happy birthday maman.

little bean cat and i spent all week writing and rewriting and editing and trashing and starting afresh and getting ink all over us. we neglected emails and phone calls and farm chores to bring to you the first ever of hopefully many (but probably very few) farm mysteries. its a farm whodunit. just for you. the ebook version will be available to you through a link in your morning mail.

i love you. and i'm issuing this public apology for the fact that the hardcover is just in the postal service's hands this morning.


on the subject of Needs of Me

i suppose i ought to add 'bathing in a creek-tub' right below 'milking cow' to the ever preposterous and somehow modest list of Needs of Kate

bathing in a creek-tub is Cold. lets call a hat a hat. but while the autumnal gods still manage to throw us a bluebird 80 degree day every once and again i'll be tubbing it al fresco. and when the cold returns i'll be calling on friends for the use of an occasional hot bath.


...and the leaves begin their fall.

today is the autumnal equinox. and the polite thing to do is to take photos of the trees in their glory. this one in particular has been demanding of an audience since tuesday. its been taunting me on my runs. reminding me that summer is damn near over.  reminding me that we are soon back to Cold. that this is the beginning of the end of what we will see of the green. one brilliant culmination of color. that the tomatoes we have in the garden are our last. that a real frost is imminent. that we are setting up for a long winter of eggs and potatoes and meat.

one can't help but get so predictably nostalgic at this time of season. and here i cannot help myself. so it is quite perfect that the aged p's are coming for a visit this week-end. just as they did when i was at school here.  time to go hike the same mountains we hiked in school. time to horde the same apple cider donuts i became so dependent on at smith. time to drink warm teas. time to add warmer blankets to the tent.

i hope some of you are still savoring the last days of summer with a swim in the sea. and that some of you californians continue to be innocently unaware of any season change back east. and that some of you are thinking of candy corn and long cold runs in the forest. however you may be celebrating the autumnal equinox let in be in good style. it was a good summer. and it will be a good winter. and the in-between will likely be as spectacular as this little red tree.


i want a milking cow for christmas

i'm becoming more high maintenance in certain aspects of my day and of my life thanks to the farming nonsense i'm waist deep in. that would seem rather contrary to what you would think...no? but it isn't how my hair is coiffed. or my pedicured toes. my hair is one big rat's nest that i'll refer to as a dread here as that somehow sounds less awful. my toes....they are knarled and dirty and have the faintest hint of pink on them from the summer. they are farm feet. hooves as nick calls them.

no, my maintenance issues come to what i eat. because what i eat is what i spend every waking hour thinking about. because i am constantly hungry and have the appetite of 20 lumberjacks at the end of the workaday. when we first started life on farm i immediately threw myself to the snobbery of strictly and only fresh farm veggies. no grocery store veggies.  then it was eggs. and nick and i quickly determined we could never live without at least a modest backyard flock o' hens. a little farm garden in the summer and 5-10 birds-a-laying isn't too ostentatious. that could still allow for a well socialized life...maybe even one close to town.

but then the diary cow came into my life. just 3 short weeks ago. and she has for ever changed my requirements. i cannot imagine how nick or i will survive the winter without these beasts. the amount of dairy that now makes up my life would probably be sickening to anyone who does not live on our farm. suffice to say it is not rare that a 1/2 gal of milk, a quart of yogurt, a quart of ricotta,  a tub of butter, and then another 1/2 gal of milk will be destroyed in just one sitting here.

so we are looking into the purchase of one jersey lady cow for ourselves. just now in the docile criagslist-creeping phase. not the calling to farms. not quite yet.

so for now. for those of you who do or do not have a cow. here is a simple strained yogurt recipe. it takes about 8 hours start to finish but most of that is you do nothing and the cultures doing everything.

you'll need a thermometer, a yogurt starter (any whole milk yogurt with 'live and active' cultures), milk, cheesecloth and a colander.

1. heat milk (skimmed or whole) on a double broiler to 185F.
2. when milk reaches temp remove from heat and let cool to 115F.
3. when milk reaches 115F put in 2 T yogurt for every quart of milk you have. do not stir.

** a note about the yogurt culture you use: you will not need to buy a new tub of yogurt from the store every time you want to make yogurt. that would be ludicrous. you can use your new yogurt as your culture for subsequent yogurt makings. the culture that you make starts to wear off after the 10th iteration or so. i don't know why this is.**

4.  with milk and yogurt together now place vessel in a bigger vessel with the hottest tap water you can find. this is harder to explain than i thought. basically we use a cooler. fill it with hot water to wear the milk/yogurt vessel can sit comfortably in it but not be submerged (you don't want water getting in the incubating yogurt). and then we put a lid on the cooler to keep it nice and toasty in there. scale way down on this and use whatever smaller insulated vessel you have.
5. let milk and yogurt culture incubate for 6 hours.
6. pour resulting yogurt and whey through a cheesecloth and colander. let strain for about an hour.
7. refrigerate and congratulate yourself for making yogurt.

i really advise getting this process started in the early am so you aren't up all night. let it start incubating and then get on with your day for those 6 hours the yogurt just sits there.

**the a-d-orable recipe cards are from please note paper shop. 


autumn is coming

the weather is changing. that much was obvious when we had to add two sleeping bags and two kittens to the mix of our bed, that already included two wool blankets, one comforter, and one dog. the leaves haven't quite turned. which would be the obvious thing for them to do. us, farming in the berkshires. where foliage is almost cliché. but there is something about them that is different. every other moment i find a big gust of wind come upon us and i look around at the trees. suspicious of their color development. everything is still decidedly green. but they have a pre-turn aura now. i don't doubt that the next day i look up at them all, ready to give them my shrewd and penetrating stare, that i'll find they've already changed to their burnt oranges, and reds, and yellows. i really don't want to miss it. so i keep pausing to look up.

but the crispness of the air today. that was unmistakable. that had me covering my toes and my head this morning. that had me in corduroys and a down vest and heavy socks by 6h30. that had my hands frozen stiff as i fetched the dairy girls in the upper pasture. it never really let up. that's the real clue. even by lunch. even though we ate on the porch in the full sun. we were still all sweater-ed and hatted.


today...thus far

it rained last night. not with the same gusto as in week's past. early september was a Wet One for tent dwelling farmers. but it did rain last night. which explained the slug on my bed when i awoke. and the quiet of the farm at 6h39. 

there is a slower rhythm to life on a farm in the rain. a gentler walk to the milking parlor. a more leisurely lunch. nobody makes a rush out of anything except the chickens. the rain unearths a galaxy of grubs and so they all run about with a frantic air, binging on worms.

so here are the photos of my day thus far through the crass quickness of an iPhone's lense.


island home.

i hadn't been to the island since christmas. but this weekend, one of my dear friends from new york got married to a man from california. they now live in seoul, korea. so the island was a natural mid-point for them.

it was a crispy bluebird weekend. which made me ache for more days there. so we took one more. and now we are on the ferry boat. headed back to the great world of Off Island. where we will see a farm today that we may be able to rent. and then off in the dead of night. back to our little hamlet in the berkshires. back to the tent. back to the 6 am wakings. back to the gloriously large and wonderfully simple farm dinners and breakfasts and lunches. 

its happened before that nick and i have attended a wedding and only come home with a handful of self portraits and none of the dear bride and groom. but that is just our vanity. something we have to deal with one day at a time. and sadly, something you have to witness here, from time-to-time.


an afternoon in the kitchen

the sun came out today. but not until just recently. maybe an hour ago. up until then, things had been rather dreary. five days of straight rain can have a gloom-ful effect on even the most cheery of individuals. we all slept in until 8h the past 2 mornings...because...what's the point of rising so early if the sun won't show her warm welcoming face?

i had fallen ill from exposure. which i loved saying, because it seemed very dramatic. very 1850s. but yesterday, i did indeed spend too many hours outside, in the steady rain. with soaked boots and soaked socks.

so today, my fellow farmers took a dear amount of pity and told me to stay indoors and tend to the dairy processing.

and i obliged. happily. i started the day milking and then turned my gains into butter and ricotta.

i thought today, i'd start out that backcountry How To with a quick lesson on ricotta.

ricotta is quite simple. don't be intimidated by it just because its a cheese. my advice is to just go for it and you will always learn from your past mistakes.

*this is technically a queso blanco and not a ricotta, but i don't have a mozzarella starter so that is for another day.

you'll need a thermometer, vinegar, salt, milk, cheese cloth, herbs, and a colander. 

1. heat skimmed milk on a double broiler to 185F (about 30 minutes)
2. when milk reaches temperature turn off heat and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt  and 1/3 cup vinegar to each gallon of milk.
3. stir very gently for 30 seconds.
4. place mixture with lid on away from everything. you don't want the ricotta to be disturbed while it is inoculating.
5. allow mixture to sit. curds & whey will separate. this takes about 2 hours.
6. after 2 hours of sitting. strain the curds & whey through a cheese cloth & colander.
7. leave ricotta with a bit of whey to keep it moist in the jars.
8. mix in additional salt and fresh herbs to taste (i use s&p, chives, dill, parsley, etc..).
9. enjoy! it will be good for probably up to a week. so eat it up. love it. repeat and tweak as you see fit. 


sugar deficient rain soaked woman

it hasn't stopped raining since sunday. we live in a tent so that is a Pretty Big Deal for us. the tent and her contents all range from sickly damp to sodden. i couldn't take the weight of all this rain so i made a complicated and wordy excuse to run to the creamery. where i sought solace in the sweet processed sugar of a toffee bar.

please let the sun come out tomorrow. ormy teeth will rot and my tent bed will float away.


a dollop of back country How To

i have had women in the past year requesting kindly in writing that i stop yammering on about piglets and outdoor tubs for one blessed moment to address the How To. How To make butter at home. How To can peaches in a simple syrup for the belly of winter. How To quit one's job and become a paid/ unpaid farm hand. so i wanted to provide to you a terribly unofficial forum to request any certain and specific How Tos that i am undoubtedly no expert in but nonetheless can share a morsel of knowledge about. so suggestions? comment or email me and we'll get this blogball rollin'.


peaches & carpentry

preparations for farm shabbat dinner are in full swing. we made challah this morning. dug trenches for the ground wire. built a better chicken door that allows the chicks to stream in and out but keeps the feed-minded pigs and goats at bay. lunch of fresh bread and our ricotta. an afternoon of canning 10 boxes of peaches. this is how the friday goes. about to take a little hot sun jog up and around a steep nearby hill to get a fresh view on this bluebird day. have a stellar labor free week-end. n & i will be down in nw conn for some maple syrup, lake swims, and good solid time with two of our most beautiful friends.

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