Thursday, April 28, 2011

Appliance karma continues

With a much appreciated exception in the vaccuum department, it's good to know that all is still right with my universe. In the brief months we call 2011, I've had brand-new-dishwasher woes, tossed into the garbage the coffee maker Santa brought us for Christmas, and am currently enjoying our new toaster.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tough day to be a chicken

Back to our regularly-scheduled PNW spring weather after a truly glorious weekend. With a sick kid lying in the next room, I watch our poor hens scurry out from under one shelter or another for a quick bite before diving under cover once again.

Some days it's especially good to be a human with a refrigerator.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Snax with friends

What is it about a sunny day and the end of the week that just screams "share this moment with friends!"? Dunno.

But we did, and we're glad. Today was a triple, maybe quadruple wammy, with Earth Day, Good Friday, the first truly brilliantly sunny day we can remember, and of course, the surprise appearance of our newest addition. (Mama and young one doing great so far, by the way)


So how to improve on perfection? Make sure you spread the day far and wide across those you know and love. Luckily, our pals Judith and Terry were game to nibble our weekly pedestrian Friday Pizza and Movie night fare of clumsy sort of homemade pizza and admittedly yummy Cioppino concocted last night - so no one went hungry and all got to bask in the warmth of a true spring day while our boys attempted to stump the grown-ups on riddles (easily accomplished) and outdo each other on the silliness scale (no comment).

But, most of all we shared stories of the day, the week, and the times. And celebrated our friendship with a little wine and a fair amount of mediocre but at least honest and handmade food.

The perfect ending to the perfect day. I thank the universe for friends that are willing to drop by and settle in when the moment calls.

You're the best.

Happy Earth Day, Happy Easter

Death, birth, renewal. Where there is sadness, joy. Where there is grief, life.

A surprise lamb, come what seems a whole month early - but healthy and beautiful.

Just this moment, right now. It's all perfect.

On this Earth Day, this Good Friday, this prelude to Easter, we are blessed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good-bye, Blackberry

Our whole family knows better than to get attached to the livestock - especially after the losses of the past couple years. But, discovering our "leader" sheep - matriarch of the flock and hand-tamed - had died yesterday afternoon came as a blow to us all. She was fine, and then she was gone.

Pictured above almost a year ago to the day, Blackberry feasting after giving birth to her last lamb.

Good-bye mama.


Still talking about the weather

I can't seem to bring myself to rein in the weather blabber. Dylan and I are hunkered down in our respective cozy places this afternoon while the gray skies cry.

But, yesterday. Y
esterday! O blessed yellow orb - we basked in your glow for a second straight uninterrupted day in a row! I think I even got a little sunburned. Felt great.

Just a couple days of Vitamin D and happiness shining down on us and ours, and the spring blues crawl back under the couch to
join the dust bunnies again for a while. Plus, after a day in the garden, I can gaze from the warmth of my couch and see today's showers as the life-giving force they are, envisioning my little starts drinking in their first sips from nature's hose.

Grow little guy, grow!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The daring heroism of...Kraft?

A couple of years ago, the US Supreme Court decided that corporations could in many respects enjoy the same legal privileges as United States citizens. The most important part of that decision was that it opened the door for corporations to funnel essentially unlimited money into our elections...anonymously.

It took but a single ele
ction cycle to illustrate what unlimited corporate money in the political process would wrought. Completely unqualified candidates, plucked out of nowhere, to run on radical agendas with corporate-financed and polished messages, while career public servants who've served the interests of the American people on both sides of the aisle found themselves underfunded and out of luck.

And just hours ago, the US government shutdown held hostage by these newly-elected extremists was narrowly averted. For now

But the other day, I discovered perhaps a less disheartening but more curious consequence of the Court's Citizen's United ruling: The rise of the corporate biography.

Now, maybe this exciting genre of literary journalism has always been around and it's just never caught my eye before. But, within the span of a few days, I was confronted with 2 thrilling tales of the little companies that could - and did - against all odds. I am preparing my heart to be warmed.

Last week, my son filmed a project at Seattle's Museum of Flight. We decided to join and as a part of membership packet were handed Character and Characters: The Spirit of Alaska Airlines.

Yesterday, I stopped
in at my favorite Starbucks only to discover that our homegrown coffee monolith, too, has a poignant tale of rags to riches to share with us. CEO Howard Shultz offers us Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.

Don't get me wrong - I'm sure both AA and Starbucks have fascinating histories - there is a pioneer spirit here in the upper left hand corner that persists even today and permeates our culture. Neither transforming a small wilderness plane operation into a successful and fiercely brand loyal airline nor convincing the entire globe that they simply are not paying enough for their morning cup of coffee are not inconsequential feats.

But I recall the day, not too far in the distant past, when we cozied up with a good book about Teddy Roosevelt, Lewis & Clark, or Amelia Earhart. Often, people did heroic - or insane - things because the commercial interests at the time paid them to do it. But, the story - the story was about the person, or people, and the funding context was secondary, at best. It's a little tough for me to get my hero worship in full swing for Starbucks. Still...

Maybe there's something in here for me after all...

Stop Sign Farm Inc: Changing The World One Egg At A Time

Hello - Random House?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Half minute of puppy zen

Jasmine teaches the old man how to play. Note how Jessie has developed an energy-saving technique.

Spring break break

On this Friday of spring break, the day opens with clear skies. The weather gods insist we had better enjoy it - this sunny day does not travel in packs. It's a loner, wafting briefly into our soggy lives before visiting some other, more deserving place.

But, we're going to make the most of it! Our little starts can turn their faces to the sun while the mush around them dries out a little, our greenhouse will be toasty and humid, making for happy tomato babies, and this mama is taking her boy and his bud kayaking at fabulous Dockton Park, complete with picnic blankies and snacks for the moms.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chase the blues away chowder

It's been said that there's no use complaining about the weather because you can't do anything about it. Well, we do plenty of whining around here, but I do disagree with that basic tenet. You can do something about the weather - you can cook up something that makes you feel warm and toasty and thoroughly loved inside.

And you can share it with your friends and family and help them to feel loved inside too.

I developed this luxurious chowder earlier this year. It marries the rich satisfaction of comfort food with ingredients that signal the first glimmers of Spring, so it's a perfect choice for cold, rainy March or April nights. Because it makes a big enough batch for sharing, the cream and bacon are spread pretty thin, allowing the fresh, healthful ingredients to shine.


Winter into Spring Tilapia Chowder with Crispy Asparagus

This satisfying chowder is perfect for those early spring weeknights when fresh local asparagus starts showing up at farmers markets but the evenings still hold a chill.

Makes 10 – 12 hearty servings


2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions
½ lb thick-cut pepper bacon
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 Cups fish or seafood stock
4-5 medium Yukon gold or other thin-skinned potatoes
2-3 Cups fresh or frozen peas
¼ Cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
I bunch asparagus
6-8 Tilapia fillets (roughly 3 lbs total)
water as needed
1.5 – 2 C heavy cream
1-2 large lemons


Preheat broiler.

Chop onions into medium dice. In a large stockpot, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until warm and add the onions. While onions cook, chop the bacon and sauté it in a small pan until just cooked but not crispy, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add ½ the bacon and 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat into the stockpot. Return the remaining bacon to medium heat and finish cooking until crispy, about 3-4 more minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Cut potatoes into 1/3-inch slices. When onions are soft, strip thyme leaves into onion and oil mixture, stir, then add the seafood or fish stock. Turn heat up to medium-high and gently add the potatoes, peas, and parsley. Season with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Allow soup to cook at a simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut each fish fillet into halves or thirds.

Cut the tough ends of the asparagus off, leaving 3-inch spears. Spread these onto a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle a teaspoon of coarse salt over them. Zest the lemons and sprinkle 1/3 of the zest over spears, reserving the rest. Squeeze half of one lemon over the spears. While the soup is simmering, broil the asparagus until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove the asparagus from the broiler and set aside.

Using a hand blender, roughly puree the soup until many of the potatoes have been mashed, but some pieces still remain. Add the fish pieces and cook for 5 minutes on medium-high. Turn burner off and add the cream. Stir to blend and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

When ready to serve, spoon chowder, with 2-3 pieces of fish, into each bowl. Top each serving with 3-4 asparagus spears, a few pieces of bacon, and a pinch of lemon zest.

Enjoy with crusty bread, a simple salad, and a New Zealand or Washington Sauvignon Blanc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Later that same day...

'Nuf said.

Jasmine tries on her first hail and gives her verdict....

Ah, Spring. We know you're out there.

On the bright side, although no photographic evidence documents the occasion, there was actually a bright burst of warm sunshine during which my pals Shelley and Judith came over and together the three of us and Tiffany busted out an hour or two of solid greenhouse work, making tomato seedlings happy, and planted out the rest of my cool weather greens - not to mention (which I must) - Judith's usual cool as a cucumber / steady as she goes clean up job. Before I know it, I look up from my spindly mustard starts to find all is organized and happy in my entropy-prone veggie patch.

Thanks gal pals! Next Hail Day it's my turn to be garden helper!

And now it's 7PM and the 3rd hail storm of the day is bringing us its April joy.

Ah, Spring.

Spring! Spring?

Well, it doesn't much feel like the way we wish for Spring to feel; there's no denying that March blew in like a lion and felt no need to tiptoe quietly into April on little lamb hooves. The winds howl nightly and the rains...the rains. The rains are our constant cloying companion, the little sister who follows us everywhere and insists on being a part of everything we try to do.

But, we determined Northwe
sterners stomp, often sullenly, through our Spring days, peering at our 10-day forecasts to watch the temperature inch up and talking non-stop about the weather with anyone who will listen. Family. Friends. The mail carrier. Cashier. Fellow bus-stop waiter. The unsuspecting visitor searching for directions. If you visit the Northwest in a Spring like ours, don't stop in any one place for too long - not only will moss seep into your shoes, but Endless Rain Syndrome will surely pour into your ears.

Still, here on the farm, we appear to be dangerously close to getting our act together this Spring. Between the sanctuary we call the greenhouse and the godsend we call Tiffany the Amazing Farmhand, putting one foot in front of the other finally appears within our grasp. Baby plants are reaching for the soft diffused greenhouse light, our planting beds are turned, covered, and ready for that magical moment when the threat of hail passes, our ewes are growing new life, and our sturdy hens are persistently leaving us the most beautiful eggs our neighbors have ever seen. Soon the new flock that came into this world in the dead of winter will be adding to the dozens of eggs we can stack in the farm stand.

And, of course, we added a puppy.

Take that, Spring!

This year, despite the roar outside, another kind of Spring is upon us - our baby boy officially enters into adolescence (is it an omen that I had to type that word 3X before I got it right? I hope not.) When you're the parent of young children, the teenage years, I think fairly universally, cast a cloud of dread and fear across the sparkles in your new-parent eyes. But, of course, as you walk each day beside your child, the myths and blanket expectations fall away to the reality of your specific offspring, and the door that you thought would say "Teen" gives way to the path of just growing up day by day.

And so it is that
we find ourselves with a newly-minted teen. Not a scowling, sullen stereotype that mumbles through the hidden blare of his iPod, but still the helpful conversationalist who insists on baking his own birthday cookies and laughs from his belly when he wrestles with his new pup. But, now, too, a person for whom creativity and imagination have the opportunity to come forward in real world applications. A person who can turn what's in his head into a YouTube video. A person whose decisions have consequences beyond a time out or a serious Family Discussion. And, yes, a person with highs and lows that sometimes leave us helpless.

A person who is leaving the child behind and turning into a full-fledged individual right before our very eyes.

While the tomatoes sprout in the greenhouse and the peas turn into shoots in the garden, while the puppy morphs from fluffball into lanky playmate and the young hens discover their own miraculous ability to produce life each day, I thank the universe for the gift of walking beside this unique and gifted teenager as he is born into his next adventure.

Spring? Spring.