Moo-ing Me

It’s pretty clear that I’m completely enamored with the small cattle farm up the street from us.  It doesn’t just woo me, it moo’s me. Horribly ridiculous bad jokes aside, I love that place. One of the hayfields is our backyard, and the cows are sweet and have wonderful personalities. You can literally walk up to most of them and never think twice if they are going to buck into you. Besides the pastures are absolutely stunning. So is a Maine summer sky. This photo sums up everything that is perfect about where I live.

When we moved in 4 years ago there were over 20 head. Long before that there were plenty more. Today, in August of 2011, there are exactly 10 cows left. This includes the three calves born in the spring. I don’t really have much more to say on it except that it’s kind of sad. It’s something I feel like is happening to a lot of small farms around the country, not just “ours” (it’s not ours, but it feels like a part of us). That’s probably why it feels a little defeating to me. To me, small farms are the heart of America. The hardworking men and women who bring food to our table are slowly losing their farms; they seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I understand logically both sides of it, but my heart will always side with the small farm where I know the cows by their markings and the farmer and his wife’s door is always open.

Mostly, I just love seeing the cows. Yes, I’ve eaten some of them before. I know, it seems weird – but it’s actually nice knowing how well they are treated and exactly where their food comes from. We help harvest it after all.

All I’m saying is that I hope the cows are still up at that farm when their grandchildren grown up, and when we potentially have kids of our own down the line. One of the most calming things to me in the world is sitting in the pasture and hanging out with the cattle. I hope future generations get to experience this too.

I’m pretty sure Mr. A and I would do anything we could to save that farm. The best part is there are a lot of other family members who would do the same. It’s a good feeling.

That farm is my dream living scenario. Cows, pear trees, apple trees, a big beautiful old farmhouse and even more massive barn filled with all sorts of good antique farm & farmhouse items. Here’s to embracing the cattle that are left, loving the sweet smell of the fall air rolling over the pasture and the feel of a cows tongue as it hits your hand while grabbing an apple.

Happy Small Farm Loving,
Heather

Soil. Barefeet. Heaven.

It’s August and it means our garden has gone through it’s growth spurt and is now quietly spending it’s days soaking up the sun and rain, breathing in the cool evening air and soon, becoming part of the earth again. It’s kind of what a lot of us here in Maine do with the good weather. We pop to life, stretch, grow and soak up the warmth. By August we’re settling into the weather, quietly enjoying our time outside, the last breath of summer, and getting ready to hunker down for the long beautiful {and rugged} winters we get.

As I came home a few nights ago I took a deep breath of the warm air, could hear the crickets already starting their song and decided to kick my shoes off and get right in the garden. Moist soil beneath my feet feels like a cup of tea to me. It’s relaxing, it’s comforting and it’s fun to get dirty – let’s face it.

I decided to share with you some of the things we have growing. I will not however share the hornworms that have invaded and all but destroyed our tomatoes. I will not show you them because I couldn’t find one. I couldn’t find one because I got rid of most of them *rambo gear on*.

My herbs are hands down my favorite items in the garden this summer. My rosemary was choked out with weeds (of which we were constantly battling) but the rest flourished.

To be completely honest, I can’t remember what this is but it smells fantastic (unlike my wet dog who is currently laying next to me). I think it might be the savory I grew. If you have any idea what this is – feel free to identify it for me! Not rosemary, not tarragon….? Whatever it is I think I need to tie a bundle to Winnie’s collar. Good grief.

One of my favorite herbs is lemon balm, it’s in the mint family. It’s delicious chopped up and thrown in a can of chick peas and lemon juice  for a quick meal. It’s great steeped in water for tea. It has a ton of uses and I highly recommend it.

Then there’s the overgrown oregano. Pretty fantastic.

It also actually got hot enough to grow some hot peppers. The jalapeno’s came up (a few) but the chili’s still haven’t grown. Ever. You would think I would stop planting them. Nope. Never. One of these summers it will get hot enough, and I will get a single chili and it will be the single great accomplishment of my life summer, even though all I did was plant it. You know what also came up though for the first time though? My Cherry Bomb peppers. They might not be the prettiest but focus – the point is, they grew.

Our ever faithful banana peppers didn’t let us down again. Dear banana peppers. I love you. Thank you.

Then there is our plethora of lettuce. So. Much. Lettuce.

Then there’s the cucumbers that will not cease to grow. I’m not complaining, trust me. I love me some cucumbers.

After squishing the soil around my toes for a while and filling up my basket I looked up to see Winnie munching away on the peas. My first thought was that she’s going to be pretty disappointed this winter when she figures out we didn’t plant brusselsprouts, her favorite frozen winter treat.

Finally, when all was said and done I walked out of the garden with a basket of goodies to use for dinner among other things. The two goons were just *waiting* for me to drop the entire basket so they could go to town.

“You can drop those peas at anytime now.”

“Mom, you think you’re going to give me some of those peas? I’ll even take some lettuce if you have too much.”

Sorry Winn. Sorry Rosie. {Don’t worry, I know you’ll sneak a piece}.

Happy Gardening & Toes In The Soil,

Heather

Livingroom Update

I left you hanging like a Naked Gun movie. You just know there’s going to be a sequel. It has been over a month, almost 2 months *eek* since my last post on painting. Here’s the thing, I like things to be perfect {like is key word here, reality = almost never}. I painted the colors, wrote a post – deleted it. Thought, “I’ll post when it’s 100% complete with all the finishing touches.”

I realized I would never post if I went by that thought. We painted the room simply so we didn’t have to live in a cave another winter before we start renovations. We’re not painting the Sistine Chapel here. I’m not even an interior decorator, or pretending to be. I’m just a chick who didn’t want to spend another Maine winter in a dark room with a party of colonial picnic buddies.

 



You know what the absolute best part is? This feels like a “practice run” to me. Since we’re going to renovate the entire house this is the perfect time to test colors, test out my “style” and realize how terrible I am at making decisions on my own house and decorating. I’m not even disappointed to find this out about myself, I’m actually pretty happy because I’ve been learning all along the way. And I get to tear it all down with no guilt.

I didn’t pick up the room before I took the photos either. There is literally nothing staged about these photos. I’m oddly proud of myself.

We picked up all of our paint from Sherwin-Williams {who in no way sponsored this post. They don’t even know this exists and would likely decline to admit their paint is on our walls}. The boards are Copen Blue, the drywall part is Reflection and the floor & stairs are Anonymous. Yes, I know I missed painting part of the stairs. I’ll get to it.

To bring it back even further, this has been the transformation of our living room over the last four years.

Take a look at the first photo again, and then look at this. Is it perfect? No. Is it a serious improvement I’m delighted with? Absolutely. Yes. Positively. Whheewwwwwww.

Of course there are still a few things to do.

  • Take the burlap curtain down, it’s not working for me.  It’s such a high weird window it doesn’t even need a curtain really.
  • Figure out covers for the other three windows. I like curtains at night, but it also helps retain heat in the winter. These aren’t the new high-end windows that they so clearly look to be.
  • Finish floating art above our new (to us, and free) solid cherry entertainment center. Someone we knew didn’t have room for it and gave it to us unexpectedly. The style fits nowhere in our house yet – but what does? It’s gorgeous. It’s solid and it’s the heaviest piece of furniture I’ve ever felt in my life. I love it.
  • Get (or make) a rug.
  • Paint the side of the stairs on the bottom.
  • Get that couch a cover.
  • Paint the ceiling, sort of (this is years away). We’re not sure where a closet will be, what we’ll have to cut, etc. A ceiling is a lot of work. Correction, this ceiling is a lot of work – so I’m doing it once and once only. It will eventually be totally white though.

Overall though, this room is pretty much finished. I’m painted out. We’re debating on painting a few other rooms in the house as well but for now – fuhgettaboutit.

Happy Perfectionism (Hardly),

Heather


Getting Hot In The Kitchen

For about 2 years our oven has been finicky. Sometimes it would heat up properly and other times it was pure hell doing all tricks we could think of to get it to heat up. These feats often ended in me slamming the front door to the oven and having bread totally ruined on my counter because it was overset.

This oven annoyance contributed to such delicacies as my failed cupcakes and my less than pitas. You would think we would have fixed this earlier. The thing is, it still worked enough – most of the time – to get things done. We learned not to start baking anything until the oven was hot, to do it all at once, and to make a lot of non-oven necessary dishes.

This week the oven officially crapped out. 100%.  It came to a head when I was going to make strawberry pie. I had to break the news to Mr. A the oven wouldn’t work so I couldn’t bake pie. I’m not sure who was more disappointed, him or me.

There are just some things in life that put you into action, and lack of strawberry pie put him over the edge. If only I had known that two years ago. Within 5 minutes of saying this I walked out into the kitchen to much banging.

After positively identifying it was indeed the igniter that was burnt out, Mr. A quickly went online and for $30.00 ordered a new one. No worries about gas leakage, the gas valve is triggered to open only when our igniter gets hot enough. Because the igniter never became hot enough, there was never any gas released.

Two days later the part came.

As he fixed things, the entire time he sang in an R. Kelly way about how awesome he was at fixing things. I told you, he’s incredibly modest. This fix was as simple as pulling out the old fixture, stripping a couple wires and putting everything back together.

 

It was pretty clear when he pulled out the old part it was the issue.

We tested it out and held our breaths.

It worked! It worked! Would it heat all the way up though?

We assembled everything, turned the oven onto 425 (pie temperature) and waited. As I was used to, I refused to start prepping until it hit temp. In about 5-10 minutes I heard the beep go off, I came in and the oven, well – this just about sums it up!

 

Pie! Our oven once again works beautifully. Absolutely perfectly beautifully. This is in no way reflective of how beautiful my pie making skills are. It was quite delicious though {recipe here}.

I’m happy my oven works again, and Mr. A is happy he finally received strawberry pie.

Happy Food Motivating + Hot Kitchens,

Heather

Strawberry{licious} Pie

Note: This is the first time I made the Pate Brisee crust on a super hot summer day. Needless to say it got soft very fast from a chilled state, and wasn’t the easiest thing to roll out because of the softness. It’s still delicious but be careful not to get it too thin like I did. Roll it around your rolling pin and onto your greased pie pan. Or, use a different recipe. Or, make pie in the winter. Or, eat up and who cares anyway.

Earlier this summer we picked 12 pounds of strawberries, which I promptly processed and vacuum froze for smoothies. Really though, all I wanted was pie. I have yet to make a single strawberry smoothie but the thought of pie is staring me down every time I open that freezer. Consider it done.

I started off with my very favorite pie crust ever, Pate Brisee. I love it because it’s versatile and delicious. I adapt my recipe from the Martha Stewart version. Her version doesn’t call for any spices in the crust besides sugar and salt. When I use it as a savory crust I like to add a teaspoon of herbs which compliment the filling. When I use it as a sweet pie crust I like to add a 1/2 teaspoon cake or pumpkin pie spice for just a little kick. This is just my preference.

Pate Brisee Pie Crust {adapted from Martha Stewart}

Ingredients

  •  2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cake spice
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water
Directions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, sugar and cake spice. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
  2. Slowly add water through the feed tube while the machine is turned on. Pulse until dough holds together. The dough should not be wet or sticky, but should still hold together if squeezed. If it is crumbly, add more ice water a teaspoon or so at a time. I find that 1/4 a cup is sometimes too much.
  3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
Ingredients
  • 1 quart strawberries or 1 large package frozen strawberries, thawed and drained (reserve drained juice)
  • 3/4 cup reserved juice, or water
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup reserved juice, or water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup sliced berries, fresh or frozen, thawed and drained
  • whipped cream
  • whole berries for garnish
Directions
  1. Combine strawberries and water in saucepan. Cook until just softened, about 4 or 5 minutes. (Let frozen berries thaw; heat but don’t cook them.)
  2. Mix together cornstarch, sugar, and water until smooth; add to hot berries. Cook over medium heat until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.
  3. Add lemon juice; immediately remove from heat and let cool.
Assembling
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Thaw one of the crusts and roll into a 9 inch round. Grease the bottom of the pie pan and lay the crust on the bottom.
  3. Partially bake the bottom crust on 425 F for about 15-20 minutes. Pull out of the oven and fill with the Strawberry filling.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  5. Let cool so it sets up – if you can wait.
Happy Pie Making In A Hopefully Cooler Kitchen,
Heather