Tuesday, March 4, 2014

daily photo | seedlings germinate

Happy March!...March, the month of Spring—however figuratively we must take that notion. Though it does feel like we are on the downhill slide of winter as our freshly-sown trays of seeds have been germinating into happy signs of veggies to come. The grow shelves and lighting are up and already house several flats of onions, shallots, leeks and herbs. We sowed flats of everything from broccoli and Brussels sprouts to peppers and tomatoes this past weekend, so even though it is in the single digits outside, we're thinking Spring! Hope you are too!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

raising chickens | flock thriving in cold winters

baby it's cold outside...I think the poor hens are more ready for Spring than we are. We're back in a two week stretch of frigid temperatures. This morning's thermometer reading at the bus stop was 1ºF. The ol' Farmer's Almanac was right once again with their prediction that this winter was going to be bitterly cold with a whole lot of snow. And our hens, well, they are no fans of the snow.

As we head into our fifth year of raising chickens, we take thanks in the fact that after all of these years, and these ever-so-cold Maine winters, we have been able to have a thriving, healthy flock. Mind you, we baby our hens throughout the winter with heat lamps, regulated daylight lamps, freshly-popped popcorn and snow blown paths to frolic in. But in return, they have keep us in a constant supply of enough eggs that we have some left over to share or sell. Without this bit of extra pampering and the shorten days of light, the hens' egg production will drop off dramatically.

Soon enough, said optimistically, the snow will melt and once again our hens can go about free range throughout our woods. Though, ever since the pit bull incident of two years ago (some stray pit bull vs. hen...it was Mutual of Omaha's Wildlife Kingdom coming to life right before my horrified eyes! Happy ending though, the hen escaped twice from the dog's jaws and hid under our car until we could get to it. That hen is now called Houdini!), we do have to keep a pretty close eye on them. 

Within the next two or so weeks, we'll have to decide if we want to add another flock into the mix. We're currently at 15 hens, so we don't need more, but knowing us, we'll probably get another flock. We also raised six turkeys last year, so we're also wrangling over whether to do more or less of those as well this year. And, we've been considering adding a few meat birds into the mix. E-I-E-I-O!

If you are considering raising hens, I definitely encourage you to give it a go. The chickens have been a fabulous addition to our lifestyle. And I can't even begin to tell you how cool it is to need an egg and simply walk outside to the coop and grab one. We were on the fence for years before we finally jumped in, but looking back, there was no reason to wait. So get cluckin'!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

living | tapping the maples

the sweet life...I'd like to try to ignore the fact that it has been almost a full year since I last posted. In all honestly, it was a purposeful omission. My quest throughout the past months has been one where I try my best to be present. I took a much needed break from the mania of multitasking every five seconds. Sure, as a working mom, multitasking will always be a necessary evil, but I took a hold of the reigns and put down the never-ending juggle of my camera, notebook, and iPad and turned all my focus into whatever task at hand I was doing. It's been incredibly peaceful to simply immerse yourself and 100% of your focus into something. The downside? Well, I miss having my records and journals to refer back to, so crossing the ol' fingers to try to find a new balance between the zen and the mania.

It's been a very long, cold winter here in Maine. I don't think many states escaped the harshness of Mother Nature this season. And though we are buried under a few feet of snow with no hope for melting in sight, there are signs popping up that Spring may soon come once again. 

Without fail, the true harbinger of spring began its siren call in the warmer temperatures of this past weekend...the sap started running! It's become a big celebration in our house to set the first taps in the sugar maples. The boys included, we each get a go at tapping one of the trees and setting the buckets. A small glass of the first ounces of sap are collected and passed around for us each to sip and take delight in the crisp, subtle, caramel sweetness. 

Alas, we knew that our sap run was going to be stopped almost as soon as it started. The warm days and cold nights over the weekend, which coaxed the sap to run in the gallons, quickly froze up solid in Monday's frigid reality. The rest of this week is suppose to continue to be below freezing, so we probably won't see it run again until next week. But just the mere excitement to simply tap a tree, gives us such great hope that this winter will eventually come to an end and the woods will spring  once more into life. Cheers!

Monday, April 1, 2013

daily photo | mud season in maine

Happy April!...And welcome to the official start of mud season! I'm thinking that these boots will be my only footware for the foreseeable future. 
It is so incredible to see our woods start to come alive. We spotted our first bee the other day. Songbirds are a flutter and everywhere you look you'll spot a bird busily building a nest. Chipmunks and squirrels are running amok. And soon, the much anticipated peeper chorus will erupt. I'm beyond thrilled to be back out in the garden. Sure, it is still half covered in snow, but that is not stopping me from prepping for the upcoming growing season. I can't wait!
Cheers to a wonderful spring!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

recipe | cranberry cacao granola muesli

soul satisfying granola...Chocked full of all good things, I've always been a fan of granola. Growing up, I remember the Nature Valley Oats 'N Honey cereal box was always my go-to when we got to take our pick of cereals during our Sunday trip to the market. Back then, granola was something you bought, you certainly didn't think to make it yourself. 

At least, that was what I thought until a trip to an English village changed my mind. My mother and I stayed at an inn in Stratford-upon-Avon for a few days and each morning we feasted on big bowls of homemade muesli. I'd never heard of muesli before that trip, but basically interpreted it as loose granola in that all the ingredients were not in jaw-breaker-like clumps, but rather a mixture of individual ingredients. It was incredible, and so pleasingly simple.

Over the years, I've dabbled in a few different granola recipes. All with pretty okay success...honestly, it's fairly impossible to make a bad batch of granola. But, I think I may have stumbled across my favorite granola recipe ever. I had to wing in a few ingredient substitutions, but I think that may have serendipitously been the secret to my success. 

This recipe's texture is much more on the muesli side, but you can control how much clumping you'd like by adding in more or less honey and being a little gentler when you toss the granola around during cooking...I did not flip my batch around with kid-gloves.

Feel free to make substitutions where you'd like. I just suggest that you substitute like items for like items (ie. almonds for walnuts, sunflower or flax seed for chia seed, oat bran for wheat germ, raisins for cranberries). One of the ingredients is a little harder to find in some stores...cacao nibs are basically raw cacao beans (the bean that is at the heart of quality chocolate). They are high in antioxidants and magnesium. Some folks say they are good right out of the bag, but frankly, I don't quite agree and recommend using them in baked items. They can be easily omitted in this recipe, though I do think they might have been the touch that made this batch so yummy, especially when paired with the cranberries.

Cranberry and Cacao Granola
Serves 15

4 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup wheat germ

3/4 cup oat bran
1/3 cup cacao nibs
2/3 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds or flax meal

1 cup chopped walnuts 

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 T maple syrup

1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp ceylon cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract 

1 cup dried cranberries 

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Line baking sheet with foil or parchment.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, cacao nibs, chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts and set aside. 

In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla and bring mixture to a boil. Pour mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well. Spread the mixture out evenly on baking sheet. 

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until mixture is light golden brown and crispy. Make sure to stir mixture two times during cooking. 

Cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Add in dried cranberries and mix. Store in an airtight container.

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