Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Celebration of the Garden's Bounty

This year, our Thanksgiving will be a celebration of our garden's (and farm's) bounty. We will be cooking our own turkey (the 2nd largest tom - 19 lbs. - which was grown and raised on our land), and the stuffing with be made from scratch using Ryan's sourdough bread crumbs and herbs from the garden. For sides, there will be maple-glazed sweet potatoes (our own Beauregard and Purple Sweet Potatoes! What a colorful dish!), mashed potatoes (again, our own multi-colored tubers), "pumpkin" pie using one of our heirloom Sweet Meat winter squashes (and my famous flaky pie crust), a cranberry-yacon-fennel relish that uses our yacon and fennel bulbs, and of course some of Ryan's famous sourdough rolls (hot out of the oven!). With two kittens and two grandparents to share it with, what more could you ask for?

Oh, and let's not forget the appetizers: homemade sourdough crackers with our own turkey liver pate!

After the meal, there will be popcorn and family movie time. The movie choice? An old classic with Hepburn and "Bogey": The African Queen

May Your Holidays Be Merry & Bright

Get into the true spirit of things this season!


Ryan & Jillian
(Spreading cheer wherever they go)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey Liver Pate, Anyone?

My grandmother recently gave me my great aunt's pate recipe. It was written on a sheet of paper that had turned yellow with age (and therefore you KNOW it's a good recipe!). Being that we had such a plethora of turkey livers on hand after processing our birds a few weekends ago (as well as more horse radish than we know what to do with), we decided it was time to put them to good use!

So here is my great aunt's Pate recipe!:

1 lb. organic cooked Turkey livers or Braunschweiger
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 small onion, finely chopped

Let liver and cream cheese soften very well, and then add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve with crackers.

My kind of recipe - simple and delicious. We recommend serving it with homemade sourdough crackers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Apothecary Inn's Thanksgiving Cranberry-Yacon-Fennel Relish!

Okay, the Yacon has been harvested, and I know you are all eagerly awaiting this recipe! So, here it is:

3 cups fresh cranberries
2 large carrots, peeled & chopped
1 apple (pick a sweeter variety, such as Honeycrisp), chopped
1 medium fennel bulb (reserve leaves for garnish), chopped
2 medium (or 1 large) Yacon tubers, peeled and chopped
1 cup sugar

Combine ingredients together in a food processor, and blend until coarsely chopped. Pour mixture into a decorative bowl, and garnish with fennel leaves.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All I Want For Christmas Is To Date My Spouse...

In a continuance of our series of holiday shopping dates, Ryan and I spent all day Saturday visiting various antique & thrift stores. We purchased his hand plane at the Main Antique Mall (should I be worried that they know us by face and name in there?), got my antique embossed leather needle book w/needles at the American Mercantile antique store, and picked me up some $3 1950's rhinestone earrings at the Jacksonville Senior Center Thrift Store. On the way into town, we also made an unplanned stop at an Estate Sale on the outskirts of Medford, where I picked up the most LOVELY pair of antique shoes for $1! The woman who sold them to me said that they were "mystery shoes," as they had just appeared one day on their property (namely in their well pump house), and she had no idea who left them there or why. I love them! As they fit and totally went with my ensemble, I wore them around town. And now, I leave you with some pictures of our outing!:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vintage Hat Re-Shaping Attempt #1

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I purchased (rescued, really) a lovely little 1940's vintage hat from the "post-Halloween costume sale bin" at an antique store.

It was $4.99 and a smooshed wreck (see above picture), but I could see the beauty hidden within its rumpled green wool felt form...For starters, the netting was completely intact (shocking!), and the original ribbon was in great condition for its age. Not to mention that I loved-Loved-LOOOOVED the emerald green color (it matches my emerald wedding ring)!! Back at home, I put my tea kettle on to boil. Once the kettle was steaming, I held the hat over the steam until it was good and damp. Then, holding it gingerly, I reshaped it as best I could without a hat form, and allowed it to dry (undisturbed) for a few days. It still needs work, but I think I did a pretty decent job! Someday, my husband has promised to make me a wooden hat form for this hat so that I can finish reshaping it. But in any case, it's infinitely more wearable now!

In the mean time, what do you think?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Holidays Are Approaching (Can You Believe it?)

It's difficult for me to believe that the winter holidays are nearly upon us! Where has the time gone???...I looked at my husband this past weekend and said to him, "Can you believe that THANKSGIVING is less than two weeks away??!!? And Christmas and Yule just a month after that?!" It boggles my tired little mind...

After an insanely busy Friday & Sunday involving hazardous tree removal, wood stove installations, chimney cleanings, kitchen oven repairs, and animal wrangling/worming/hoof-trimming/etc., Ryan and I decided to take Saturday (and Sunday afternoon) off. We made a pact this year that, instead of buying what we thought the other wanted and surprising them with it on Christmas Day, we would go on a series of shopping dates together. Yes, we will for the most part know what we are getting this holiday season, BUT we get the joy of many happy outings together (something we are in desperate need of with our busy schedules) and the added bonus of getting exactly what we want (this more applies to Ryan than myself - the man is nearly impossible to shop for when his wife can't distinguish one Stanley plane from another). There will still be a bit of mystery to the holiday, because the stocking stuffers and Yule gifts will be surprises (as we are not going shopping together for those). In any event, on Saturday (and again on Sunday afternoon) we visited several local antique stores to begin the holiday shopping together. Ryan found three hand planes that he wanted (one of which is a very fascinating Civil War era piece!), and I found a lovely 1940's fur coat with big bakelite buttons (and those Joan Crawford shoulders) and (my real score & joy) a 1950's squirrel fur stole that had the original sales tag and carbon copy purchase receipt. I love finding old items with a documented history!! Ryan and I plan to go on several more dates in the coming weekends. It was SO nice to be out together and doing something fun for a change, and this new pact is the perfect excuse for us to spend more (needed!) time together. I believe that, more than any gift, is the true Christmas blessing. Speaking of spending time together, I am so looking forward to his upcoming three and four day weekends (thanks to the winter holidays)! I miss him so much during the week, and we've been so ridiculously busy on the weekends lately that we have not had much time for ourselves. Now that we have managed to get the big cold weather-related projects finished in one final go (as mentioned above), and are nearly done with the fall livestock maintenance, we will be free (at least for a few months) to spend some more time with each other.

Thank Goodness for miracles...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Warm At Last!

After two attempts, we were finally able to replace our old, inefficient fireplace with a much better wood stove in the living room. Not only does the hearth look better, but with both the basement and living room stoves going, the entire house heats up to about 74 degrees quite easily (with no additional heat input from the central heating/cooling unit!). Given that we have had so many hazardous trees removed and cut up for firewood over the past two years, we now have PLENTY of material for burning in our two lovely stoves! I am excited to see a decrease in our winter time energy bill.

After a failed attempt to install a wood stove insert into the old fireplace, we went instead with a hearth-mounted soapstone stove: the Hearthstone "Homestead" model. Either stoves have come a long way in the three years since we last purchased one, or you really DO get what you pay for!: the Homestead stove is a glory of function and efficiency! A spiral "door" in the floor of the stove is actually a handy ash tray! - spin it to open and allow the ash to fall into the tray, then remove and dump for easy clean-up. The stove burns so efficiently that a load of wood will burn for nearly 9 hours and still have coals hot enough to begin a new fire at the end. And while the soapstone takes longer to heat up, it puts out a more even, comfortable heat, and the stove itself stays warm (and continues putting out heat off of the soapstone tiles) long after the fire has gone completely out. The only two things I do not like about this stove are the small firebox (unfortunately necessary with our narrow hearth dimensions) and the angle of the interior with regard to starting fires (you tend to smoke yourself out, because - instead of going UP and OUT the vent - the smoke goes out the doorway and into your face).

And now, I leave you with some before and after photos, so you can truly compare!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reasons Why You Should Still Browse Antique Stores

Normally, I find that most items in antique stores are horrendously overpriced (which is why I do most of my shopping at thrift stores and online). However, every now and then you find a few places that still maintain reasonable prices on their merchandise. Yesterday, Ryan and I found such a place tucked away in a little hole-in-the-wall on the outskirts of town. I picked out the most adorable 50's dress for $10! It has short sleeves, a full, pleated skirt, a sash made out of matching fabric, and a metal zipper in back. I love the fabric too!

I also managed to come across (in the post-Halloween sale "costume" pile) a 1930's/1940's hat for $4. The poor little hat has seen better days, and is in desperate need of reshaping. However, the structure is sound, and the netting is (shockingly) intact, so I feel it's worth the hassle of trying to reshape it. I have heard that you can use the steam from a teakettle to reshape a wool felt hat, so I am going to give this a try. Unfortunately, I have no hat form to work with, so it's going to be a bit more difficult, but I have faith! I must save my dear hat! :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apothecary Inn's "Comfrey Rivels" Recipe

Here at the farm, we LOOOOOOOVE creating our own homemade soups - especially Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup. When the cold weather hits, nothing beats a steaming bowl of that soup! However, it can sometimes be a bit impractical to make/roll out/cut/dry those homemade egg noodles! Recently, while researching some recipes in an Amish cookbook, I came across an old-fashioned noodle recipe that is easy to make and tastes GREAT!

Enter the Rivel.

Rivels are thought to have their roots in Germanic cooking, and are basically an egg noodle that you just mix and drop in your soup. For an extra nutritional OOMPH (especially good in the dead of winter!), we add a pinch of Comfrey flour to the rivel dough. I recommend starting out with a teaspoon of Comfrey flour, and then adding more or less as you figure out what your tastes are.

2 cups regular flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Comfrey flour

Using a fork, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until it forms a dough (you may need to add a bit more milk if it seems too dry). When your soup is fully cooked but still simmering, it is time to add the rivels. Using your fingers, pull bits off of the dough and gently drop them into the soup. I generally use a piece of rivel dough the size of a quarter. If you are a perfectionist, you can roll the rivels into little balls before dropping them into the soup. Or, if you are like me and are not only lazy but prefer freaky-shaped noodles, you can just pull dough bits and drop it in. Stir occasionally while adding the rivels to keep them from sticking together in the stew. When you have added all of the rivels, cook them in the soup for about 10 minutes. Then, remove the soup from the heat (or turn the heat down to low), and serve! These delicious (and easy to make!) noodles are sure to bring a smile to your loved ones' faces.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Turkey Bon Voyage Day!

Yesterday, Ryan and I (along with our handy helpers) slaughtered and processed our 6 large turkeys. This is the third year that we have grown and processed our own poultry, and I really feel as though this was the year we finally were able to stand on our own. Generally, we have relied on other, more experienced friends to help us out. This year, it was just us, and I feel like we did a great job! Everything went smoothly and efficiently, and I really felt as though we knew what we were doing. We raised six giant white turkeys - 3 females and 3 males. The largest topped out at about 22/23 lbs fully dressed, and was pre-sold as a Thanksgiving turkey to a local family. The largest hen topped out at 16 pounds, and is going to friend David over at 38 Central restaurant as a thank you for all of the kitchen scraps (which really helped to keep the cost of feed down!). The smallest tom went as a thank you to our lovely friend, Jessica, who (despite severe car trouble) showed up to help with the processing! The remaining three turkeys are going into our freezer: the biggest for Thanksgiving, one for stew/soup meat, and the final as another roaster. I am SO excited to be able to stock our freezer with our own farm-raised meat!! In celebration of this, I am making Turkey Noodle Soup today!

Processing turkeys is a great deal of work. Once you get into the swing of things, it takes about an hour per bird. We started at 9:30 am on Sunday (we spent Saturday setting up), and it took about 3 hours to process the first two birds. Here is a picture of Ryan and I plucking feathers off of the 4th turkey (you can tell that by that point we were pretty punchy).

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Diary of a Farmer

Yesterday was a breathtakingly gorgeous fall day - sunny and warm, with a morning temperature in the mid-40s and a high in the lower 70s. After breakfast, I spent the morning cleaning out the barn stalls. It had been several weeks, so there was quite a hay/straw/poo build-up. Thankfully, we were wise enough to do a complete concrete foundation when we built our barn, so even at its most messy, it's a simple matter of scraping everything up and allowing the concrete to dry for a bit. The sun's rays finally reached our house about 9 am, and you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. I love where our property is situated, and how each morning begins: the first rays of the sun begin in the early morning hours, barely poking up over the eastern mountains and hitting the tip of the large peak due west. The sunlight slowly filters down the western mountain until it hits the meadow in the valley below, finally making its way to our land.
It's surprising to get such a spell of clear, warm weather this late in fall, but I'm not asking questions, and merely enjoying Mother Nature's gift. After I finished cleaning out the barn and setting Solomon the bunny in his outdoor rabbit run, I began digging up the last of the sweet potatoes. Though the vines haven't technically died back yet from frost, the plants are more than ready to give up their bounty. Some of the sweet potato tubers I dug up were as big as my forearm (and about as thick!!). They are currently curing on a tray in the herb room. In a little bit, I will cook them up into a huge batch of maple-glazed sweet potatoes!
The rest of the day was spent in the usual farm chore insanity. I finally found a quiet moment around dusk to wander my herb garden. The poor garden looks sad now that the plants are dying back for the year and everything has been harvested. Still, it's soothing to me to wander around the garden in the evenings and take stock. I harvested a few more calendula seeds, another few twigs of Blue Vervain and Evening Primrose that had gone to seed, and began pulling the last of the Scarlet Runner & Kentucky Wonder pole beans. As I stood there in the quiet dusk picking bean pod after bean pod, I took a moment to appreciate the view. They have been doing what appears to be some controlled burning on the mountains west of us, and the smoke had traveled down the mountains, resting in pockets of haze here and there. It rather reminded me of mist. Though the sun had gone down over the western mountain, it was still bright, and with the smoky "mist" enshrouding parts of the valley and mountain, it was all very beautiful. I finally understood how a land can get into your blood, and why some men will die for the right to live on it. I suppose as a farmer I am more blessed than others: I get the opportunity to work the land every day, to partake of the beautiful view in the quiet evenings. Instead of metal skyscrapers, I have Nature's mountains (the original skyscrapers!). Instead of roads, I have rivers.
Instead of heartache, I have blessings.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rough Week

This week is going to be a bit tough on me. Yesterday, I had my dentist appointment (which is never fun). I have had
terrible luck with dentists in the past, so it has been a dream to finally find one who isn't a drill-wielding psychopath. I have very healthy teeth, good brushing/flossing habits, and a low sugar diet - in short, I really don't need to worry too much about cavities. That doesn't mean I don't still get stressed out going in to an exam...But I think the worst part of the whole ordeal for me is that sadistic hygienist with the pick of doom. I still wake up at night screaming, "NO! Not the pick!!!" So while I now have freshly cleaned teeth, I was definitely a ball of nerves yesterday. I came home and imbibed in quite a few beers while hugging my squirmy little kitten.

Speaking of kittens, the main reason that this week will be so difficult for me is that tomorrow marks the 1-year anniversary of my beloved Jugi's death. A year has gone by so quickly - I admit to being shocked that this date snuck up on me like this. A year ago, my beloved kitty was dying of cancer, an aggressive tumor that was squeezing his larynx and making him struggle for each breath. He went from healthy and happy to emaciated and barely able to draw in oxygen in less than 2 months. On this day, one year ago, I was reading to Jugi next to the indoor grow light (the tree had crashed through my greenhouse, and all of my plants and grow lights were in the living room until the greenhouse could be repaired - Jugi loved to be next to the lights because they were so bright and warm). I had picked up a Winnie the Pooh book, and was reading out loud to him little stories from it, because I could tell that when I read to him he didn't focus on how hard it was for him to breathe. I remember that I reached a part in the book about being friends forever, even when you are not with each other, and I completely lost my composure. A year ago, at this very time, I was waiting for the next morning when I had to make the terrible choice to end his life. Who are we to play God? How can we not?

I think what proves to be the most difficult for me is not the memories of what happened (though I still tear up any time I let myself remember it), but the dilemma of how to mark this day. Obviously, it's a terribly sad day - and an important one to me - but I don't want to be depressed tomorrow and celebrate it as such. Still, how can you be HAPPY about a day like that? So there is my dilemma...I feel as though I need to do something to show how important this date is/was, but not something sad. I suppose, that being said, the thing that I could be thankful for is finding and adopting Jugi 2.0 last May. I remember seeing his picture on the adoption website, and there was just something about him that reminded me SO much of my old Jugi. It was the way he was sleeping, but not in any definite way that I can identify. I suppose you could say he just radiated innate "Jugi-ness." He reminds me a lot of the old Jugi as well - they share a similar-looking face, and have a lot of the same mannerisms. I had to laugh: original Jugi was weird about his water dish (if there was even the SMALLEST speck of something in it, he would dig all of the water out of his bowl - and onto the floor - in order to get the speck removed), while Jugi 2.0 is obsessive about his food dish (he has to pick each kibble up with his paw and drop it on the ground before eating it. If, heaven forbid, he drops TWO kibbles on the floor at the same time, he flips out). Jugi 2.0 has really gone a long way toward healing the wound in my heart. Original Jugi was my furry best friend for years - long before I moved to Oregon; before I even met my husband! When he died, I lost a part of myself. I am slowly finding that part again with the help of Jugi 2.0.


Maybe I can celebrate tomorrow as a day of friendship: remembering the old friends, and celebrating the new ones.

Devote yourself wholeheartedly to the moment, recognize that it is good, and enjoy it with all you have.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Witches, Workaholics, and Wine! Party

A big thank you to all of the wonderful folks who came out to our "Halloween Party For Workaholics" gathering. Many of the workaholics - true to form - could not make it, but we did have a lovely assortment of some of our favorite over-worked & under-appreciated people! *grin* It was so nice to see everyone!

Besides being an excuse to partake in some post-Harvest socializing and drinking, this party was also put on to showcase some of the delicious fall garden bounty coming off of our property (or locally in the valley). Every ingredient - with the exception of the lamb (Yale Creek Ranch up the road), cheese (our goats have been dried off for the year - sad day), and basic ingredients such as salt, olive oil, maple syrup, etc. - every ingredient was out of Jillian's garden. There were Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes; Heirloom Squash ("Pumpkin") Pie; Molten Chocolate Cherry Cakes w/Vodka Cherry Preserves & Mint; Mustard & Brown Sugar-Baked Lamb w/Plum-Mint Dipping Sauce; Beet Greens & Sorrel Salad w/Cherry Tomatoes, Apples, Raspberries, Walnuts, & Litchi Tomatoes; Tomato Soup w/Sourdough Crackers for Dipping; Shrimp Cocktail; Appalachian Cornbread Muffins; Bread and Butter Pickles; Primrose Crackers with Chive-Chevre Dip; Garden Veggie Pizza; and of course a great deal of local wine and beer!

Judging by the 6 empty wine bottles, 9 empty beer bottles, and nearly empty table at the end of the night, I'd say the party was a success!

Thanks for coming!!