Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Times, They Are 'A Changing

If you were wondering about the change in my header photo, you're about to get your answer.  What you see is the blacksmith shop at Flint Hill Farm.  What we're considering is converting it to an apartment and moving in.  There are many details to work out, including selling our home and installing plumbing(!), but I've always had a dream of living simply like this, and the farm is one of my favorite places.  The timing is perfect.  I'll keep you updated on our thoughts and plans as they emerge.

In the mean time, I'm enjoying a bountiful summer. Last night I tried an awesome recipe that turns humble turnips and kohlrabi into a delectable meal (and I'm not a huge fan of cooked turnips!).  It's from "Local Flavors", by Deborah Madison.  I love this book; the photography is stunning, and the recipes are great. This recipe is called "Market Ragout of Turnips, Kohlrabi and Peas". I suggest you buy the book, but if you're interested in the details, just drop me a line.  The ingredients (in addition to the vegetables already mentioned) include spinach (I used kale), fresh thyme, basil, butter and creme fraiche (aka sour cream).  Delish.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

"If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work."

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Great Farm Market Escape

Hello, Summer! 
In honor of my first day of summer vacation, my buddy Stephanie and I made a pilgrimage  to my favorite places.
First stop:

...where I bought a beautiful Hungarian pepper plant.  Score!
Then onward up the road to:
---which was unfortunately closed.  Rodale is one of the leading agencies of change in the organic movement, with work dating back to 1947.  You can access their website here. 
Down the road a bit to the first of the Amish farm stands:

where I bought green beans and tomatoes.
Then, my favorite:
This place (Burkholders A) has it all.  They sell the very best of the vegetables; the most variety, the freshest foods, home baked goodies, canned goods, plants...AND hand crafted furniture!  WOW!
I couldn't resist a shot of their tri-colored cauliflower.  I'm not a huge cauliflower fan, but these were just plain pretty.

Our next stop was Meadow View Farm.  It should be called "Miniature Horse View Farm", because that's what we look for whenever we go there.  They have the most adorable herd of miniature horses!  And alpacas, sheep, and goats!  I love this place!  They have a huge chili pepper festival every summer.
 Their shop was full of canned and dried goodies, but not much fresh food just yet; I'll check again soon.  I saw the fields of veggies, and they looked pretty ready to me.

They have greenhouses full of wonderful plants: herbs, vegetables, and ornamentals.  They also sell hand made wooden furniture.
I've been looking at this sign for two years.  We stopped in.  The sweet Amish girl who was in the little shop
there explained that most of their food went to filling orders. 
The place smelled wonderful.  I think they were smoking pork. It made our stomachs growl!
(So did the onions in the back seat!)

She gave us a card.  It said "Burkholders".
The Burkholders seem to own most of the county.  This stand:
proved that to us. They had a nice variety, too.  I got a handful of rhubarb here. 
Then: Mecca.
Anything you might want or need.  They have dried fruit and nuts, natural foods, dried pasta, seeds, grains, specialty flours, herbs, organic teas and supplements, canning supplies, sausage making supplies; it's the one-stop shopping space for the ultimate homestead cook.   We broke the bank here. It was worth it.
By the way, by this point, we were starving. 
I'll bet there's a Burkholder somewhere in there.
On the way to lunch we passed this stand, which yielded cucumbers and asparagus.

Then we ate lunch at the Dryville Hotel.  Happily, it did not live up to its name.
After a visit to my mother in Fleetwood and a quick stop at Kutztown University (to return a video to a professor friend who works there), we stopped at Dietrichs.
Dietrichs was also  most decidedly NOT dry. It started to pour when we were inside.

I bought local sausage, bratwurst, cheese and horseradish.  Oh my.
Our last stop for the day:

where we bought scapes and enjoyed talking with the owner.  Her email updates are wonderful.  She apparently had an extensive garden that supplies more than just the common vegetables, as her last post discussed sharing a plant that made indigo dye.
I can tell you that her scapes are good.  And her little shop is full of country-esque goodies.

I closed my day with a trip to the hand doctor and the news of impending surgery, which I heard with mixed feelings.  I'll be laid up for a month or so this summer, but it will improve my function in the long run; I currently have two fingers that won't close properly and pretty severe carpal tunnel in my right hand.  I'm an artist and goat milker.  I need that hand.
I'll be having a knee taken care of this summer, too (though not by the hand doctor...of course). 
Improvement is what I'm looking for, so it's all good.
What will I do with a gimpy leg and a splinted hand?  It'll be an interesting time.

What a beautiful day.
Good company, good food, good fun.

By the way...I was accepted by my grad school.  I'm going to be the oldest student on campus this fall!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Summertime grows hope
Children and plants reach skyward
Even I sprout wings

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The End of the Year

The school year, that is. As usual, I'm looking forward to a few weeks off to do those things I couldn't do while I was working.  However, as I stood in my classroom yesterday wishing my seniors luck for the last time, I was struck by the bittersweet emotions I was feeling...yet again. 

Twenty three years of good-byes. It makes my heart ache sometimes. 

This made my heart ache too: a gift of Haiku from three of my favorite (OK, it's true) students:

This class went too fast
I can take what I learned home
I'm glad you taught me.

I'm gonna miss art
Cause this class was super fun.
You can draw good goats.
P.S.- R's lame
(They're sisters)

Art class is funny.
Ms. Eckert makes it better.
Let's go recycle!

.....................sob....................I'm all verklempt.........

Monday, June 14, 2010

If I Could Talk to the Animals

Just imagine it!

Well, why not?  They talk to me; not in words, of course, unless you count the words they share in their native language...but there's no mistake about the message Daisy was giving me HERE.

They communicate with us at every opportunity.  We just need to listen the way they do: with both our ears AND our eyes.  Take Macy, for instance:

If that isn't her "I'm beautiful" smile, I don't know what it is!

And Miss Faith:
Aloof royalty.  Can't you see it?

One of the milking goats, Miss Pebbles, mutters to me under her breath every time she comes to the milking stand.  It's the same sort of low voice the goats use with their kids; catching up...sharing news.  Pebbles and I are tight. She tells me the latest gossip. The gossip often involves cows.

"What are YOU looking at?"

OK, that one isn't really communication; but this one is:

LOL! Life's funny!
Just ask Hobie...

Or Elvis, with his sardonic grin. Life's funny. You ought to hear what he says to the does when he's in rut!  It's scandalous!
The animals will tell you all sorts of things...if you know how to listen.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

News on the Home Front

Well, it's ALMOST HOME....

The Green Roof has been installed at Flint Hill Farm.  WooHoo!  They carted bags of soil up there, and I hear they're planting some sort of sedum.  I think I may try something similar on my shed next year, but mine will be edible.  If you're going to water it, it ought to produce...right?  More on this as I learn more about it.

My Grandsons
These boys, along with Peter and me, helped spread a newspaper walk throughout my garden.  They played in the hay, cuddled goat kids, helped unload a truck, took apart a PlayStation and put it back together again, looked at the stars with binoculars, set up a tent and took it down again, and made smores on the deck before bed.  The little one, Trevor, read himself to sleep.  Jared fell asleep watching a movie.  Peter and I collapsed as soon as we were able. To wake up at 5 AM for a scared kid...hoot owl.  Etc.

Grand kids...I love them.  But now, I'm tired. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Generous Garden

It's Growing!
Last night, I enjoyed a dinner that was primarily provided by my garden at Flint Hill, and the animal products from the same acreage.  Now THAT'S local!  The only additions I made were a frozen crust (I don't have time to make my own right now), a handful of chopped ham, 2 carrots, pepper and salt. I also added a handful of chopped scapes that I picked up at a farmstand on Monday.
Baby Rutabaga
My garden provided kohlrabi, rutabagas, spinach and lettuce.  What I made were two spinach, scape and ham quiches with a mixture of goat and cow cheese, 4 farm-fresh eggs and seasonings.  I also made a kohlrabi and baby rutabaga bake with two carrots and scapes; this took up the last of the custard I had leftover from the quiche.  I'll most likely freeze it, unless we eat it for dinner tonight. Salad on the side.
Collard Greens

We each had a had mojito garnished with our own mint to wash down dinner and to calm our spirits; work has been a little tense lately.  Thank goodness for the garden and goats!

Two sprigs of catnip provided the entertainment, compliments of the cats; dinner and a show! Life is good. You just have to know where to find it.

* Addendum: I just encountered a GREAT idea for a winter solstice (!!! It's relevant to summer gardening, I promise!) meal on this blog post: Check it out!  Reserve a corner of your freezer; I predict it's going to become a winter go-to ritual in my household!

Squash, Lettuce and Cucumbers

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Catching up

How do the days go by so quickly? When I look them over, I can't fathom it, but today, when I was asked to make some signs for the farm, I realized just how much I've been packing into my days.  A normal day starts at 6 AM with the alarm; I leave home by 6:45 (give or take), and arrive in my classroom in about 25 minutes.  Homeroom at 7:30, then my school day progresses, with all of its yet unblogged ups and downs.  I finish at 3, though I often stay later.

Then I drive to the farm; I milk until about 6:30 (barring escapees, injuries, and other time-sucking occurrences), then either work in my garden or head home. To make dinner, plan classes, clean gathered food, mow the lawn, water the plants, feed the cats, do the dishes...well, you get the drift.  And those are normal days.

Some things that I did this week (somehow!) outside of the normal days were:
1. Apply to grad school (to formalize my years of post-baccalaureate education)
2. Harvest my kohlrabi, armloads of lettuce and my first collard greens
3. Put in the tomato posts and wire up the bean trellis
4. Learn how to weave on an inkle loom

5. Went to our local Farmer's Market on Sunday
6. Made 3 gallons of S.W. tomato beef soup for Flint Hill and The Caring Place
7. Gathered and cleaned discarded but serviceable notebooks from the locker-cleanup discards to donate to The Caring Place. Was THAT a stinky job!

8. Got a shot of cortisone in my achy breaky knee on Tuesday afternoon, then
9. Squeezed in a visit to the Amish Farmers' Markets enroute to my grad school advisor meeting  then
10. Met with my grad school advisor yesterday from 4 - 6, then

I want to hug him!

11. Had dinner with my buddy Stephanie (after spending a half-hour cooing over the miniature horse foals we saw in a field on the way), then drove home and
12. Cleaned peas and strawberries while I sat on the couch with my hubby until I couldn't stay awake a minute longer

Oh...and I had a visiting artist at school this week; we've been painting a mural.  I won a grant to do this, and it's been about 3 months in the making.

It's been quite a week, since my last post. Now when will I make those signs? Well, thank goodness for summer vacation and impending knee surgery.  I'll have a chance to catch my breath.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A few days ago, I read an entry by Aimee in "New to Farm Life" which mentioned the drought being experienced by the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, where her husband Homero was visiting. This came to my mind as I was carrying bucket after bucket of water to my thirsty goats, who seemed to be sucking them up as quickly as our little bucket brigade could carry them.

Water.  How could we survive without it?

Visionary Sci-Fi writers have produced countless futuristic books and movies based upon just that subject; consider "Dune", the most well known of the bunch. A frightening concept for those of us that have enough water; a harsh reality for those of us that don't. 

Since I've always lived here in Pennsylvania, my personal experiences with water are more akin to a love affair than a horror story; I've enjoyed some of my finest moments whitewater kayaking, mucking around in swamps, or "stream hiking" (an activity I used to do in my teens).  I mastered the art of silent swimming as a kid, sneaking up on turtles and frogs without making a ripple or a sound in sweet little ponds; I've fallen asleep in canoes, on rafts, in inner tubes; I became a rather good fly-fisherwoman (I think this skill is genetic), and have always enjoyed painting and drawing watery places.  One of my best friends taught me whitewater skills about a decade ago, and with his help I've done up to class 4 rapids.  I still visit a boulder that bears a commemorative plaque for him, despite its mid-rapid location. Where would I be without water?  It's in my blood, both literally and figuratively.

This morning, following a pre-school visit to the farm, I stopped at the hardware store to pick up a couple of hoses and a nozzle.  My plan today (after teaching), is to construct a more efficient way of getting water to the goats, who love water too (though they don't like rain!  Go figure!), especially in the current heat wave.  We're blessed to have a deep well, and an abundance of this priceless natural resource; we should be grateful for it.  My heart goes out to Oaxaca. And thirsty creatures, everywhere.

I can't end this entry without a mention of the horror I feel every time I think about the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf.  What terrible stewards we are.  I'm so ashamed, and so sorry for the state of the earth right now.  In my own individual way, I'm doing everything I can to be a good partner to the earth; if only big business would too...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just a Twinkle

Life isn't easy for anyone right now.  But...there were fireflies tonight.