Monday, December 31, 2007


The deer have been eaten and the last eagle posed this morning for one last portrait before disappearing for good.
Our magnificent visitors and the past year 2007 shared some similarities : there was surprise, delight, awe, joy, some elements of horror ( two deer carcasses being slowly picked clean, revealing their interiors bit by gruesome bit ), excitement, content and each morning, curiosity as to what the new day would bring.
As we count down the hours until the new year starts, I look back with gratitude at all the new experiences 2007 brought, the love with which our family surrounded us and the good health with which we enjoyed every day. How fortunate we are !
As we think back to all the highlights of the past year and look forward to the next, I wish you the best for 2008 - may all your hopes and plans find some measure of fulfillment and when life's inevitable difficulties and setbacks occur, may you be equal to the task set for you and may you grow stronger as you work through them.
Happy New Year to you all !!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


If you look very carefully, you can see five white-headed birds sitting in the trees right in the center of the picture.
Our neighbor has dragged two deer carcasses into the field next door and they have attracted five bald eagles from the nearby Susquehanna river. There are 4 mature birds and a juvenile, which doesn't have the brilliant white head - he/she ? is brown with blond highlights all over. The mature birds not only have startlingly white heads, but also white wings which show up when they fly.

Here is the juvenile, feeding on the carcass in the field. When the birds are disturbed, they fly up a short distance into the trees, not losing sight of their meal. They will sit all afternoon, waiting ,until they think it's safe to resume their feast.
My neighbor told me he had participated in the Annual Audubon on-the-water birdcount yesterday and they saw 55 different species, however, most of the winter birds haven't shown up yet - it's been too mild. He told me he had seen beaver , sitting on the bank of the local marina, watching the boats go by.
" Hurry, Ethel, you're going to miss them ! They're coming by right now !! Get the binoculars !!! Look how they swim, aren't they weird ? "
This is what we do for fun in the country....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas !

Santa has come ! R told me that Santa brought " the blue stroller with a tray , which I had ordered. And a lot of other presents I didn't want, but I really love them." What a reminder to us grown-ups, that one wished-for present is all a child really looks for.
We hope that all of you, both near and far, had a perfectly wonderful Christmas and got all you "ordered " and even a little extra you didn't expect, but which you really love.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

At the Malian Gingerbread House Party

We were invited to a gingerbread house party yesterday at our friends Kate and Bassyou's house. They met while Kate was in the Peace Corps in Mali and fell in love, got married and came back to the States to live. Bassyou was a resident in the village where Kate did agriculture work and has adapted amazingly to living here in the states. They are expecting their first baby in February! Before this happens I am determined to invite myself over to learn how to cook Malian food ... they seem to have connections to people who can really cook.

Leave it to a Peace Corps volunteer to have the ingenuity to use graham crackers for the walls and roof (I stupidly stayed up until 2 AM making mine - see earlier entry)! As a result, we ended up making Baltimore city row houses - a very cute twist on the traditional chalet style. At the party Rhys became engrossed with building her row house and spent the entire time with a cottonless q-tip and icing, painstakingly gluing each tiny M-and-M to the structure. I think she may have spent two hours gluing and decorating. She is truly the most patient human being I have ever met.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cute, no?

Just a little cuteness for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Waiting for Santa

Now that we have returned from the big city, we're getting ready for Christmas, here at the farm. Looks like this hawk was watching every possible angle to see if he could be the first to catch a glimpse of Santa.

RFD goes to NYC

Gosh, how time flies. Last weekend we went to NYC, to see the city in its Christmas finery and to experience some urban Christmas spirit.

We saw the sights during the day

and at night.

We took arty photographs

visited a few museums, ate amazing food, especially the dim sum ! and were oh , so cosmopolitan,

just like Mr. and Mrs. NYC.

But how will we explain THIS to the mother of our teenage house guest ?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gingerbread House Party!

Lest you think I have been a lazy bum this weekend, watching movies and noshing on bon bons, think again! I stayed up until TWO AM this morning making gingerbread houses for my sweet little ones and their friends, so we could have our first annual Gingerbread House Party! After realizing that I should a) Follow directions EXACTLY and b) Not leave it to the last minute (sound familiar, Mom?) I pulled it together and created four little masterpieces secured with fishing line so as not to succumb to gravity. (See inspiration above).

Amazingly they all made it through the night and R was so excited she came downstairs at 1:30 AM because she had "fallen out of bed" and was thrilled to find me in the kitchen, baking away. The next morning the intrepid decorators braved the icy rain and showed up to realize their visions. A fun time was had by all and, miraculously, we made it through the day without one single sugar related meltdown. The house smelled so Christmasy and the carols were playing and it really got me in the Christmas spirit! We capped off the day by taking a long blustery hike in the country with the dogs and came home feeling really fantastic.

What a great weekend!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Better late than never

Here we are at Thanksgiving...but wait, where are all the people ?

They're all outside , posing for the first family photo ever.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Early Risers

Can you imagine that I could look this cheerful at 5:30 in the morning!? Only after being awoken by my youngest (featured) calling out: "Mommy! ...Mommy!" It was so exciting! His first really intelligible word and the crazy thing is, he sounds just like his sister. So I run upstairs to her room and she is fast asleep, then I hear it again and I am wondering the whole time how in the heck it is possible for her to throw her voice!? Then it occurs to me that there is someone else nearby and sure enough, once I walk into W's room, there he is looking mighty pleased with himself and giggling. So of course we had to go and play in the playroom to celebrate. He speaks! Yippee!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Look-Alike Contest

Here's my entry for the Kramer Look-Alike contest. What do you think - do we have a winner ?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How to pass the time at a trade show

Ta Daaaaaaaah! Announcing: Tony The Cowboy!

And this is what we find ourselves doing in the final hours of a trade show ... the silliness is our only defense against the intense cabin fever we feel after 4 days in the concrete jungle we call the W. Springfield, MA Equine Affaire.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Where am I? That's right, the Equine Affaire in W. Springfield, MA

I am currently in W. Springfield, MA at the Equine Affaire. Flew in yesterday and was able to make it there by 4:30PM (having had to delay the trip for a day because of one sick child, only to get here and learn the next one is ill). In the span of 3 hours I was asked if my product was kitty litter (ARG! This is OBVIOUSLY NOT the Feline Affaire), was graced with repeat visits by a very talkative Quiet-Talker who also Mumbled (he was like the old man in Hot Fuzz, I swear it was that bad) and had many, many, many unsupervised children who had many, many questions. Also arrived in time to find out that my sexy new business cards have the WRONG email address! That said, and despite the obvious irritants, I am kind of enjoying the sort of guerilla sales environment - in a perverse sort of way. I'll follow up with pictures soon! If I survive! On the bright side, there is every sort of carnival food that one could dream of there and then some more (fried dough anyone? Chuck Wagon? Apple Fritters?) so at least I won't lose weight ...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

An end and a beginning

This was the porch one week ago - happy houseguests eating lunch in the warm sunshine. Please note the tomatoes from the garden.

Here is the same scene today. Winter has crept into the valleys and up our hill. We had a hard frost last night - gone are the peppers, the Swiss chard, the herbs and the last flowers which were hanging on until this morning. The water in the horse tub was frozen and the garden hose spit out little rods of ice when I turned on the water.

Luckily I planted a winter vegetable garden yesterday before the freeze. We learned about this method at the Unity Fair this fall. Elliot Coleman made a hoop greenhouse right in the garden with lectrical conduit bent into a half circle and stuck into the ground. The resulting hoop tunnel is covered with a special cloth to keep warmth inside the tunnel. When the temperature really drops , a plastic covering is added and the whole thing supposedly stays warm enough to grow greens in Maine. I planted peas, both shelling and snow peas, lettuce, spinach and onions. I am so curious whether this will work.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


It is getting chillier outside and thank goodness I have a wonderful assistant at work who loves to cook and makes us warm lunches at the office every day! She is Chinese and makes delicious things like this Noodle Bowl. Martina has been making us lunches since she started and she tells us how much it means to her to be able to not only do her job (administrative assistant) but to indulge in her desire to cook for people as well. She has a catering business on the side and brings us the leftovers! When she interviewed for the job she told us she really didn't want to work very many hours because she enjoyed her catering. Now, after several months, she tells us that she loves her job so much because she can combine her interests, despite the fact that they are so different. It makes me wonder if other people would be happier and more productive if they were allowed to pursue their interests in a creative way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Hey ladies check out the very cook website shelfari. We can use it to track the progress of reading around the world!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A chill in the air, finally!

There is finally a chill in the air and I for one am so relieved. I thought for sure we were going to spend the autumn in tank tops and shorts. I didn't realize how seasonally dependent I really am. I felt almost panicked when it was the middle of October and not a frost in sight. On the way to school this morning, R asked me "Why do the leaves fall off the trees?" My response was that the leaves fall off the trees to make a blanket for them for the upcoming winter. "Why?" she asks. Hmmm. "So that we can have springtime after winter," I respond. "Why do we have to have spring ... and winter?" she counters. This made me think about resting, and how very important sleep is for us. I explained that although we get to rest every night, so that we are refreshed each morning, that trees and flowers and grass do not get to rest. The fall is preparation for Nature's rest, and winter is the big sleep. After the trees etc. wake up in the spring, there will be new grass and flowers and buds on the trees. "Hmmmm" she says.

That reminds me, has anyone planted bulbs yet this year?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Goodbye chickens - hello coq au vin !

Even though I'm trying to be matter of fact about the demise of the chickens, I obviously wasn't as cool and calm as I thought - look how shaky the last chicken picture is.

They are being "processed" as I write and will be ready for the table in just a few hours.Thank goodness we don't have to do it ourselves ; in the nick of time we found a farm which will kill, pluck, eviscerate and bag the chickens,i.e. " process"them. Chicken barbeque anyone ?
Maybe the chickens should have engaged this artist to escape their fate ?

Monday, October 22, 2007


We belong to the Backyard Fruit Growers, a wonderful organization which promotes fruit growing by sharing information, know-how and an exciting annual apple tasting. There were about 80 different varieties of apples to sample, most of them old varieties which cannot be bought in a store any more. The members and their guests munched and sampled and made notes, so they could vote for their three favorite varieties at the end of the day.

There was even a table with exotic fruit - jujubes, kiwis, cactus pears, paw paws, persimmons, pears, both Asian and domestic, and some nuts - all grown by the members of the group. I had my first taste of wild persimmons and loved the flavor until my mouth puckered horrendously. Apparently that's the typical aftertaste of a persimmon and can be quickly remedied by a slice of cheese, which had been thoughtfully provided.

There was homemade cider as well and apple butter made entirely without sugar according to an Amish recipe. Cider is boiled down and reduced by half, thus concentratin g the sugar in the fruit and then the peeled apples are added and boiled until they make applebutter. At this point it can be left as is ,or some spices can be added , such as cinnamon, cloves and allspice. I was told that the Amish make this in a big copper kettle and as soon as one batch is finished , the kettle is passed on to the next farm - it is passed on so fast, that the kettle never even gets rinsed out! I'll definitely have to try to make some of this yummy applebutter here at home .

And which apples were Number One in my taste test ? Tioga, Ashmead's Kernel and Swarr - did you ever have a taste of any of them ?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Local ? yes Inexpensive ? No !!

Well, here is the breakdown for T's fish dinner.

Fish, caught by son-in-law $0
Fine for parking in a Handicapped Parking Spot $ 202.00
Towing car to impoundment lot $ 204.00
Fee charged for using a credit card to get car out of hock ( what the...? ) $ 24.50

Total $ 431.00

R' s new hairdo and sad expression - priceless !

And yes, the car is ok and back home in the garage - phew !!!

Raw juice

Well, I didn't have raw meat yesterday, but I had a big glass of raw juice - just pressed apple cider, that is. And it was amazing and yummy, too, BUT it had consequences !! Terrible stomach aches and the feeling that I had just swallowed TNT which was rapidly expanding in my stomach. Not good. This went on all afternoon and evening. Who knew !?!!!Hope your raw meat experience didn't have the same consequences.
And to top it all off, T called that night to tell me that my car had been stolen ! He had gone to the city for dinner, parked my car in a wonderfully safe spot and when he came back 4 hours, later it was gone. Called the police, who did not show up until 5 hours after the first call, by which time everyone had gone to bed exhausted. This morning T and son-in-law are combing the impoundment lots, hoping that the car was towed instead of stolen. Why aren't they calling the impoundment lots on the phone ? Because they have been busy for hours and don't answer. Maybe they're talking to the police and that's why they can't show up at the scene of a crime in a timely fashion ?

Where are you, little red car ???????

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Raw Meat Specialists

Today R and I ate at a delightful local Korean restaurant for lunch and had raw meat mixed with egg. Amazing! Was it local? Not sure...But it was fantastic!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We're making cider...sort of

Here's the newly built cider press. It has a 1.5 ton jack which pushes down on a plate inside the tube to squash the apples and squeeze out the juice.

Here we go - cutting up apples and grinding them in the food processor. The ground apples are then placed in a cloth and made into a sort of bag, which is put into the hole in the tube. The jack then descends and exerts pressure.

Hurray, we have juice and it tastes pretty good !

Uh oh !!!! Too much pressure is bowing the metal grate under the tube ! There are ominous cracklings and poppings. Stop the press !

The mechanical crew ( composed of T ) has gone to the barn to figure out how to fix our problem. Here is the cider we have made so far.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Weekend Update

The chickens are definitely progressing from cute to dinner !

In a week to 10 days, the only survivor will be the little black chicken - our " free, exotic chick "which is included in every order of chicks from Murray McMurray, our favorite chicken seller.

Fall at last !

It's a gray, rainy day here at the farm. After 90 degree plus temperatures, it's finally beginning to feel like fall !

Time to cook something warm and yummy for dessert. How about an old fashioned French apple pudding from Normandy ?

Marmelade de Pommes

4 T unsalted butter

2 pounds apples, peeled and thinly sliced

2 T lemon juice

2 T Calvados ( apple brandy from Normandy, don't substitute, leave it out if you don't have it )

1/2 c plus 2T sugar

2 large eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 4 cup terrine mold.

In a heavy pot, melt the butter and add the apple slices, lemon juice, Calvados and sugar. If your apples are very sweet, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar.. Cover and cook the apples slowly, stirring once in a while, until they are soft and falling apart. If they are very juicy, uncover and boil away the liquid. Mash any large lumps with a fork and adjust the seasoning, adding lemon juice, Calvados or sugar , if needed. Basically, you have just made fancy apple sauce. Now it gets interesting :

Take the pot from the heat and cool just a bit. Stir the eggs a little to break up the yolks and add to the apple mixture. Beat to combine. Spoon the pudding into the prepared mold and smooth the top. Set the mold into a roasting pan and fill it halfway with boiling water.

Transfer this bain marie plus pudding to the oven and bake until the pudding is firm to the touch, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature, in slices. Pass the vanilla custard sauce separately. How about replacing the vanilla with Calvados in the sauce ? Sounds good to me.

Speaking of apples - this weekend there will be some crazy cider making going on here at the farm. T and friends have made a cider press and we are all curious whether the thing will work. Our trees are loaded down with apples and I am envisioning gallons of cider and possibly making some of our very own Calvados. Hope that's not illegal....

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Oceans Alive

Maybe you've all been as confused as I am about eating fish: Which fish are safe to eat? Wild caught vs. farmed? Mercury, PCB's, Omega Threes, Oh My! Well, wonder no more Friends of the Briny Deep. There is now a website that can help us sort it all out. It is called Oceans Alive and is sponsored by the Environmental Defense Network.
If the link doesn't work, then just copy this address into your web browser:
Happy Fishing!!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Why I haven't been blogging

More house guests

That's why !

Friday, October 5, 2007

Leave it to Emlyn

The Eat Local challenge was, unfortunately, a total bust for me. Due to unusual circumstances and poor planning, I think I actually ate less local than I usually do!! Thank God for the CSA share and the Mother Garden and eggs or we would have been total failures. Basically, I found myself in that typical working (OTH: Outside the Home) parent dilemma: You come home from work - everyone (incuding you) is starving. You've got no plan, few groceries and little time to pull it together before the collective blood sugar drops to a dangerous level. Not to mention the husband is who is a) usually gone or b) asking me what's for dinner. ARG! I think I need a crock pot. Anyone know anything about crock pots? Can recommend a good one? That makes me think of this useless bit of trivia: 50 years ago yesterday, the pilot for "Leave it to Beaver" was launched.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's October !

It's time to think about getting a pumpkin - or two, or three, or....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chicken Update

Several of you have been wondering how the baby chickens are doing. I have managed to persuade a few to take time out from their busy schedule for a few photographs.
Here's a head shot
Full profile

Did you say you wanted to see some feathers ?

And now we really have to get back to our regularly scheduled program : eating and drinking, interspersed by short naps.