A Photography Project: Meeting Patryce Bak

You simply never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, and I’m hardly someone to turn down an interesting opportunity that could make a pretty cool memory. Unless you’re asking me to get on a plane – then I need some convincing.

A few months back a woman named Patryce Bak and I started chatting with each other on Instagram of all places. I knew she was local, but that she also worked in New York, San Francisco and frankly all over the world. I loved her photos of simple clean eating on Instagram, and how much she seemed to love Maine. It was when I first looked at her professional website that I became immediately smitten with her “The Nature of Work” project. The people behind your food, the simplicity and difficulties of working with the land and her profile of Maine. Simply put – it spoke to me.

So when Patryce contacted me to ask if Andy and I would do a shoot with her for her new Farmers & Homesteaders project I knew we had to be in. The concern though was that we are small time homesteaders with 1.1 acres of our own. While my husbands family owns woodlots and is into simple living, it would be hard to show. While I am smitten with the beef cattle farm and Andy helps on it when we need to and are more or less adopted into the farming family we live amongst, it is not our farm.

Questions definitely came up. What was she going to photograph? What was this about? We have a garden, a small barn, a garage and some chainsaws. Yes we make a lot of our own food, preserve, cut out own firewood, heat our house with only wood at this time and in general try to live a conscious simple life, but how was that going to be shown? I knew from being born in Maine but growing up out of state that this way of life isn’t normal for everyone. We had a garden my entire life but I realized growing up that a lot of my friends parents didn’t. Salsa was something you bought at a store, not made at home. Fresh bread was a treat, but I had friends who had never tasted it. I saw the other side. Andy however grew up where working in the woods, gardening and making the most of what little you had was regular.

I reminded him that many people don’t know where their food comes from. They don’t understand how it works. All things he knows and understands, but I reminded him how important it was to me to be a part of something that was going to show people that there are people out there who do this – no matter what size. To me, encouraging people to grow their own food no matter the size lot they have is one of my greatest joys. When someone comes to me and says “I only planted a tomato in a pot this year and some herbs,  but it’s something” I want to jump out of my seat and yell and am incredibly happy for them. Everyone needs to take a first step. To have a chance to be a part of a project that could show this variety of farmers and homesteaders from very big, to very small, was awesome.

Thankfully, Andy knows how much this meant to me to do and he was on board. That’s the great thing about this guy – when something really means something to me and will make me really happy, he’s in. He’s in simply because it makes me happy. That’s a good man you guys, seriously.

So when Patryce came out I had just finished gathering some apples from the wild tree out back and the sun was setting. A new calf had just been born up at the farm so we took them up there to see it.

To be honest, my neighbor the farmer should have been the one photographed. Humble as the farmer is though he had told us that we should do our pictures at the farm. It might not be our farm literally, but to him we are a part of it – and it is a part of us. Also, it’s one of my happy places in life.

I’m happy to share these photos with you courtesy of Patryce. The second photo is also part of her Farmers & Homesteaders project you can see by clicking here.

PatryceBakFarmHere are some other ways you can find Patryce and see the daily looks into her life, and her professional work.

Instagram – @Patryceb
Facebook – Patryce Bak Photography 
Website – Patryce Bak Photography

A big thank you to Patryce for your beautiful photographs. It was wonderful meeting you and spending time with you. I hope you enjoyed the farm pears!



P.S. To be clear, we did photograph at our house too but it was getting a bit dark. The farm sits on a hill and the light was beautiful so the farm set of photos is what I’ve seen and what she has used in the project.

P.P.S. Here’s a little behind the scenes – in the photo of me looking out the barn door, I wasn’t just posing and staring out. I was actually perched there to get a better view of a brand new baby who had just been born about 2 hours earlier. At the time the mother was eating the placenta and I was totally in awe of nature at it’s finest. Also, that same mother chased me up onto rocks the next day, but that’s another post for another day.

All About The New Addition, Not New Edition

I feel your immediate sense of being let down now that you know this post isn’t an update on New Edition. Grab your tissues, get a good cry in, and refocus. This update on the addition we built might not be as musically inclined or stylish, but it has just as many good qualities.

That’s a joke, New Edition can’t be competed with. Let’s just take a moment to be reminded of their glory.  http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/album-gold.jpg*Exhale*

Okay, let’s move on to the new addition.

I am nothing if not timely in posting this. Since this post went up I was waiting to get nice shots after a few things were finished. They aren’t finished and I decided waiting longer, when we have new projects starting, felt like I was leaving loose strings. My mother was a seamstress and thus I hate loose strings.

Being that I’m home sick with a rather contagious and un-fun head & chest cold (don’t worry, it’s not spreadable by internet) I decided to take some very un-styled, un-edited photos and show you how things look right now.

The downstairs bedroom is still in the most rough condition. We still need to replace two windows in this room. You can see the new window on the left and one of the two windows that need replacing on the right. Thankfully these windows, plus two others which will be going into the original house, came in this week.

DSC_7100In “keeping it real” here’s some of the lovely floor design the dogs decided to engrave for us while playing with a couple young kids. Long story short we didn’t tell the kids not to go in there, and we didn’t realize they were tossing toys around for the dogs to chase until a few minutes had passed. We knew there would eventually be dog claw marks on the floors, it wasn’t unexpected, it was just unexpected to happen so early. To be clear, we aren’t mad this happened at all. We should have shut the door and we didn’t. Things happen, life is way too short to get upset about something so dumb. Also, what I really remember about that night is how happy I was and how the laughter of kids filled my house and how happy everyone was. How can you ever be upset about that?!

DSC_7144So that pretty much sums up the downstairs. Moving up in the addition we get to the stair well and upstairs hall. We’ve since painted the back wall of the stairs Sherwin-Williams Sea Salt, and the rest of the stairwell/hallway areas Dover White, the same as the living-room. We’ve also added a rug at the landing and at the top of the stairs. Both of the rugs were from HomeGoods in South Portland. The rugs are to help the dogs get better traction and feel safer on the stairs. I’ll be writing another post about the actual stairs and our thoughts on having bare wood stairs with dogs.

DSC_7116The upstairs closet doesn’t have doors on it yet for a couple reasons. First, none of the closets have doors yet and second, we’re not done installing items in here. This closet isn’t your normal closet. You can see it has a wood back and not drywall and it looks pretty bedraggled. That’s because this closet is actually a mechanical closet. Down the line we’re going to be installing an air exchanger in here which will take up a significant amount of room. This will allow fresh air to come in at a warm temperature and old air to be circulated out. In a house with tight insulation such as ours, and living in a climate in which you can’t really open your windows for many months a year due to the cold, it’s important to have air flow and this will help a lot. Outside of the closet on the top right you’ll see the old chimney. This chimney goes all the way to the basement and our basement woodstove ties into it so this chimney isn’t going anywhere. We’ll have a second new chimney when we move our upstairs woodstove, which I’ll explain further down. You might wonder if we’re going to trim out the chimney and the simple answer is no as there really is no need to. If you walked through the house I’m positive it’s one of the last things you’d pick up on (except now, because I pointed it out).

DSC_7143At the top of the stairs, to the right, is the guest bedroom and future nursery (the downstairs bedroom will become the guest room).

DSC_7113The dogs don’t get to come into this room unless we are in there, so they took full advantage while I was taking photos. Lay on the bed? Winnie doesn’t mind if she does.

This is about as decorated as this room is getting, since it’s a temporary guest room. For now we’ve added in our old bedroom furniture which we are using to store linens, towels, etc. Right now it’s guest / my getting ready for work in the morning spot. The colorful bedspread and yellow pillowcases are from HomeGoods again. The other pillow case is something I put together.

DSC_7106 DSC_7109Looking across the hall from the guest room is our master bedroom. In this shot you see our stripped bed so I can wash the linens and our vacuum so I can take care of the dog hair. I did at least throw a blanket back on the bed and move the vacuum for the primary photos at least. Laziest styling ever.

DSC_7115When you first walk into the master the bathroom is on the left. More accurately, the future bathroom is on the left. It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore this room even though we’re sleeping in our master bedroom now.

DSC_7118Once you get into the room it’s like an automatic relaxation. It’s light, it’s clean, it’s simple and we love it.

 DSC_7120We don’t have a lot up on the walls now, and I’m not sure we ever will. I definitely believe in living in a space for a little bit though before making any decisions like hammering into a wall. Pretty much we have our bed, two nightstands, two antique oak bureau’s Andy was given, and my Memere’s full length mirror she had in her dress shop in her house for as long as I can remember. It actually faces the corner, not our bed as it looks like in the above photo. 

DSC_7125I’m also a bit sneaky sneaky in that without a great place to store my ironing board, I had to get creative so it actually lives behind the full length mirror for now. Hopefully this will get a new home down the line but I don’t mind it’s location right now. Oh, and that chest to the left is from Andy’s aunt and holds all of our treasures – if you define “massive amount of socks” as “treasures”.

This might be one of my favorite views of the room because I love the angles against the beams. It reminds me Scandinavian Modern design, which I really like.

DSC_7121The master closet is most definitely a work in progress. Here’s the deal, given the way the layout of the house needed to be the master closet is actually the smallest bedroom closet in the entire house. It’s literally the same size, but the far right space (where you see the tan basket) is going to be taken up by the stove pipe for our wood stove in the living room. Once we install the stove pipe, we’ll also be able to get the wire rack we’re hanging our clothes on out of there, and install a custom closet which has more space. It’s kind of nice having to downsize our clothes to fit. We must have brought 2 bags of clothing to goodwill and it felt awesome. Less really is more.

DSC_7131So there you go, an update on the interior of the addition and our awesome master bedroom. It’s hard to believe we broke ground on this addition in June 2012, and that this master bedroom didn’t even exist. It was nothing but bad rooflines on a falling in porch and sky. Now, it’s like having your own piece of heaven and an adult tree house that overlooks the hay field.

DSC_7135Next up, window replacement and siding. Oh yeah, did I mention two sides of the original house don’t have siding on them anymore?


New Edition photo from here.

Braiding Hard Neck Garlic

I am incredibly timely with my posts, since garlic harvesting season is already long past gone here in the North East U.S. Consider this a braid-off that you can take in and think about all winter so you’re super prepared next year. You are welcome.

IMG_6556Every fall Andy get’s pretty excited when he plants his rows of garlic. All year long the garlic is entirely his thing. He tends to it, weeds it, picks it at harvest—the whole nine yards.

IMG_6537While I let Andy have all the glory in growing the garlic, I am more than happy to help in the preservation. Andy likes preservation too but as we all know he’s often much busier building things like oh….our home.

This year helping in garlic preservation meant sitting outside on a hot but nice summer day and figuring out how in the dickens one is suppose to braid hard neck garlic so it could be dried and stored properly. Braiding regular garlic is easy – three strands, one over the other. Try that with hard neck garlic and you’re likely to threaten throwing all of the garlic over the side of the deck and blurting out some very lady-like language. I’ll get to that, but first we had to prep the garlic. Prepping for us was as basic as two steps.

Step one
We pulled off all of the exterior vegetation which gets a little slimy and gross by harvest season. This just makes it a lot cleaner, easier to braid, and better to store. Moisture is the enemy of storage and pulling that sheath off will help with the drying process.

IMG_6540Step Two
I then snipped the roots, to clean it up some more. While this shows me snipping further down, I tried to keep each bulb around 1/2 to 1/4 inch from the base of the garlic. After this I cleaned out as much dirt as I could from the roots.

IMG_6541Once we were done with preparation, it came time to research braiding methods by watching YouTube videos, reading websites and then attemptting to braid the garlic myself.

Braiding Hard Neck Garlic – French Braid Method (normally used for traditional garlic)
Simply put, I found I just couldn’t French braid hard neck garlic the same as traditional garlic. It just didn’t work so I knew I had to switch to a new method.  Part of the moment I knew it wasn’t working was when I yelled “THIS SHIT ISN’T WORKING”. I took a nice deep breath, and continued in my attempt to do a full French braid though for blogs sake so you guys could see how it turned out. That’s love my friends, that’s love.

Here’s my one finding through any method of braiding: attempting to tie the garlic together using one of the outer leaves, as recommended on some sites, was a train wreck. Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but for me with our hard neck garlic is definitely was. Realizing I needed something stronger I switch to twine. Realizing this still wouldn’t be stable enough and I tied the plethora of tasty goodness down to our deck table.

IMG_6543 IMG_6544I slowly started adding bulbs and braiding them in. The method should be easy enough except the stems are really tough to bend and the more I put together the harder it got. I guess it somewhat worked, but it looked terrible and I couldn’t get nearly as many bulbs together as one would like.

IMG_6545 IMG_6546 IMG_6549Would it dry properly like this? Probably. Did it look horrible? Well, sort of. The issue with this method is that it is was WAY harder than it needed to be. I pretty much required a year in the gym doing strictly upper body and abs to strong arm it into submission. That sounds like a fairly horrible use of a year, so I moved on with methods.

Braiding Hard Neck Garlic – Fishtail Method

Now this is most definitely the way to go about braiding hard neck garlic. I got far more bulbs into my row, evenly spaced, and it was so much easier. Yes it’s still a little tough but it’s much easier and the end product is superior. I did take one aspect of the first failure to this one – tying my garlic down to the table with twine. In the video I watched she didn’t, but her garlic also didn’t seem nearly as hard necked as mine. Mine was super super tough. I found tying it down to be really important to being able to braid properly.

IMG_6557To be completely honest, this method is really hard to explain using words and photos. Photos themselves were hard to get, since I really needed both hands to do this. Here’s an awesome video from Lil Frugal Gardner on YouTube, which is how I learned this method myself. She also has some other awesome videos so check them out.

In the end, unless we ever grow traditional garlic, I am definitely sticking with the fishtail braid method.

IMG_6554I hope that helped anyone, at all, in any way. Do you have a different way of braiding garlic? Do you even braid your garlic for long term storage? Talk to me people, talk to me.



Basil Cashew Cream Sauce

Hey, friends! It’s been a while since I posted a savory recipe, and I’m going to try to get on this more for a few reasons. The first reasons is I love sharing (duh) and getting people to try new things they normally wouldn’t. Second, we’re back to a mainly plant based diet and I need to have a good way of remember what we liked and how to make it again more or less.

A few weekends ago, when we were up in the mountains of Maine, Andy’s aunt who has been on a whole foods plant based diet for two years brought up some homemade basil cashew cream she made and we went nuts. This stuff is incredibly good and is awesome on pasta, for dipping veggies in, for dipping tortilla chips in and whatever the heck else you think sounds good. It really is super versatile, though we love it most on a good pasta. I had heard about cashew cream for desserts, but I had never made it or heard about it being made savory. I’m hooked.

This is a super duper simple dish that anyone with a blender, and I’m guessing a food processor, can make. It takes four ingredients and two spices and is incredibly hard to screw up. That’s it, unless you choose to do more to it.

  • Basil
  • Raw cashews (don’t use roasted or salted)
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Pepper

DSC_7069-01Here’s how it goes:

Put all items in blender. Blend and add more of whatever until it has the taste and consistency you like. I would say I did about 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, 4-6 handfuls of basil leaves, a whole bunch of garlic (we love it around here) and enough water to make sure it still had a nice thickness to it so it would really cling to garlic. Think hummus thickness, only slightly thinner.

DSC_7070-01Most important of all, just have fun with it as I think we should do with all cooking. Add your garlic slow, add your basil slow, add your water slow, add your salt slow and you’ll be fine. I don’t like a lot of salt, so I use very little and let Andy salt to his taste. I love pepper though, so I use very little and then pepper to my taste on my own plate. 

DSC_7073-01When all is said and done, use it however you would like. I put mine in masons jars since I made in the afternoon, and we used one jar over pasta that night, and one jar over pasta last night. 

DSC_7082-01DSC_7091-01This is officially a staple in our home. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s easy, it’s worth the 2 minutes it takes to throw together, and it’s very good for you. I never thought I would say it but as much as we love pesto in this house, we’re actually going towards this delicious cashew cream on a regular basis. Crazyness.