I Am Here…

…but I’m also over there.

And there.

And there.

And likely over there too.

In other words – we have a lot going on and my laptop has been a bit more like a good paperweight than it has been a blogging companion for a number of weeks now. So here’s what we’ve been up to, and hopefully I’ll get some posts up soon. For now, follow me on Instagram – @likeacupoftea (click where it says “Instagram” under my photo on the right), it’s the best way to see what’s going on in snippits. Here are some of the items we’ve been up to:

  • Renovations have started on the original house, finishing up some final things in the addition, and tying the two together
  • “New” appliances have been acquired
  • Garden harvesting
  • Garden preserving including dehydrating chili’s and making our own chili powder, dehydrating squash for the first time ever, and longingly looking at greenhouses
  • Baking things
  • Moving landscaping around, which of course I forgot to capture since I was using the backhoe at the time, I’ll figure something out to post about this.
  • Laundry
  • Laundry
  • Vacuuming
  • Giving the dogs love and exercising
  • Living family life
  • Watching the new season of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” at night and thinking how awesome Eve is

So that’s about it. In other words, the snow is coming and mother nature doesn’t wait for the garden to be harvested or the siding to be put on the house or the woodbox to be cleaned out and a preliminary set of logs brought in for when the time comes to use them. The blog and just about everything else outside of work and house land has taken a hit so bear with me. I’m still here. But not. You get it. Find me on instagram where I snap two second shots of the dogs or food most likely before we move onto the next set of necessary things!



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.

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.



Summer 2013 Happenings

Hey friends! As some of you might experience in your own lives, summer is the busiest time of year. Here in Maine summer might literally go until the end of September, but as far as I’m concerned autumn begins on September 1st. Some people might shush me for saying that, but it really becomes autumn weather and I LOVE the autumn. The other night you could feel the change in the air starting and Andy and I were both thrilled.

Given it’s the end of August and the almost end of summer I thought I would catch up a few loose ends like the farm, the garden, the house and a couple other little birdies we had going on around here.

The Farm

The farm has been well this summer without much to write home about until this last weekend. At church on Sunday the farmers wife announced that there had been a calf born at the farm that morning. Needless to say I was slightly distracted throughout church to go meet the new little dude. So here’s the part where you ask why there isn’t a photo of him. Little dude is elusive. I’ve seen him, but there were other duties to attend to so I didn’t have my camera on me. I even tried to go up and get a photo of him just for this post (literally, I stopped writing the post and drove up to the farm with camera in hand). No dice. The herd had just retreated to a far back field out of site. For reals.

I will get a photo of him and I will share it once Mr. Disappearing Act decides to show his face at a time I also have a camera on me.

The Garden & Harvest Preservation

I am SO PROUD of the garden this year. I don’t mean proud of us. I mean I am literally (using that word in it’s actual definition) proud of the plants for making it through the crazy ass weather we’ve had, being choked by weeds, and infested by insects and fighting disease. I honestly didn’t think we would be seeing a single zucchini, squash or cucumber this year. I had to replant almost all of the cucumbers, I fought squash bugs like crazy, and we experienced blossom drop.

DSC_6718-01Well done garden, well done. You rebounded nicely. The above harvest was only one of the harvests this year. The cucumbers definitely were on the bigger side for this harvest so I seeded them (along with that giant zuc above) and diced them up for diced bread and butter pickled. We also have some sliced pickles too from an earlier batch. Speaking of pickles, this summer has been awesome for preservation. (To learn more about different methods of food preservation check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation).

DriedPotatoesWe sliced, blanched, dehydrated and vacuum sealed potatoes.

PicklesandMuffinsWe made sliced bread and butter pickles as well in a British style, a garlic style and regular.We also made a batch of hearty blueberries from the year/coconut/hemp heart/chia seed/vegan muffins and then cooled and vacuum sealed them for the freezer. These are so good to grab, heat for a minute in the microwave and then head out with. They are super filling and are a perfect pick me up.

JamWe picked a ton of wild blackberries and then made jam.

CanningFailWe had our first canning fail ever. I’m happy to say it was a perfectly broken jar and not a fail because of botulism or something. I’ll take a broken jar over bacteria any day of the week.

PicklesWe also had even more successes and will continue to can throughout the rest of the summer. These are the tiny diced cucumbers and zuc’s I mentioned above. For now it’s mainly all pickles at the house for now, but we might be able to blanch and freeze some spinach and maybe some vegan butternut squash soup later on.

IMG_6567Finally, we had great success with garlic this year. Even though we grow hardneck garlic we learned how to braid it to dry it properly. The big bulbs in the front are all seed stock which we will plant this fall. We’ll eat all the deliciousness in the back. I’ll write more on this whole process in another post, as I documented it for you guys!

The House

Holla! As you guys know from this post we’ve moved into our bedroom. This topic really deserves it’s own post though. I’ll be heading into the mountains soon so I’m hoping to bang out a post then for you guys all about it. There isn’t a ton to discuss at this point, but what there is to share it still exciting! It’s hard to believe we’re winding down on the interior of the addition, and yet there is so much to do. Oh, and we’re going to renovate the entire original house so there’s definitely plenty more to go.


Other Little Birdies

For real birdies! This was such a highlight of my summer. I would look out the window to the porch just about every day and watch them in the rafters until they finally took flight (which I missed). I almost hope they nest there every year so I can watch them! Absolutely adorable.

DSC_6281-01 DSC_6286-01 DSC_6290-01 DSC_6298-01 DSC_6332-01 DSC_6354-01 DSC_6361-01So there’s a quick wrap up of our summer and we’re not slowing down anytime soon heading into fall as we prep for winter. We still have so much to go between working full time, harvesting, construction, and the rest of the shebang. We also are going to be part of a cool project that I’ll post about as soon as I get permission. Actually there are two cool projects. Do I have your interest yet? I can’t wait to share.



Garden Update: Cucumbers and Taking A Risk

We’ve had some weird weather up here in Maine lately. The saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” is normally pretty true, but it’s been really interesting this spring. We had a couple weeks of super dry weather that was near freeze at night but warm in the day, followed by a week of drenching rain and general wet, overcast and gross conditions, followed by scorching hot weather over the last couple days.

While most of the garden is tolerating this pretty well, our cucumbers are not happy.

Cucumbers_053113 (1) Cucumbers_053113 (5)

We admittedly took a risk by planting cukes early this year. Our frost date is May 31st and we planted May 18th. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t. This year we haven’t been so lucky but all is not lost, since some of the plants aren’t completely destroyed yet.

I spent about an hour on the internet trying to figure out what on earth was wrong with my plants but couldn’t pinpoint something that exactly matched. It was only then I looked at the MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association) May 29th Pest Report, and what did I see as the very first item but “Cucumber Problems“.

Cucumbers_053113 (6)

Apparently the weather has caused widespread damping off and susceptibility to disease which seems to be what is our issue too. I was really confused when I was trying to research our issue initially because some of our plants were spotted, while others were missing spots like the spots had merged together, dried and fallen out (no signs of insect damage, no web like items or mildew on back of leaves), and other plants were completely wilted and dead. It made no sense.  I even pulled up one of each to check the roots and stem. I then dissected the stem for signs of insect infestation or disease, but they all looked good. After I read the report I realized all of the smallest seedlings wilted and the bigger seedlings had survived (so far), albeit in rough condition.

Cucumbers_053113 (4)What I read in the pest report definitely made sense, but I’d still like to know what is causing the missing leaf parts and spots in the photos above (I assume it’s the same thing, just at different levels). The “true” leaves (in the center) all look good, but I have a feeling if the issue is bacterial or fungal the disease will pass onto the primary plant. I’d love to know whether I need to be ripping out the plant entirely and amending my soil, just treating the plant with something organic, or leave it alone. We’ll wait a couple more weeks and go buy a six pack of seedlings, which will be bigger and heartier, to replant and we’ll see what happens in that time. I might even email MOFGA to get their perspective.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but at the end of it all we’ll still win. Whether we have cucumbers or not we’ll definitely learn some things, and we’ll have other veggies to make us happy. Growing your own food is definitely a learning curve and there’s always something to keep you on your toes. We had a few years of beautiful cucumber production, followed by insect decimation last year, and now this. I am bound and determined to get some cucumbers to grow in this garden again, but if it’s not this year, that’s okay.

And so it goes…