Monday, April 22, 2013

Many Mini German Pancakes

Deus Ex Machina tagged me on Facebook this morning with a recipe for Mini German Pancakes. German pancakes are a favorite food around here. Heck, who am I kidding? Pancakes, regardless of the nationality, are a favorite food, but what's nice about German pancakes is they can be dressed up with apples (and usually are) and they're cooked in the oven ... although I've used the thin batter to make crepes, too (Ha! French-style German pancakes).

The other great thing is that the batter is mostly egg, which is awesome right now with how generous our chickens are being.

A basic ingredients for German pancakes is:

1 c flour
6 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c butter (melted)

The recipe I used for the mini pancakes also had orange zest, which I omitted.

The instructions were to mix the ingredients (everything but the melted butter first, beating until smooth, and then add the butter while stirring the batter, fill greased muffin cups to about half-full, and bake for 15 minutes (or until the pancakes are puffy and golden brown) in a 400° oven.

Big Little Sister likes them with strawberry jam. I liked mine with foraged-blackberry jam and a drizzle of maple syrup, but I'm thinking, I could use this same principle to make tiny quiches. I could even use the same batter (maybe omitting the vanilla) and top it with taco meat and cheese for a savory meal.

We're planning to make flour from our Jerusalem artichoke harvest. I'm excited to see how Mini German pancakes taste using Jerusalem artichoke flour ... or maybe acorn flour.

The possibilities are exciting!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bountiful Sunday

I usually like to sleep-in on Sundays. The rest of the week is so full of things to do, and Sunday is that one day of the week when we don't, usually, schedule things. It's the one day of the week when stuff around the house gets done.

This morning, I got up a bit earlier than I usually do on Sunday. The sun was bright, and I knew it was going to be a laundry day. I wanted to get up and get some clothes on the line. Deus Ex Machina had already gotten out of bed to feed the dogs, and he was having a cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet of our sleeping house, reading a book.

I joined him in the living room with my cup of tea, and we chatted quietly about what we wanted to accomplish this day.

Cutting down the neighbor's two spruce trees was priority number one.

We waited until the girls got up, and then headed outside to get started. There was a SNAFU with the chainsaw, and while Deus Ex Machina was working on that problem, Little Fire Faery, Precious and I filled some plant pots with dirt and planted some seeds to put in the greenhouse: basil, cumin, and spinach. The broccoli, lettuce, and nasturtiums for sprouts in there are growing beautifully.

I gave some edible flower seeds to Little Fire Faery and Precious, and they scattered them under the beehives. I can't wait until the middle of the summer when the flowers are in full bloom and buzzing with life as the bees harvest the pollen.

Once the chainsaw was working again, Deus Ex Machina got to work on the trees. He cut, and we helped by hauling away the limbs, and then, putting the logs in the wagon so they could be stacked to dry for next winter.

After we took care of the trees, I made some egg sandwiches for lunch, and then, we headed back outside.

The next project was to move the garden bed and dig up the Jerusalem artichokes. We harvested almost 50 lbs of Jerusalem artichokes, which is pretty incredible, considering it's an almost feral plant. We plant the bulbs, but then, pretty much ignore it until the next harvest. The plan is to clean the roots, slice them thin, dehydrate them and grind them into flour for things like pancakes or crepes.

We replanted a few of the bulbs and transplanted the asparagus we'd unearthed from the Jerusalem artichoke harvest.

Then, Big Little Sister and Little Fire Faery chose their garden beds for the year. Big Little Sister planted peas and carrots in her bed. Little Fire Faery transplanted some bee balm into hers and has plans for growing a bed full of nasturtiums - which are her favorite plant to grow ... I may have to take her seed shopping at some point.

We spent the whole day outside, working together as a family, and enjoying our beautiful space.

It has been such an incredible day, and I'm so thankful for every single second.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Home, Sweet, Home

There was a time - in the not too distant past - when I used to host playdates and get-togethers at my house. It was a fairly regular occurrence to have three or four Moms with kids in tow at my house. We'd sit and chat while the kids played. It was always a wonderful time.

The hours before they arrived, however, were not always so wonderful. There was a flurry of washing, sweeping, and mopping, and an attempt to stow (i.e. hide) six people's worth of stuff somewhere in a house that was built for two (literally) with no closets, no attic, no basement, no garage, and no general storage areas. Heck, there aren't even any drawers in the kitchen.

I always thought that I did a good job of cleaning things up.

And then, one day, we had one of the kids over, because his mom needed to work for a few hours and needed a babysitter. This four year old boy walked into my house and said, "Your house is messy." The kid's mom was a housekeeper, and so I assumed that she must, just, keep their house very spotless, as it was her vocation to clean houses, and that his observation was more to do with the way he lived than any failing on my part. I mean, it's like the child of a master chef telling me that my cooking is bad. When he is accustomed to gourmet foods, of course my over-salted culinary foibles are going to pale by comparison.

My logic mind told me that I couldn't compete and that I wasn't a bad housekeeper, but his comment still weighed heavily. I worried, because if this five year old is saying this stuff outloud, what must his mother ... or the other women in the Mom's Group ... be thinking? No, I don't have a clutter-free, Better-Homes-And-Gardens house (or yard). I live here. I work here. I'm here twenty hours per day, seven days per week. But I had (apparently, mistakenly) thought that my house was passably clean and tidy.

Whether by design or accident, it wasn't long after that incident that I stopped having regular get-togethers at my house. Mostly, I think, it was that the kids were getting older. Deus Ex Machina and I had chosen to homeschool, but most of the other kids in the playgroup were heading to preschool or kindergarten, and so we, Moms, just found less and less opportunity (or need?) to have playdates.

But it's not one of those things that lets go - that idea that one needs to live in a showplace for when guests arrive, and while I stopped having weekly get-togethers at my house, I still, occasionally, entertained friends and family. The hours (sometimes DAYS) leading up to a party at our house would be a flurry of activity, occasionally accompanied by some yelling and cursing.

It's not that I didn't try (with some varying degree of success) to keep the house in some semblance of order all of the time, but rather that we live here, and because we homeschool, and I work from home, we LIVE here in a way that many Americans do not. That is, for twenty hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year, there is someone IN my house. We are home - more often than we are not. And with three dogs and a cat, who live inside and have free rein, even when we aren't here, there's often a party happening.

Contrary to that young boy's off-the-cuff remark, my house is not messy, but it is, most definitely, and without an argument, lived-in.

At some point, the commentary in my head changed to accommodate that fact, and I stopped worrying about a four-year-old's opinion of my (lack of) housekeeping skill. The new commentary said, "I live on a working farm," which meant that some degree of (what some might consider) messiness had to, by necessity, be acceptable. There would be a bushel of apples in a box on the kitchen floor waiting to be processed into sauce or cider. There would be various brews in buckets and carboys and gallon-sized jars fermenting. In the spring, there would be baby chicks in a brooder in my living room. There are bookshelves lining every wall and overflowing with stories and how-to's. There are clothes, fresh from the line outside, that need to be folded and put away. There are musical instruments hanging on walls. We live here, and life is messy.

I was so thrilled, in reading Sharon Astyk's new book, Making Home, to note that she says the same thing. She says that she used to worry about the way her house looked to visitors, because, while it wasn't something one might see in some glitzy magazine layout of what we believe is the perfect home, it had its beauty, and the beauty was in the functionality. The beauty was the fact that a real, breathing, playing, laughing, loving, LIVING family lived there ... really, honestly, and completely lived in that space.

It's nice to be validated.

And, Sharon, if you ever do decide to put together Better Homes and Ratholes, I have one of the latter, in the suburbs of Southern Maine that would be a perfect show place ;).

Friday, April 12, 2013

We Got ...

The garlic I planted in the fall is growing. I grew enough garlic in a 4'x 4' bed last year that I still haven't bought garlic ... and I still have a lot left.

I picked up our first ten baby chicks today. We'll raise a total of forty over the whole summer - ten at a time. These are Cornish X, and whatever people say, whatever the complaint, for us, because we have such a limited area in which to grow them, the Cornish X, which only need eight to ten weeks to reach maturity, are our best choice. Forty chickens will give us enough chicken for the whole year.

Some measure wealth in dollars or gold or jewels or a big house and a fancy car. I measure wealth in the ability to feed my family, in being able to sustain ourselves - even if money gets scarce. And by that measure, we are rich ... indeed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Catching Up

I received a note in the mail from a cable provider.  It contains the usual marketing gimmicks designed to cause us stress and worry that our lives will be less fulfilling if we don't have their product - "Hurray!  Don't Miss Out!" ... "Limited Time Offer!".   The message inside said, in big blue lettering, Warming up by the fire is nice. Warming up with over 150 channels is amazing.


The picture, which undoubtedly is supposed to be appealing, is of a multi-generational family sitting on the couch with smiles of pure delight and joy, leaning forward, and, presumably, watching television.  They were not interacting with each other, not facing each other, not having conversations with each other.


Instead of interacting with one another as a family, they were "warming up with over 150 channels."

The first paragraph starts out with the exclamation, "Great news!" and then goes on to tell me how I can "save money AND simplify [my] life." Because having DirectTV promotes the simple life.

Not once, in the more than two years since getting rid of our set have I missed or regretted not having a television.

I'm sure, before we got rid of it, I convinced myself of all sorts of reasons to keep it. I'm even pretty sure that I heard a few of them coming out of Deus Ex Machina's mouth before we stopped watching it altogether, and he realized that it was not something we needed (or wanted) in our lives.

People lived in this world for a very long time without television, and they lived well and happy lives.

The good news is that, thanks in part to their sending me the letter, the first sentence in blue will be accurate - by tossing their note in my woodstove, I'll know the truth of the statement, warming up by the fire is nice..


And speaking of things that are nice ... Little Fire Faery came running in this morning from doing her morning chores outside to ask what I had planted in the greenhouse.

"Lettuce. Broccoli. Globe artichoke. Why?"

"Because it's growing," she told me.

This is the first year of using our greenhouse as a greenhouse. It actually started life as a chicken coop, and then, it spent some time as the duck coop (but, for whatever reason, the ducks prefer being where the chickens are - go figure). Over the winter the duck coop housed rabbits.

It was only a few weeks ago that all of the animals were moved out of the coop, and it has taken on a new life as a greenhouse - an honest-to-goodness greenhouse, and green things are really, really growing there.

I'm so excited and I can hardly wait for our first salad from our greenhouse greens. I'm also excited to have a place for plant starts, since trying to start plants in the sunny bedroom window has not been terribly successful, and seeding everything straight in the garden means that some things don't ever really produce as much as they might if they had a bit of a longer season. We should have a good year of tomatoes, peppers and melons using the greenhouse to extend their season.