine (our CSA) and that Canadian bacon was a real treat.  It came from Three Little Pigs Family Farm in nearby Wiscasset.  I used a little saved bacon fat (from our pig) in the pan for the potatoes and eggs and a bit of salt and pepper.

DDC2

a hearty breakfast fit for a shepherd

This was a very hearty meal that got us through a cold day of working sheep and fooling with fences…no lunch needed! Although it’s a little late in coming, it’s my 2nd meal of the Dark Days Challenge.