Springtime in the hills of Missouri


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I really have fallen in love with our new home. We are nestled in the hills just southwest of the city. Our farm sits atop a small hill that backs up to about 500 acres of wooded land. We have multiple streams of varying size on the property. The one behind the house is small, runs when we have heavy rains and happens to be the very best thing a toddler has ever seen. It amazes me how wonderous splashing in water is to an 18 month old. We spend hours trampling through puddles and streams and creeks….and he never tires of it. Next to pudding…it’s the very best thing in his life right now!

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Where there once were two…there are are now three


Angus Karam Lerher arrived on October 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm! He decided to make is appearance one week early and we couldn’t have been more pleased. He is a lovely, happy baby boy. We are truly blessed. Being new parents has been an experience we will never forget. One filled with wonder, sleepless nights, laughs, tears and joyful, quiet moments together. We are looking forward to sharing our life with our son on the farm and much, much more.

Sauce Magazine – From Downtown to Down Home


Sauce Magazine – From Downtown to Down Home.

We were so happy to hear that Sauce Magazine (a local St. Louis food and bev publication) wanted to do a story on our farm adventure! It’s a beautifully written article! I hope you take the time to read it and get to know alittle bit more about how Simon and I came to the decision to move to the farm. I will be writing a monthly blog column for Sauce Magazine, keeping everyone abreast of what is happening down in Bloomsdale!

6 weeks behind…and counting


The torrential rains and flooding along the Mississippi have put this year’s crops back about 6 weeks. We have yet to even till the fields in preparation for this year’s garden. We are hoping that this week’s heat wave will start to dry up the fields enough for us to get a tractor on them to plow. As of right now, our main growing field is home to over a bazillion frogs. The springs overflowed into the pastures, and with it carried God knows how many frog eggs. We then watched them transform into hoards of tadpoles and now they are teenie tiny froggies…just living life in their new spot on the farm. I’m hoping they will all soon find their way back to the spring and free up our planting fields…cause if they don’t they will get smushed by the tractor. There is also quite a good amount of dead fish in the fields now as well…but the turkey vultures (and Sammie the Wonder Dog) are taking care of that problem.

The house is coming along GREAT! We are at the point of putting up sheet rock! And when I say WE…I really mean Simon and my Dad and his buddy Paul. They have done all of the work so far. My father is treating me as if I am the most delicate flower now that we are expecting the little babe.  I’m not allowed to participate in the rehab process. The ONLY thing I have been allowed to do so far is peel wall paper. And that is done. I focus my time on picking out fixtures, cabinet hardware and paint colors. To be honest….I’m not too upset. As this pregnancy progresses, I’m getting more and more limited in what I can do anyway. Bending over pulling nails is rough on this gal…I’m happy to sit this one out. But for the record…my husband is a Saint.

We have been taking as many photos as we can remember to take…one day, I’ll post them here. Until then…just know that we are on the road to farm life! We should be living there within the month…if all goes smoothly.

And if you happen to come across the June issue of Sauce Magazine…open it up…you will find a lovely article on how Simon and  I met, fell in love and decided to move to a farm!

THE DECK!……almost.


Simon made crazy progress on the deck this week! Old deck down…new girders up. We have decided to go with composite for the deck instead of treated wood. It took some time to decide on what type of material we would use for the deck but we ended up deciding on composite. We have a good number of trees surrounding the house and given the shape the original deck was in, we needed something that was durable and could be washed easily. Lots of birds and sap….need I say more?

So, here are some pictures of the progress. The farmhouse has been cleared of most of its contents. The dumpster is on it’s way next week….and the bathroom is next on our list. Should be awesome! Continue reading

Burning down the house!


JUST KIDDING! That is not even our farmhouse, don’t worry….BUT we are officially starting the demolition process on the farmhouse. And by WE…I mean Simon. He was able to remove the back deck that spanned the length of the farmhouse yesterday! He’s my hero. We will be able to reclaim the wood for use on the chicken coops. It looks like when the deck was built, they used lumber from the property. It’s untreated and that makes me feel better about building with it. While it was unsafe for us to walk on, we think it is plenty sturdy enough to build the coops from. I don’t have any pictures to share right now but Simon and my Dad are at the farm as I type this post snapping photos of the ‘before’ ….we hope to take some ‘after; photos of the deck next week.  It was imperative that we get the deck done first as we can use it as a workspace when we demo the interior of the farmhouse. The farmhouse is only 1000 square feet…but with the huge deck we have a great workspace while we tackle the interior.

So fingers crossed! Life will soon get crazy busy and super fun!!!!!!!!!! Photos soon, I promise!

Oh, and one more thing. The cows are having babies! All this week, Simon has been part of some births and saved a calf when it got stuck in the spring. Of course, I missed all the fun. I love baby cows. The cows currently on pasture belong to Dan the Farmer. He rents some pasture we are not using for the time being. It’s nice to have animals out there even though we aren’t living there full time. Just proves to us that the farm is a great place to raise animals.

We’ve yet to pick a name for the farm. Still accepting suggestions! Don’t be shy!

All Things are coming up Sheepy!


**cross-posted at Menuism

I have a secret to share. It’s not terribly juicy but it does often surprise most folks. So here it goes: You eat more sheep’s milk cheese than you think. It’s true. A good number of folks have no idea how often sheep’s milk cheeses find their way onto their plate. Have you ever stopped into your local Italian specialty market to pick up ricotta for your lasagna? If you have, you’ve had sheep’s milk cheese. Same goes for pecorino Romano—that’s a sheepy cheese as well. The Italian word for sheep is pecora. Continue reading

Rendering beef fat to soothe the sad heart


If you follow me on Twitter, you most likely are aware that my Grandmother died on Christmas Eve. She was 100 years old and the most magnificent woman in the world. And that is not an exaggeration. She was truly amazing. She was the first person I remember telling me how important it was to get an education and engage in a fulfilling career. She was the person who taught me to cook, taught me to pray and taught me to be proud of my Lebanese heritage. She taught me to be progressive, never stagnant. Despite her age, she never rested on her laurels. Always moving with the times, trying new thing and embracing change….all the while holding on to her faith, heritage and traditions passed down from her parents. She was the youngest of four sisters, daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a pioneer in this city. She and two of her sisters owned and operated a restaurant and tavern in North St. Louis at a time where not only women didn’t own business but rarely worked and had just earned the right to vote. She was generous and philanthropic, continually giving to charities close to her heart such as St. Jude’s Hospital and American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. She was a devout Maronite Catholic and a champion for her parish, St. Raymond’s Church. But above all, she was most proud of her family and harbored a love for us that saw no end. It was a love that I will cherish until the day I die…and one that I hope to shower upon my children and grandchildren someday. Continue reading

Baa Baa Black Sheep….


Well, things are still moving along with the farm, albeit in slow motion. This cold, snowy winter has put the kibosh on any farmhouse remodeling until the spring thaw. All of the technical/legal stuff that goes along with this farm is on track. Life is busy for us right now, that if for sure. Continue reading

American Artisan Cheese is back with a vengance!


**cross posted at Menuism

The United States is embarking on a revival of the craft of artisan cheesemaking. Over the past several years, American-made artisanal cheese has won back its place in the hearts of the people. Artisanal cheese can be found once again in cases at wine shops, specialty stores and at farmers’ markets. According to the American Cheese Society, there has been astounding growth in membership as well as the number and variety of American artisanal cheeses entered in its annual competition.

Some folks may dare to say that American artisanal cheese may rival those European classics that have long been thought of as the best of the best. It cannot be denied that American artisanal cheesemakers are becoming well known across the country. With the advent of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and cheese periodicals like Culture, American cheesemakers and cheesemongers are winning over America’s food enthusiasts.
Continue reading

Buring down the house!


I kid…we didn’t burn down the farmhouse. But Simon did paint it…and it looks amazing. The above picture is not the farmhouse. Its a barn in Perryville, MO. I just though it was pretty and took a picture fo fit.

It’s crazy what a fresh coat of paint can do for a house. Next up is the demolition of the deck. I’m actually scared to walk on it…it has seen better days. The new deck needs to be up before we start the demo of the interior of the house so we will have a work space outside the house. It’s only a 900 square foot house. That seems very small to me. Well, mostly because it is small…but I keep telling myself I will do better with getting rid of some of the extraneous junk in my life. There is no need for two televisions. I need to thin down my closet. So…we will see how that works out.

Phase I of animal procurement with be chickens. We are doing all of our homework and trying to figure out where we want to put the coops. Our goal is to have about 200 chickens…all free range of course. There is a great stretch of pasture with some woods along the north boundary that we are thinking would be great for them. If we get the chicks in March we could possibly have some eggs by late summer.

Then the sheep, followed by cows and hogs.

I’m so excited.

7 Tips for Assembling a Basic Cheese Board


***Cross-posted at Menuism

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” I couldn’t agree more! Ending a meal with cheese is a lovely substitution (or addition) to the dessert course.

I’ll discuss some general guidelines, but first, know that the “rules” of assembling a cheese board are so subjective. You gotta do what you feel! My favorite boards highlight the different kinds of milk used to make cheese. Assembling any type of cheese board, however, is a great opportunity to introduce something new to family and friends—especially the unadventurous eaters.

Where Do I Start?

A cheese plate should be diverse, but you don’t need more than a few options. When formulating your cheese board, consider factors like the style of cheese, milk source, appearance and flavor profile. There are a bajillion ways you can go about this. One suggestion: I often stick to the triumvirate of offering a blue cheese, a hard cheese and a soft cheese. On the other hand, I also like to offer three cheeses of the same type; for example, three bloomy rind cheeses from different cheesemakers. Either way allows for a wide variety and you’ll be sure to please everyone with one of your selections.

Another approach is to stick with cheeses from a particular country. If you are having a tapas party, showcase Spanish cheeses like San Simon, manchego and Idiazabal. All three are from Spain and range from light to full-bodied. France, America, Spain and the UK all have crazy-good cheeses to choose from. The diversity within each country is broad and can make for a delicious cheese board. On the other hand, you could be a total rebel and choose different cheeses from different countries—kind of like the United Nations on a plate!

One thing is for sure: you must try the cheese you are going to serve. Any reputable cheesemonger will be more than happy to serve you up a taste. If he or she doesn’t offer you samples or refuses your request, turn on your heel and march out the door. And vow never to return.

How Much Should I Buy?

Another big question is how much cheese to buy. I go with the general rule of buying two ounces per person. Some folks eat more, some eat less, but it should even out in the end. If you are going to serve other nibbles (e.g, olives, dried fruit or chocolate) with the cheese, you might not need as much. But remember, with the leftover cheese you can always make Fromage Fort!

7 Tips for a Great Cheese Board

Here are the nuts and bolts of a fancy-schmancy cheese board. To get started:

1. Use a wooden cutting board or a marble cheese platter. Both make a good cutting surface and are pleasing to the eye.

2. Use separate cheese knives for each cheese. You don’t want to mix the flavors.

3. Allow the cheese to come to room temperature before serving your guests. Cold temperatures mute the flavors of the cheese. You spent good money on this stuff; you want to do it right.

4. Keep the board limited to three to five cheeses. Unless you are feeding 50 people, three cheeses is enough to enjoy. More than five and your guests may lose track of what’s what.

5. If you don’t have the time to discuss each cheese to each guest, label them. A simple white card with the cheese’s name, milk source and country of origin will do. You can also tuck the cheese label next to the cheese if you happen to have it. Very clever.

6. Serve cheese with water crackers, sliced baguette or any type of plain cracker. It allows the flavor of the cheeses to be in the forefront. You don’t want a garlic-and-herb cracker overshadowing your delicate triple crème brie.

7. Dried fruit, olives, chutneys, berries, almonds and sliced apples or pears accompany cheese very well. They work as a palate cleanser between cheeses, and  also taste really good with cheese. It’s a win-win.

When in doubt, call upon your cheesemonger. He or she can always suggest cheeses for your board. It’s what they love to do! Just remember to eat what you like, don’t be afraid to try new things and share your love of cheese with your family and friends!