The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…


**originally posted in Sauce Magazine

If you asked us last year where we thought we would be this spring, our answer would’ve included sheep and pigs. However, as some of you may well know, starting a small business – especially one that relies on nature – can be quite the changing game. Throw in having to take the farmhouse down to studs and having a baby, and, well, you can quite certainly place our lives in the “too busy to sleep” category.

Last season, spring’s torrential rains thwarted planting, and we were late getting the plants in the ground. Thus, we ended up only doing a small plot of tomatoes and vegetables for friends and family. We had big hopes for this planting season – along with the hope of having sheep grazing on the pastures by now and heritage-breed hogs clearing the oak groves of all the acorns they could find. Sadly, we are not where we thought we would be. The issue of pasture erosion has reared its ugly head. Along with our partners, we decided to forgo sheep and hogs this season and bring in some professional help to give us a hand with the erosion in the pastures and planting fields. Are we sad? Yes. But what’s the point of trying to create a sustainable farm if we just harm the land with our plans to have animals grazing it? So, for the moment, things are on hold.

But not all plans were a bust! With the bad often comes the good, and I’m happy to say that our pasture-raised hens and turkeys are thriving. We are now in full egg-laying mode, and both the turkeys and chickens are producing a bounty of eggs! We get upwards of three dozen fresh chicken eggs a day along with four turkey eggs.

The chicken eggs arrive in beautiful shades of blue, green, brown and white. (That is the great thing about raising Ameraucunas; the eggs come pre-colored for Easter!) The turkey eggs are larger than chicken eggs – tan with delicate, brown speckles. We do have both a rooster and a tom (male turkey) out on the pasture with the hens.

One of the turkeys has gone broody on a nest of eggs, meaning she has decided to rest on top of the eggs, keeping them warm in order for them to hatch. Fingers crossed that we will soon have some baby turkeys to put in the brooder, a heated enclosure to keep the chicks safe and warm once they are free from their shell. Our hopes are to have enough turkey production this spring and summer to supply our friends and family with delicious, free-range heritage breed turkeys this upcoming holiday season. We also hope that the rooster plays his part and that we can begin to increase our chicken production as well, as we are starting the plans for raising some chickens for meat production. As you can see, things are getting pretty exciting on the bird front.

Because of the issues in the pastures and planting fields, our garden will again only be large enough to supply our family and friends with its bounty. We were hoping to have things further along at this point, but as we are coming to find out, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men often go awry! This journey has proved to be a wonderful learning experience. Not a day goes by where we don’t find out something new about farming as well as raising chickens, turkeys and children. We continue to learn the business of starting a business and all of the ups and down associated with life on a farm. With spring comes a gentle sense of renewal. We look forward to the future and continue to work towards our family’s goal of having a sustainable farm to feed and nurture our family, friends and community. We continue to be thankful for the bounty the land has already provided both our birds and us.

Life flies by quickly when you are having fun on a farm…


Whew…I can’t believe it’s been almost 4 months since Angus arrived. Life has been nothing less than hectic and wonderful. The farm is coming along. We’ve run into some issues with the pastures that were meant to hold the sheep…they seem to be eroding due to the big spring storms of 2011…so getting sheep has been put on hold…which in turn puts our cheesemaking adventure at least a year behind. But don’t fret…we are still keeping busy. The chickens are due to start laying any day now…and the turkeys are getting to know their new Tom…so hopefully we will have free range Royal Palms to sell to friends/family come the holidays.

Simon has also decided he would like to raise rabbits…so we are doing our research on that….the gardens are being planned….putting up a hoop house this year to start seeds early and extend the growing season. I have plans for a HUGE herb garden close to the farmhouse that I’m really excited about…

All the while…Angus just keeps growing and growing…..

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.

I never knew life could be this busy….and yet….


…come November it will get even busier with the arrival of the Baby Cheese. That is what he’s been dubbed by some friends…Baby Cheese. Too cute, huh?!? Life on the farm is amazing…and difficult and exciting and scary all at once. This city girl is learning how to live in rural Missouri..slowly but surely. The weather finally broke and it looks as is Fall is finally here. Evenings spent on the back porch..watching the fire and hot cups of tea is how we’ve been ending our days this week. Morris the Cat and Sammie the Wonder Dog have learned to live in peace and harmony for the time being, so that makes for a happy family.

The house is starting to look like a home…we are getting there. The kitchen is almost finished. Just putting the base boards and crown molding up. The interior of the farmhouse has been painted. Just need to do something with the living room/dining room floor…hang the roman shades…and a few other cosmetic touches…and before you know it…voila…a cute little farmhouse. We haven’t started on Baby Cheese’s room yet. It has been demo’d…but as he will most likely be co-sleeping with us for the first couple months…we decicded to focus on the main living areas for now.

Chickens arrive in two weeks. The bull has been here for a little over two weeks. All I ever do is see him eat…I hope he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. . Maybe he’s just a private bull…

A flock of turkeys has taken to the east pastures. About 20 or so. If you’ve never seen a turkey alive…running in a field…let me just say that they are not small…by any means. They are big ass birds.

The Pawpaw’s are bearing fruit. Looking forward to trying my first pawpaw in a couple weeks….if the animals don’t get them first.

Not everything is coming up roses…don’t let me mislead you. This is a real farm..in the middle of 500 acres. With all sorts of critters….and one of those said critters appreared to have died underneath the house…somewhere that we can’t find it. But rest assured…we SMELL IT! Luckily it’s in the bathroom only. The bathroom was added onto the house well after it was built…and it was put onto a solid foundation..not a crawlspace foundation…so more than likely something got in between the wall…and couldn’t get out. I am thinking mouse…or mice. Nevertheless, it makes for a very unpleasant shower. It is getting better…slowly but surely. The other thing that kinda freaks this city girl out is the sheer quantity of Daddy Longlegs. Also known as Pholcidae. They FREAK ME OUT! And the love living on our farm…and the back porch..and the front porch…and everywhere else. There are also a ton of Harvestmen, aka Opiliones. They are also called Daddy Longlegs in our area. I’m not ashamed to admit it…they are creepy…and crawly and I don’t want them on me…but…I’m getting used to them. Some say they are a sign of a good ecosystem…which is awesome…just don’t fall on my head when I walk out the front door. .

Stay tuned for more fun fact from the farm!

Drink beer this weekend


Go to the Brewer’s Heritage Festival….happening in Forest Park.

Drink beer for this pregnant gal….commiserate with other beer lovers and brewers.

Click here for more info: St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival

There will be awesome people there and awesome beer and tasty food.

Do it.

idyllic dreamhouse


Since we have a itsy bitsy farmhouse to renovate..or should I say ‘update’, I have been scouring cottage living magazines and design blogs. I even have a friend searching for my perfect modern kitchen online. From time to time, I come across something that is PERFECT for the farmhouse. Today is one of those times. Behold…I give you indoor sheep!

Above: Photo via the Living Agency.

 

Lebanese Meatballs over Rice. AKA: Kafta ‘qrass bi saalsit el banadoura


**cross posted at www.foodblogmafia.com

1lb minced beef

1 med/lg onion diced

1 cup spinach; stems trimmed and chopped

Salt

Pepper

Red pepper flakes

Cumin

Dried mint

1 egg

¼ cup plain bread crumbs or 2 slices bread soaked in milk

Olive Oil/butter

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup beef stock

 

In heavy bottomed large pot, add olive oil and butter to coat the bottom. Season with salt pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin and mint to taste. Brown onions on med/low heat until carmelized and sweet.  I would say it’s about 1 tsp cumin and 1 tablespoon mint. Add spinach and cook down. Move to bowl to cool. When onion spinach mixture cool..add to minced beef. Add egg and bread crumbs. Season again with salt, pepper, mint, cumin and red pepper flakes to desired flavor. Should be fragrant. Do not over mix. Form into small meatballs and brown in same pot. The meatballs are very loose…handle with care.  Will most likely have to brown them in batches. When all meatballs are browned….remove from pot. Add tomato paste and deglaze pot with beef stock. Add stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Then add one can of water to thin out sauce a bit. Add meatballs and finish cooking them in the tomato sauce. After about 30 minutes…check for seasoning. You might need to add more salt/pepper and mint. The Lebanese love mint.  Simmer another 30 minutes or so. Serve over Lebanese rice.  Here is that recipe:

 

  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1/2 cup vermicelli, broken to small pieces (we used orzo last night)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Brown vermicelli in butter in large pan. Add rice and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and rice is tender.

I love this stuff.  It is my go to comfort food…paired with Lebanese bread and butter and side of tabouli…I’m in heaven.

Culture Magazine


Cheese has always been something MOST Americans have taken for granted. Cheese played an insignificant role in most American families….limiting their exposure to what they found in their neighborhood megamart.  Not anymore….American are not only eating more cheese than ever these days…they are choosing artisan cheeses made my American dairies and creameries.

A new quarterly periodical, Culture Magazine is taking amazing strides to educate us on all things cheese!  Focusing on American cheesemakers, mongers and lovers….a subscription to Culture is the PERFECT gift for the food enthusiast you put up with!

The School of Artisan Food


I have been wanting to mention this amazing place for awhile now.  As you all know…graduate studies have put a damper on my posting…but this needs to be shared!  The School of Artisan Food in North Nottinghamshire….in the Sherwood Forest….THE REAL SHERWOOD FOREST….in the UK.  I hold dreams of taking classes there in 2010…..let’s hope that dream comes true.  But I hope my UK friends get a chance to get there and enjoy!

The School of Artisan Food

 

Baking, brewing…cooking, dairy….butchering….pickling and preserving….I AM IN HEAVEN!!!!  Why does all the good stuff open across the pond???  We need a US School of Artisan Food…..maybe they will open one here….but to be honest…I don’t mind the travel required….

Check them out!!

Full Moon Feast


Simon and I were invited to attend an installation of Full Moon Foodies Dinner.  Full Moon Foodies is a monthly late-night dinner event hosted by Wes Johnson, Chef de Cuisine and Brendan Noonan, Executive Sous Chef at Eclipse in the Moonrise Hotel.  Each month, a melange of St. Louis food enthusiasts and culinary professionals are invited to partake in a themed meal on the night of the full moon.  This month’s full moon landed on a Friday night and a vegetarian feast was on the books.

Dinner guests included a who’s who of the St. Louis’ professional  food-writing community, chefs and local food enthusiasts, including Mathew Rice, Sara White, April Seager and my new friend Gilberto Pinela.  Our evening began with cocktails at the bar.  Packed in on the ground level of the restaurant were loads of patrons vying for a spot on the rooftop.  The wait was over an hour when we arrived.   With spectacular views, perfect weather and tasty drinks, that was enough to lure the crowds high above the street.  But, we were looking forward to a small intimate dinner in the cozy corner of the restaurant, so the rooftop would have to wait.

As guests arrived, we took our seats and began to anticipate the bounty for which we were gathered.  The meal was based on a video game played by Brendan.  Harvest Moon, a Japanese farming-simulation game was developed by Yasuhiro Wada.  The object of the game is to maintain a farm over a period of time, tending the crops and livestock through the seasons, while befriending the nearby townsfolk and getting married in some games.  With this in mind, Wes and Brendan focused on local (when appropriate), fresh vegetables for the meal.

To start out the meal, we nibbled on spiced roasted nuts.  Crunchy, spicy and sweet…they accompanied our cocktails perfectly.  Secondly a serving of warm herbed olives…with a great underbelly of heat. Simon offered up a new concoction he devised earlier that afternoon at The Wine Merchant.  Local goat cheese, whipped with mango honey and scotch bonnet peppers was coined The Goat Fire Ball.  It was another delicious nibble that brought the spice and heat.

And thus the feast began!  Bowls of pickled wax beans cooled your palate.  Along with watermelon dressed with pickled carrots, there was vast platters of fresh vegetables.  Plates of heirloom tomatoes with Koren melon dressed in a balsamic reduction, tempura of Ozark Forest mushrooms, okra, poblano and red bell peppers.   Knowing that some dinner guests were of the vegan persuasion, the tempura was executed san eggs.  Even with the egg omittance, the tempura was crispy and perfect.  Heaping bowls of Ozark Forest mushrooms were served. Maitake, Lobster and Hen of the Woods were sauteed with butter and thyme.  One bowl was sauteed with olive oil for our vegan guests.  A  rich carrot and potato curry was the main course.  The curry was hearty, with warm spices that satisfied.  A dollop of the Goat Fire Ball gave a second layer of flavor and heat that was genuinely scrumptious.  Fresh figs with cracked black pepper were piled high in a bowl.

Cocktails, such as Lemon Lime Gin & Tonic infused with sorrel were consumed…along with Champagne/Elderberry flower liqueur concoctions.  On a sweet note: Brendan found some “sweet crunchy sticks” at the local Asian Market. And that was the literal translation, folks.  There were rice sticks covered in a fine sugar from what I could tell.  The package was brought out and  in a hilarious twist of fate…fitted right in with the video game themed meal!  I never got a chance to read the actual ingredients…all I heard was that they were vegan so they were OK for all at the table.  Finally, a meringue topped with local peaches were the final course.  The meringue was light, sweet and fluffy.  The peaches, although local and fresh, were a tad under-ripe.

All in all, the Full Moon Foodies dinner was an amazing experience.  Food enthusiasts and professionals gathering together to enjoy good food, make new discoveries, exchange ideas and just have fun is a wonderful concept.  A giant thanks to Wes and Brendan for being such gracious hosts and putting together a delicious vegetarian meal!

I can only hope I am lucky enough to be invited back for another Full Moon Foodies Dinner!

what i’ve eaten since being home…


Tuckers for pizza and wings

Niche Taste Bar

King & I

A coca-cola from Ted Drews..it’s my favorite…it’s Kosher, ya know.

pork steaks

Pappy’s

Winslow’s Home for breakfast

….I’ve still got a pretty long list until I’m caught up….i should just slow down, though…

….i’ve gained 4 lbs.

Updated 8/15/09:  White Castles, Basil Spice, Ted Drewes, Bobo Noodle, The Good Pie and Eclipse…..