I can think of a few bedazzling achievements from the 1980s: the hair crimping iron, Hammer pants, the Back to the Future movies, Swatch watches...and yours truly! On the other hand, there are a host of notable disasters from this quirky decade. One such product will remain nameless, but is the antithesis to this week's post hero -- home-churned butter! With the advent of shelf-stable vegetable-based substitutes and the vilification of dietary fats in Western culture, for over seventy years butter has been squeezed out of its rightful place as a nutritional staple. However, the tides are turning as trans-fats and processed butter substitutes are being exposed as health threats. Instead, real butter from pastured cows is being recognized as a rich source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), beta-carotene, Omega-3s, selenium, and Vitamins A and E. But it is another member of butter's myriad assets that is currently making nutritional headlines: Vitamin K2. Scientists are finding that K2 in grassfed milk butter is essential for keeping bones healthy and arteries clear from calcification, among many other benefits. How's that for a reversal of the notion that butter clogs the arteries!? As we continue to recover from the many oddities of the 80s, I'm thrilled that butter is back on the menu where it belongs. For a more thorough look at good vs. bad fats and why healthy fat is our friend, see the "Food" tab on my homepage. Also, please read more about Vitamin K2 and its integral role in our diet. Now for the fun part -- the simple steps to making delicious, homemade butter.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I can't help but smirk when I hear the words "simple living" because the phrase and reality are as similar as black and white. When the woodstove won't draw properly, the milk sours before there's time to make yogurt, the weather doesn't cooperate with drying the laundry, and "fast food" must be made from whole food ingredients that act more like Eeyore than Speedy Gonzalez, it can be really difficult to find the "simple" in the life we've chosen. In some respects, there's very little that is actually simple about homesteading...which is why Weldon and I are finding it imperative to follow Simplicity as a guiding light. My husband likes to call it "lazy", I prefer "efficient". With each passing year in our farming and homesteading experience, it seems we aspire to be even "lazier" in our ventures ("more efficient", really). All the while, we remain unwavering in our ideals. With so many worthwhile endeavors to engage in, it's not difficult to recognize the predicament and to concede that perhaps the lazy/efficient way of doing things is the most likely to yield fulfillment and balance in the bigger picture. There's already an element of hard, why make it any harder?
And so, I'm only slightly hesitant to admit that Weldon and I are evolving into lazy (though passionate) gardeners. Why till? Why weed? Why fertilize or spray? Our gardening priorities have become whatever is low-maintenance, high output, and keeps the soil, microbes, plants, and us happy. We both love to grow things, we just don't want to work overly hard at something Nature is pretty adept at doing already. This year, we decided to turn part of our stubby, sandy anti-yard into a few raised beds for cultivating vegetables and herbs. Along with our existing container gardening, we are trying our hand at year-round growing (a la Eliot Coleman's books) and using a methodology called square-foot-gardening (a la Mel Bartholomew's books). Our previous seasons of experience with hay mulching and composting are leading us toward a system that will ideally keep weeds at bay, soil nutrients high, pests to a minimum, and good-eating to the max. Though the forecast this week says it's still winter, Weldon and I spent part of last week renewing our friendship with soil and seeds!
Monday, February 17, 2014
|Note to Weldon...with my lobster magnet|
Formulating our plan for Valentine's Day this year was like trying to choose the captain of a basketball team from a group of computer geeks and art students. Nothing seemed like a good fit for our tight budget and tighter schedule. Although we don't make a huge deal of the day in a conventional roses/dinner/teddy bear sense, we try to pick a fun way to conscientiously celebrate our love. But an all-star option wasn't showing up for this season! Because we rarely ever celebrate on the 14th, last Monday hit like a buzzer on the clock. Time was ticking and the outlook was grim. In reality, the alarm woke us before daylight and we set into our usual routine -- make breakfast, pack lunches, stoke the fire, and get Weldon on the road by 6:30. Somewhere in the middle of all that it struck me that it wasn't just any Monday -- it was February 10th! On that day six years prior, Weldon had taken me on our very first date. As I voiced my happy realization from the kitchen, Weldon appeared holding his blue Irish cable-knit sweater. He'd chosen to wear it for the first time this season as his weapon of choice against the freezing temperatures. Coincidentally, he'd also worn it on our date. (Queue the collective "Awwww" from the audience!) Thus began our Valentine celebrating...a lovely week with a mind all its own.
Friday, February 7, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
The sun shone and the wind was pleasant for the better part of the day yesterday. I ventured out in the yard to hang my laundry and gather kindling before the forecasted rains. The striking contrast to our winter weather was so invigorating that my entire being swelled with the tease of spring. The garden came to mind with my first slow gulp of warm air. Ordinarily, I'd be leaving a layer of outer wear in the house and rolling up my sleeves to get into the dirt on a day like that. But I was distracted...troubled even. As I populated the line with clothespins I thought about people, community, and friendship. Two years ago Weldon introduced me to the mother of two of his high school friends. She lived alone not far from us on a beautiful secluded farm and kept herself busy with livestock and gardening. She heard Weldon had taken the plunge into alternative agriculture and looked him up in search of a few resources. The three of us met at her home for homemade pizza and talked until late in the evening about all things homesteading and farming. We all could tell there was an enjoyable acquaintanceship brewing. A few short months later she called and preemptively asked for some assistance in the coming months -- she had just been diagnosed with late stage cancer. There are many reasons why I've chosen not to clock-in at a conventional career or to structure my life in a "normal" fashion. I just never realized that something like this would be one of them.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Heritage Day is one of my fondest memories from 4th grade. Each student delivered a cultural presentation about one country from their family's ancestry and brought a traditional dish to share. It's no mystery why I would love this day! Beyond the smorgasbord of ethnic fare, I couldn't wait to dress up like a Russian dyevitchka (girl) and recite the dozen Paruski (Russian) words my mother had taught me. As for my culinary offering? She and I made pierogi -- the Russian equivalent of Italian ravioli, Jewish blintzes, Spanish empanadas, and Asian dumplings. Stuffed with cheese, meat, mashed potatoes, or sauerkraut, these tasty demilunes of pasta are a delicious part of my family's past. Recently, I asked my mother to come over and make pierogi with me...an endeavor I don't remember undertaking with her since Heritage Day. Last night, after flour flying, water boiling, and butter sizzling, we sat down to a homemade Russian feast that was ochen horoshaw (very good)!
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Last Tuesday, I sneezed three times. On Wednesday I didn't have enough pep to finish my day’s work. On Thursday it actually hit -- I was drippy, droopy, scratchy, throbby, runny, and moving at a snail’s pace with a box of tissues as my constant companion. I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than an hour at a time and when I closed them to rest, I wouldn't actually sleep because I was so uncomfortable. Ugh. I began to scan my herbal books for some tonics or teas that might boost my immune system, clear my sinuses, and soothe my general feeling of ick. Of course, the kicker was that I had to find recipes with ingredients I already had on hand and that didn't need weeks to steep. I didn't find a cure all, but I did come across some really handy options I intend to share. The chicken soup with homemade broth that I’d coincidentally made earlier in the week was Step 1. Step 2 was a tasty ginger-cinnamon-peppercorn-herb brew that went to work on my nasal passages while I sipped it every few hours. In desperate need of something for my Sahara sore throat, I came across an odd culinary mixture that worked like a charm as long as I gargled with it every hour or so. A Garlic-Onion-Honey rub helped deter the hint of congestion that began settling in my chest. Last, but not least, I sealed my puny visage with chilled "rice" socks: one covering my throbbing eyes and another splayed across my tender shoulders. If I've ever assumed the stance of a femme fatale draped on a quilted couch, it was probably then…minus the makeup and perfect hair.