Sunday, 24 October 2010

Pumpkin into Food for Now and Later

This is how we roast pumpkin to make pumpkin puree for pies and soups. Under each half is a tablespoon of salted butter. This variety is small sugar pumpkin. I like it for processing this way the best of all the pumpkins recommended for pies and soups mostly because I can do three at a time, the vine produces quite a few and they ripen before the vine gets mildew or attacked by stink bugs. They store well too. All around a great pumpkin.

I remove from the oven (set at 350-400 degrees F) after about an hour or when I start to see the skin split.

I let cool until I can easily touch them without being burned. Then the skins will have started to curl off, and they easily peel off by pulling with my finger or prodded with a butter knife. I turn them over and scrape the seeds out of the center, but I leave the stringy part mostly. It all goes into the food processor and gets pureed, why waste it?

After whirring a bit in the processor (a blender works too), I scoop into freezer bags or jars in about 2 cup (16 oz) amounts. That's what most recipes call for. From there I can make mashed pumpkin (like mashed potatoes with more nutrients, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, or pie filling.

For pie filling I actually cook the pumpkin goo for a little bit on the stove top with butter and cream and seasonings (I like cinnamon and nutmeg), puree it again to get the texture just right and then use whatever recipe calls for a "can of pumpkin" but this way it's free of preservatives and can stuff.

See? Pumpkin IS food and not just porch decoration. ;)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Reverse Bucket List

These are not the things I hope to accomplish, but those I already have. 

1)Became a mom. This only started with pregnancy and actually took months after Lil's birth. It wasn't an "oh here's the baby, now you are a mom," deal. 
2)Became a wife. Same deal. Took years. 
3)Fell in love, stayed in love, still in love.
4) Had my writing published. 
5) Led a protest rally and march. Had it work. Saved the jobs of my friends and colleagues who were not allowed to march on their own behalf.
6) Restored a house.
7) Started a farm.
8) Learned to garden.
9) Learned to render.
10) Learned to can my own food without killing my family.
11) Learned to sew. 
12) Stated emotional boundaries and stood up for myself. 
13) Had lunch with Forbes in their townhouse and got a private tour of their Faberge collection.
14) Hugged Tori Amos.
15) Had my picture taken with one of the Johns of TMBG.
16) Watched shooting stars and had wishes come true.
17) Lunched with Iowa "Governor" Ray without knowing who he was. Talked his ear off for about 2 hours.
18) Visited New York before.
19) Got my Masters or Arts degrees. 
20) Sat in a Whaddya Know audience. 
21) Drove a truck in 4 wheel drive.
22) Drove a truck in 4WD hauling a lift and (after getting stuck) hauling it out of a snow embanked ditch.
23) flew in a hot air balloon
24) chased and outsmarted pigs.
25) loved, laughed, cried. 
26) Saw Peter Gabriel perform live with Sindade O'Conner
27) Saw David Bowie perform live with Trent Reznor
28) Saw the Clash (actually Big Audio Dynamite 2, but really they will always be the Clash) perform live
29) Had film footage of myself and a friend get used in a U2 zootv concert. That was my very first live concert, too.
30) climbed to the top of Ruby Mountain mostly on foot. 
31) Advocated for someone in front of City Council and won.
32) Served on a City Commission as a professional/expert
33) Served on a State Board of Directors as a professional
34) Hosted a Statewide conference on Historic Preservation (though it tanked)
35) survived.
36) stood up to a health care provider who was wrong and disrespectful about being wrong
37) told the truth, and in the face of being called a liar and crazy, did not back down.
38) made apple pie from scratch
39) felt confident and pretty without wearing make up
40) saw the moons of Jupiter

Things I would like to do:
1) swim in the Mediterranean
2) walk inside a building that is more than a 1000 years old
3) drink milk still warm from the cow
4) finish my novel(s) 
5) help someone else succeed at breastfeeding

Friday, 15 October 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

If anyone ever asks....there is a downside to buying in bulk. This is what 50 lbs of local bread flour looks like after a "flour party".  I had a student freak out about an assignment revision and had to take a 10 minute phone call.....the girls called up the stairs and ask if they can have....I heard....a "flower party!" Sigh. What was I thinking?

I was in shock. I came down to find them slip n' sliding through three rooms, giggling maniacally, and I just scooped them up and stuck them in a bath. After about five minutes I realized that water + flour= glue, but it was too late. Their scalps and hair were solid flour glue. That was really quite punishment enough. 5 lather and rinses later, it just stung and their hair was breaking off. (The next day I got some cradle cap conditioner, left it in for 30 minutes, and used a lice comb to get the bits out. It worked, but they were really in tears by that point.) Oh and then they thought it was funny to flood the bathroom floor. On a roll, my girls.

The night of the flour party, Chad got home and talked to each girl. They in turn apologized and helped clean up, but we still have flour on everything, two incapacitated-until-we-clean-them vacuum cleaners, and did I mention flour dust on EVERYTHING? They also dumped out my yeast jar in an attempt to make couch bread.

Oh, and I had just cleaned the downstairs to "company is coming" clean (note the video shelf organized?).....because we had company coming. Luckily they were understanding enough, delayed a day, and we had time to vacuum 50 more times. Not like it helped though.

Is it funny? Maybe it will be in a few years. Or maybe they have pushed my sanity past its limit and that's why I am laughing. When my girls do something, they really go BIG.

That said, we might be gluten free for a while. ;)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Adding to the Farm Equipment

We (or at least I) moved to the farm to start an orchard, the pigs were a side operation that kind of took on its own life. We are happy there is demand and that the pigs are paying for more of the farm to be built up. But, at least for me, the orchard is still the prize we are working towards. This summer I took up beekeeping. We will plant 25 more trees in the next few weeks, and I have been searching high and low for a cider press that we could afford and worked and was in good condition AND that would double as a cheese press.

Then we found one for sale online, pretty near the major city to the north of us. At a great price, when we happened to have the money.

It needs to be sanded down and the wood re-oiled with food grade mineral oil but other than that it is in fantastic shape. We will do our first pressing of apples next weekend. The pigs will get the apple pulp and we'll freeze the yummy juice.

We also inherited 2 antique hand churn ice cream makers! They too need work, but not only were they free, but carry part of our family history! 

What amazing things have you found at garage sales, wanted/for sale adds, or in a friend's basement?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Fishing with Cousin J and Aunt J.....

Or up a pond with one paddle? I am a terrible outdoors woman. This includes being put in charge of gathering fishing gear. Worms? Send the 5 year old out to the garden. Hooks? Surely this random tackle box in the Morton building has some in it? Trolling motor? Whaaaaa? Oh yeah, we have one of those, I remember once we are out to the middle of the pond fighting algae and wind with only one usable paddle. 

You see, I cook what they catch. I don't even clean what the catch. I prop my feet up and read a book while everyone else fishes. So why did I think I could co-ordinate a fishing expedition with Aunt J? Because I was nervous and trying to impress her I guess. Which, I did not do. I can only hope that the kids had fun!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tootalini A La Aunt J.'s Grandma Bartoletti

Sometimes taking a long time to do something complicated is the way to simplify.

This week I met my sister in law. She's been married to my brother for six years, I think. I am not close to my brother and don't know him or his family well, but last month he deployed to serve in Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard. Being a soldier was his dream from as far back as I remember him playing GI Joe in the sandbox. We lost touch in adulthood, seeing each other at funerals or running into each other at the local coffee house. But I am so proud of the duty he doing for our country and for the sacrifice he has made to his family. His wife and little girl are hanging on, worried about him, and over a year left to go.

I had become familiar and comfortable with not knowing them, and suddenly my heart hurt. I may never see my little brother again. What if I never get to know his family? What could I possibly do for him or them during this incredibly enormously difficult time in their lives. They are living something I can not even begin to imagine. My husband comes home every night, they go weeks without contact. There is nothing I can do to make any of that better.

Then my brother called me. He's not ever done that, not even when we were growing up. He's never called me, not even to return a call. Ever. And then he did. His request was simple. Just be there for them. Get to know them. Tell them stories about us growing up, the nice ones.

So I reached out. And J. and Miss J. came to stay at our farm for a "weekend".  She brought with her a recipe for "Tootalini" that was her grandmother's, and that she made growing up for family holidays.

It was a full day long project to make the broth from beef neck bones, make and knead the pasta, roll it out, make the filling, and stuff and shape the noodles. In doing so, we got to talk, to get to know each other, share family histories, and talk about our children. She is a lovely lady and a very caring mother and my brother is one lucky guy.  Making and eating food together is an incredibly old and ancient bonding.

And my family was blessed by her visit.

Here, with her permission, is her grandmother Bartoletti's recipe:

8 Cups of Flour
6 farm fresh eggs
1 cup (2 sticks) of salted butter
approx 2 cups of water - until dough is doughy.....

3 lbs of ground sirloin
3 farm fresh eggs
parsley flakes
allspice (add to taste)
1/2 cup of butter
grated Asiago cheese

Broth: (grass fed) beef neck bones, celery, onion, carrot, tomato (her recipe says tomato paste), and salt to taste. Boil then simmer for 8+ hours. Strain solids off for a clear delicious broth.


Roll out pieces of dough, thin.
Let babies play with bits and in the flour!

Cover main chunk of dough so it does not dry out.

Then take little bits of the filling and roll into balls. Place along the edge.

Roll up and over and pinch/press around each little lump.

Cut into squares.
Fold bottom under and top "flaps" over to look like little ladies with hoods/bonnets. You can make them sing and dance to entertain the littles too.

Place on tray and then freeze.

Later, pull them off the tray frozen and store in bags or place in boiling broth for a meal that is hearty, filling, and simple all at the same time. I sent home food with Aunt J, and filled a shelf of my freezer too. The broth is really versatile and I've made a mushroom and beef based rice noodle soup with it, cooked up ground beef with it, and just heated a cup for a snack. Good to have on hand.

Both my girls and little cousin J. flitted to and from the table, sometimes helping, sometimes playing. The recipe took a lot of the day, but at the end our tummies and hearts were full of joy. Sometimes life is simple when you actually take the time to do something as complicated as make Tootalini from scratch or get to know someone, you know?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Farm Crawl 2010!

Farm Crawl 2010. It is still incredible to me that our farm booth was ON the crawl this year. In 2007 I was newly pregnant with Blueberry Girl, Lil'Bug was two, almost three years old, and we lived cityside, still dreaming of living on a farm. At that time being on a farm seemed like a very far away dream.

In 2008, we attended Farm Crawl with the intent to meet our new neighbors. We had a closing date on our farm and moving and planning and farming was just a few months away.

In 2009, we had too much farm work to do and actually loaded our first harvest of four pigs onto a trailer to haul to the butcher in Milo- so we missed the Crawl!

That brings us to now.....2010 Farm Crawl. We were invited to set up at the dairy where we get the whey for our pigs. It made sense. We have a wonderful relationship with Lois (I might be her biggest cheese fan EVER). The girls, while I was still doing "bucket runs,"  adored playing with her goats and cats and chickens.We wanted to show off our farm products well, so we practiced the table display a few times, bought cards and a banner (the logo was designed by a friend of mine), and hoped for good weather.

Farm Crawl for us began much earlier in the day. We were greeted by some of our hostesses at the far end of the field! Last Spring these ladies were just kids (baby goats) and Lil'bug would play with them while Lois and I loaded whey buckets. It wasn't long after that just Lois was loading the buckets and I was relegated to stacking empty buckets!

Lil'bug helped set up the table display. Here she was explaining how much she has grown this year.....or that she's a really tall robot. :) Mostly she helped keep Blueberry Girl from eating the crayons.

We got the display and our banner affixed to the table.....just in time to start greeting customers.

We had other plans for the girls that didn't work out, so they played with us and each other all day at the Farm Crawl. Mostly. They also played with all the other kids, entertained anyone who'd pay attention, gave mini tours of the chicken area and hay bales, fetched and served water to anyone who would take it (they LOVED the Sponge Bob cups that were being used).

 They also talked to people about our farm and then caught frogs, toads, and.....

....a lovely Iowa milk snake. We've never caught a wild one. Neat that it was actually AT a dairy! Lil'Bug plans to add this to her documentation project for Iowa Herp Net.

The girls shared a snack while there was a very small lull in traffic.

Then Blueberry Girl pretended to be a chicken and took a dust bath. They had so much fun that we never had need to stop working and take them out for a break.

It was a very good day for a Farm Crawl. We were thrilled and grateful to be included. Thank you so much to all the friends that came out to see us and support our efforts. Thank you to all the hard working farmers that organize and put this event on every year. Thank you to our current and future customers who are making our dream of running a small family farm come true!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Farm Crawl!

We'll be at the Farm Crawl in southern Iowa tomorrow - hope to see you there!