Pat In Two Equal Oblongs

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I’m not sure why I have Laura’s French Bread recipe. And why did it fall out of my Fannie Farmer cookbook while here in France? I do not know. I’m sure my sister Laura knows her recipe by heart as she no doubt bakes her French bread each day. But it’s here and I thought I should share it with you. This card looks like it was written by my mom. I make rye bread every day ( most days ). I have yet to slit the tops with shears. One reason is that I seem to be lacking in shears, though I have a lot scissors. I never thought to use scissors or scissor-like items to slit bread dough, but these are the things I get to learn from the wise teachings of my sister. I used to do the water deal, but I got lazy. Extra dish. Carry water. Hot oven. Meh. Now that I’ve recovered this card, I think I might get the water going again and see if I can get some improvement out of my bread.

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Brent and I have a running list of Band Names ( are you ready to rock, Seattle!? ).  “Equal Oblongs” has just been noted.

My Sunflower

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It’s true, I think it’s carried on the second X chromosome.  But I do love the sunflower.  I can’t help myself.  This year is a stellar year for sunflowers and we are surrounded by stellar crops of lovely golden beauties popping up imminently.  Brent has been steadily bringing our old vine fields into pasture.  We seeded an alfalfa and dactyle mix before the rain hit and watched and waited.  Things went wet.  Things went dry.  Things grew and it was time for Brent to mow it in for the next batch.  These are the things you do when trying to bring back fertility and good soil.  When we went out for a walk, I noticed a volunteer sunflower on the verge of bloom.  Brent mowed the next day, but left the sunflower.  My little sunflower.  It’s very beautiful.  I’m glad he left it.  I just want to cuddle it and call it Jorge.  Here is its view.
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It can also keep an eye on the cows.  This little sunflower is not long for the world.  The strong, yellow bloom doesn’t last long and then it starts hanging its head ready for drying and harvesting.  The sunflowers bloom big through July and begin to droop through August.  When they are droopy and brown, you know its about time for school to begin, wood to be chopped and garlic/shallots/leeks/white onions/peas to go in.  Most of the fields are green with golden anticipation.  You can feel July in the air and in the fields.  Okay, but more importantly Spain/ Portugal are in penalties … gotta run.

Friends and Mr. Still

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We love visitors.  We love visitors who come ’round and fuck off.  The farm can be so different from life in the city.  I love it when they can’t understand why there’s no cell phone coverage.  I love it that they think they need a cell phone.  I love to see people get taken away by the quiet or the cows or the pasture.  Some people help build fences.  Others seed pasture.  Some paint. Some entertain our little peanut gallery.  Others help Brent move the cows.  It makes me happy to share with others the calm chaos of starting a new farm set out to feed people healthy beef.

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Some good friends came by not so long ago.  The kids miss them terribly.  Otto is in a “frog phase” at the moment.  His big toad managed to creep into a group shot.  Little Frog (“mom, incredible news, I found a tiny frog”) was stashed comfortably in his own Bonne Maman holding pen.  Mr. Still, the little tadpole that wouldn’t move (and coincidently was missing most vital appendages), sadly couldn’t join the party.
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But don’t think you can come visit without working.  There is a lot that needs to get done.  I don’t care how hot it is or how jet lagged you might be.

Our First Steer

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We are very excited about our grass fed, grass finished steer meat.  This lovely stuff is impossible to find in France because all male calves are shipped off to Italy or Spain to be fattened on grain in feedlots.  We’ve planned to raise some steer with the herd to see how they did on our farm.  We suspect this will deliver the best flavor.  Time will tell.  I love time.  I love slow.  I love quality.

This guy (Gwar) is just about a year old and today he was castrated.  We plan to castrate the males earlier, but for this round, we were observing our three males to see who would be best suited for our bull.  Gremlin looked most bull-like and has a calm demeanor, so he’s the lucky toro who gets to hang with the ladies.  This just-about-to-become-a-steer doesn’t have as much machismo.  His mother does very well on our farm eating pasture and we hope that this steer will as well.

I’m loving our low stress handling pens that we built not so long ago.  Everything is calm and the animals move where we need them safely and calmly.  Before we built this pen system, this quick task of castrating a bull would be a huge effort.  Today, Brent was able to guide the bull down the corridor easily and the vet got to work.  Things went smoothly.  I managed to grab a couple of photos from the distance with Z on my back.  Z and I keep a safe distance from the livestock, but like to know what’s going on and help in any way we can.

 
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Bug, the Siamese, watches empathetically from the courtyard.  He remembers when it was “his time.”  Bug managed to escape the snip three times with a little cat trick known as “the cough.”  You see, if you cough at the vet, they won’t knock you out.  Good one Bug, but we finally caught on to your antics.

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Our new steer’s procedure went quickly and now he can return with our finishing herd a little light on the back end.  And we wait.  We wait for him to be a happy steer eating pasture, fattening up to achieve yummy steer goodness.

 

 

This Huge Sausage is Very Suspicious

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Our huge sausage is ready.  I took the sack off and it looked very scary.  I’m extremely conscientious of molds and bacteria and drying a Coppa turns everything I know on its head.  They told me to stick it in a cool place with a fly net over it.  I did.  They told me to wait two or three months for it to dry.  I did that too.  It’s time now to remove the sack and check out what happened.  The meat clearly dried and shrank into those things you see at any Charcuterie.  When I pulled it off its hook, I wasn’t expecting that color on the outside.  When I cracked it open, I wasn’t expecting that color on the inside.  That color looked familiar.  That color made me salivate a little.

Here it is before:
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… and after:
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Here in the Southwest, we slice it a bit thick and spread a little salted butter on it.  I gave ‘er a go.  Like buttah.  Despite the buttah I added, it was smooth and lovely and like dried sausage only better because I dried it myself.  I knew where the pig came from.  It came from down the road. It took time to dry.  We waited.  I love slow food.

Modern Wives’ Tales Number 28 and 29

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Modern Wives’ Tale #28: Replacing the little light above the stove could ruin your stew.

Modern Wives’ Tale #29:  Finding a screw in your stew before serving will bring seven years good-luck.  Eight years if your stew was made with gressfed, grassfinished beef fourteen months in the making.

Z Is In A Hat Phase

Hold on to your hats, Zélie is eyeing them.
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She puts a hat on then off then on then throws it.  Then the hat goes on again with the heels.

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I love hats.  I would love to got back to the hat wearing days.  In France, hats are worn.  All sorts of hats.  What happened to the hats?  We have lots of hats.

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In 1926, they wore lots of hats.  Was it the lack of central heating?  Was it fashion?  Was it no fear of hat hair?

Zélie says, “bring the hat back!”  And I agree.

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Bonne Fête des Mères

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It’s Mother’s Day Eve in France and the kids are a gigglebundle of excitement with the things they prepared at school.  As a family, everyday is Mother’s day.  Everyday is Father’s day.  I’ve always squinted an eye at Hallmark for trying to bank a sale each year for these sacred events.  I suppose I’ll grow into Mother’s day and damn my kids for not calling me and what the heck are they doing with their life and why haven’t they called me??!!  For now,  with my four young kids, it’s fun.  They scamper around finding endless ways to grab attention with luxurious gifts made of paper.  Gifts that are priceless to me as each one is a Picasso or Rothko or a Lovelace.  In France, the children generally prepare a memorized poem that ends with an embarrassed but accomplished smile sealed with a kiss.  And as you hold your coffee in bed with your right eye opened, prepared by Mademoiselle Rowenta(nice call, bizzyella), served by Clémentine and supported by Lucy and Otto (sleep, Zélie, sleep),  you get a little misty eyed because these days are golden.  Kids this age love you.  They love you so much.  They work hard on finding the perfect thing for you with the means they have.  They can’t help but deliver it early.  Like Otto, who worked for many, many minutes supplying me with this most amazingly stocked handbag.  It has a brush.  It has a gun.  It has a scary monster snowflake.  It has things you wouldn’t understand unless you knew Otto and then you’d know that he’s right.  A paper, shadow puppet chicken is EXACTLY the thing you need in your new, fully equipped handbag.  Of course it comes with a crown which I wore for hours today while we cleaned up Lucy’s room for our visitors.  I hung it up next to my well hung sausage.  The card on the outside says, “For You.”  Aaah.  I just love my little peanut gallery.  They are a TOTAL pain, but these qualities will serve them well in life.  I support their tendencies.  I unblock their ventures.  They ask too many questions.  They find too many answers.  There is no  boredom in this house.  So Happy Mother’s Day to you mama’s out there doing that mama thing ( or doing that mama thing even though you’re like a daddy or an older sibling or a grandma or a broody chicken ).  I honestly don’t know what this day means other than, “hey.  you’re keepin’ them alive and keepin’ them keepin’ on.”  Word to your mother.  I’m outty.