Friday, July 22, 2011

Summertime and the Living's Easy

"Hungry for peaches", the pigs say. Ogle them now children, for they are at their peak. That's right, we've reached the Peach Peak, and the view from up here is wonderful. Before you know it, this heat (and these peaches) will just be another something you try to conjure up to remind you that the gray in February doesn't last forever.

Brad and I are busy beavers these days , and at 1:30 AM, or technically in 3 and a half hours, we'll be getting out of bed, loading up our first batch of Cornish Cross birds, and driving them to another farm an hour and a half away to learn how to process birds. If I can remember to load up the camera, i'll bring back some pictorial evidence (PG rated) and a few stories.

p.s. I've missed you.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Life is good when you've got a bowl full of kittens.

The past week has been a good one for regrouping. (Un)fortunately I am a chronic "to do" list maker, and although it's a good way to make sure all that needs to be getting done is getting done, it can lead to a perpetually stressed and somewhat uninspired life. So feeling a little drained, i'm taking the time to feel like i'm an active participant in my life. Which really just means that this week i'm setting up my studio the way i've always wanted it to look, watching some movies i've been wanting to see for the past year, and sitting down to eat a lunch that takes more than five minutes to prepare and may even require me to wash more than just one dish (eating yogurt while standing is efficient but there's a good reason GoGurt is a bad idea).

Below: some lunch handiwork. Damn if I don't start craving bread and butter pickles once the afternoon heat starts to zap all energy. It's not the prettiest coleslaw you've every seen, but when it reaches 96 degrees in the middle of May, something light and crunchy is just what you need.

Des Olives au Chocolat: Courtesy of my Tante Servanne. Merci mille fois!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not so lifeless

In an effort to get back to reading an occasional non-farm related book I grabbed a collection of poems by Zbigniew Herbert to be my bed companion last night. Here's a beauty:


Inanimate objects are always correct and cannot, unfortunately, be reproached with
anything. I have never observed a chair shift from one foot to another, or a bed rear
on its hind legs. And tables, even when they are tired, will not dare to bend their knees.
I suspect that objects do this from pedagogical considerations, to reprove us
constantly for our instability.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Oh my, I've kept you waiting. And waiting.

No time for excuses my little chickadees i've got so many things to tell you. Where should we begin? Let's do our Spring recap in reverse chronological order, beginning with..... KITTENS!

Do you remember our trusty feral farm cat Smokehouse? Well turns out, she'd been up to a little monkey business. Brad and I noticed that she had put on a few too many lbs. and had predicted a possible litter. What we hadn't predicted was five of them, abandoned. Brad heard them crying in the wooden wagon when putting up the tractor last Wednesday evening. We surmised that Smokehouse upon hearing the chug and churn of the tractor engine got spooked and ran off. The problem is that by morning time she still hadn't returned. Brad and I both being honorary members of Country Kitty Defacs (CKD for those in the know) bundled the felines up, placed them in front of the space heater, and put our bottle feeding know how to work. I'm happy to report that all five are getting cattier by the day and i'm shamelessly holding them as much as humanly possible. (** note: if anyone wants to adopt one of these please let me know-- we've got a full house as is!)

The Lion & The Lion Tamer
For the record i'm not trying to show off my bling ring, I just photograph with my right hand.
Leaving only my left free and open to hold baby animals for your enjoyment.

Next up on the Spring Tour: Bud.

Bud has changed a lot since we moved down to the farm full time. He has become a lot more mindful, a little less annoyingly macho, and a little less likely to chase after cars. Unfortunately he hadn't completely threw in the towel on his chasing car days and was run over by a truck dragging a trailer on Sunday evening. (The trailer was what actually hit him). We're thankful that Bud has a guardian angel and after a somewhat hysterical trip to the emergency vet he's back home recovering with only a few stitches and a possible doggy concussion. The words lucky and grateful come to mind.

In other farm animal news: Brad and I built the portable chicken house for our layers. I'm happy to report that they all received their kindergarten diplomas and dove right into teen adolescence. Being a teenager is tough on everyone, just ask Molly Ringwald. Our 98 layers should be laying by July. Then we'll have eggs for days.

Our pachyderms have blossomed into such handsome little red heads. We're continually impressed with their foraging abilities. They eat it all; roots, grass, poison oak, pecans. We did take our first pig for processing about a month ago and were really happy with the results. Now that we've finalized our logo, we have to go through label approval, get our mobile meat license, and then we can finally start at farmer's markets. More on that later.

Also, did I mention that Brad and I are trying to grow all of the food for our wedding? Madness. In order to accomplish this feat we doubled the size of our garden this year and are trying to increase vegetable diversity. We've also enlisted a few big city helpers and their garden as back-up if need be.

Black Beans Sprouting

And finally, the press. She and I have been very busy churning out a variety of printed goods. Below the fruit of some of our labor. This couple was both sweet and adventurous enough to let me be a little non-conventional with their wedding suite.

So from pickles to kittens, that's the brief recap of the past month and a half. See, you didn't miss that much. I'm back in the saddle.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pigs Have Hearts Too

Please be patient. Spring is bursting through the front door, and I feel like i'm still shoving Winter's undone laundry in the back of the closet so that "company" won't see it. By the time Summer comes knocking i'll have caught up with my to-do list from March.

Tilling the garden this weekend, building the livestock trailer, printing, printing, printing, and finalizing plans for the new layer's coop. Full steam ahead.

Anybody got a traveling trailer spa complete with a hot tub, unlimited Prosecco, and a minty facial scrub? You've got a scruffy looking client in Hancock County.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pot Luck

Our orphan goat, raising the bar for cuteness like it's his full time job.

Can anyone tell me what this flowering bush/ branch is? Dad thinks
it has a marriage term in the name of it....

Sunday evening looking bleary eyed and empty tummied into the refrigerator abyss I spotted a tupperware I hadn't noticed yesterday. Hmm, pulled pork? Did Brad go buy pulled pork today? I'll just take a nibble of it, see if that's where my taste buds are at. Hmm, that's not pulled pork. That's almost like pot roast. Another nibble. Hmm, that's not pot roast. "Hey Brad, what's in that tupperware, is that roast beef or something?" "Oh no, you didn't eat that did you?"

And that's how one goes about eating raccoon for the first time. I guess anything that stays in the slow cooker long enough looks like just like anything else. I'm not going to lie. I didn't hate it. I didn't eat any more of it, but I didn't hate it. How crock pot raccoon got into our refrigerator is a whole nother story.

If the apocalypse does come in my lifetime, raccoons might want to start looking over their shoulder.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ca commence: Chapter 1 -- Farm Fowl

When caller ID tells you that the U S Government is calling at 7AM on a Tuesday morning it can only mean one thing. Your baby chicks are at the post office! And sure enough the voice on the other line confirmed it, "You hear that peep, peeping? You've got chickens waiting on you to pick 'em up." So, into the car and towards the great metropolis of Sparta we headed.

Walking in to the lobby of the post office and being able to hear the chirps coming from behind the wall of P.O boxes is just about as giddy as I get. Brad and I have been working for the past few weeks building a brooder, securing a reliable source for all natural feed, and cramming our heads with chick raising information. For our first non-hobby laying flock at TCF, we decided to get 40 Buff Orpingtons, 25 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 25 Ameracuanas and 11 Black Giants (101 chicks, I can't resist a good Disney reference). I held the box full of peepers in my lap as we made the drive home from the post office. This was a big moment for us.

We put the shavings in the brooder box, got our feed, waterers and grit ready to lay out and then one by one, the chicks entered their first home. (we decided to use grit from one of the creeks on the property because of the higher natural mineral content and the diversity of particle size... for anyone who decides to go this route, carrying a bucket full of wet creek bed is a two man job). The first night was a little nerve- racking. Would the brooder box hold in the necessary 90 degree temperature for our ladies on a 35 degree night? We laid a blanket on top of the heat side just for a little extra security. It's day 3 and so far so good. We've had a few casualties but that's just a part of this whole process. Another big bite of learning curve; sure tastes good.

Brad on the heat lamp side of the brooder.

The nourishment side of the brooder

The Boom Boom Room

Old reliable, our temperature controller.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sneak Peep

There is a cute baby animal pictures alert for the next 24 hours for this blog. I got 'em coming in spades.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Please Pass the Salt

It ain't nothing new, same as it ever was. Salt makes things taste better. Tomatoes, potatoes, and yes, even caramels. I meant to make this recipe for my Valentine, but time was not on my side this year, and so it was the sell by date of the heavy whipping cream that mandated I take a break from printing Tuesday evening to make some good old-fashioned candy. I tried making salted caramels when I was still in college and considered myself a decent home baker, but I quickly learned that just cause you know your way around a cake pan does not mean you know your way around a candy thermometer. I ended up way over-salting, and slightly burning, my first caramels earning them a one-way ticket to Inedibility Town (located on the continent of Wasted Afternoons, right on the Trashcan Longitude, in case you've never been there). I used a new recipe this time and am pleased as punch with both the process and end result. The smell of caramel boiling alone is enough to make me want to repeat the recipe every now and again. You can follow the recipe, courtesy of Amanda Hesser at the New York Times, here.

Salted Butter Caramels cooling off in their Space Age Suit

For a Martha-esque finish, you can wrap them in small squares of wax paper.

My favorite Valentine's Day present. From my longest running Valentine.

In Farm News: Here she is: Our broodiest hen, Mama Cass. Believe me, she looks just as crazed when she's in focus as she does out of focus. In case you don't have your own backyard flock, let me tell you of the wonder that is a broody hen. It's dedication personified. The hen sits and sits and puffs her body up to cover and warm all of the "potentials" below her. She gets up maybe once a day to grab a quick drink do a little peck, peck here and there, uses the bathroom (which is worth a whole gross post in itself because she saves it all up for one go), and returns to the baby throne.

When staring into the face of a feathery biological clock, one can't help but marvel at the powers of instinct. Unfortunately for this hen, this is my first time going through all of this and so I wasn't able to spot her broody behavior on the exact day it began. That means i'll be sneaking out with my candling light tonight so I can try to examine the eggs and determine how far along the embryos are, discard any non-potentials, and have a better idea of when these little guys might be gracing us with their presence. March, you better get here fast, cause down on the farm Spring done sprung.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day Chickens!

I hope yours has been filled with pink flannel shirts, red lipstick and more white daffodils than could fill a hungry whale's tummy. (plankton flavored daffodils)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Syrup of Figs.

Overcast day no. 27/34. Time to be thankful for the Lisa Frank sunset from Saturday and the camellia bush in bloom. The pigs rooted up the California Fig Syrup bottle in the woods behind the mule barn and it was in really nice condition. After a little investigating, it seems that these bottles are relatively common, but there's not much information on the company itself other than the fact that they were involved in a lawsuit regarding the use of the words "Syrup of Figs"... Apparently they had been using it a lot and they weren't too keen on sharing the phrase. "Syrup of Figs" does have a nice ring to it, does it not? I take it the judge didn't think so as he dismissed the California Fig Syrup Company's claim. I think I would have dismissed the claim based on the fact that trying to patent a laxative medicine from "California figs" is a waste of our judiciary system's time and just plain un- American.... or maybe, it's the most American thing you can do.

Enough nonsense. Looks like this week is going to be a busy one. Lots of press and farm doings. We finally got our goat situation under control by using electric netting to concentrate their grazing and keep the kids protected from coyotes. If you're thinking about getting in to the farming game, hobby or otherwise, Premier 1 fencing is going to be your best friend. Seriously, trade them your Fruit Roll-Up for their carrot sticks at lunch. They are that good.

Also, I've been working on some illustrations for the press' website. (see below) I think it's hard for people who don't know much about printmaking to understand exactly what letterpress is, or why it is different, and by different I mean better, than digital printing. I aim to change that through illustrations, you know, children's book style. (No, i'm not writing a children's book, though I fully intend to one day, it's just a turn of phrase I'm going to force into the lexicon. For example: If you're driving with your honey and they say "Darling, please slow down, make way for those ducklings crossing the street up ahead." You can then respond, "Oh, I am.... children's book style." I'm telling you it's going to be big, try it. And if you didn't understand what I just said click here.)

This looks like the press I print on!

And these look like the reason I'm always looking for the pencil sharpener!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

La Petite Souris Gourmande

In case you're not a French speaker and/ or not accustomed to discerning gray blobs within photographs I take of my grease jar let me give you a hint...

A mouse! A mouse that heard REM's Nightswimming on his iPod shuffle and got inspired to swim a few laps in our bacon fat pool. Unfortunately, this tiny mouse got a little more than he bargained for. Don't worry mouse, everyone goes swimming in pan drippings when no one's looking.

In all honesty, the situation was a little sad. I didn't see the mouse until I was grabbing a mug to make my afternoon tea so i'm not quite sure how long he had been in there, but his eyes told me it was a little too long. He was desperate to get out, but his little body was so greased up he just kept slipping down the sides of the jar. I think we all learned a lesson today: 1) Your doctor wants you to lower your cholesterol, but swimming in grease isn't the most effective way to do it. 2) If you have a collection jar for the nights when you have breakfast for dinner (translation: bacon as an entree) you should probably put a lid on your guilt jar. I didn't get a good photo of our rodent friend in the jar because I felt bad for not helping someone so clearly in distress, so I put the camera and the jar down, and the mouse scurried away in the rain.

And for those who are keeping a tally, yes, I managed to get the words pan drippings, bacon fat, and grease jar all within 250 words. Beat that State of the Union.