Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Thursday, December 22, 2016


          It's hard to believe it's been almost a quarter of a century since that cold December day. It had been snowing and there were a few inches on the ground. I trudged across the field toward the old farm house. I knew to go to the basement door and not the front door. The front door was for guests, I was not.  I opened the basement door and went over to the fireplace. All winter long a fire burned in the basement. The heat rose and heated the farm house.  There was a rug there waiting for my wet boots. I kicked them off and started up the stairs. About half way up I could feel the warmth from the kitchen. As I topped the stairs, Paul Baker was sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee. He welcomed me and told me to pull up a chair. Frances, his wife, was at the counter mixing a dough. This was the reason I was here. Today was the day I was going to learn how to make Keflee. I had waited for this day since I had tasted my first bite of this wonderful cookie. Both Paul and Frances had come from Hungaria as small children and the food that Frances cooked was rich with that heritage. The cookie has many variations but this was how her mother and grandmother had made it. Some have fruit in the middle, some have nuts. I stood at the kitchen counter with Frances. When I looked out the kitchen window I could see my house across the snowy field. Frances carefully showed me how to roll the balls of dough and then press them out to flat circles in the sugar. I remember her telling me " Now, there's no sugar in the dough so you must press them out in sugar to make them sweet". I watched her do a few and then did some myself. I was surprised at how the dough felt. Not like any cookie dough I had handled before. She explained it was the cottage cheese that made it feel that way. Then she showed me how to shape them into the traditional crescent shape on the cookie sheet. Into the oven they went. While they baked, we sipped our coffee and watched it snow. Francis had a big piece of wax paper spread on the kitchen table. When the cookies were done, she flipped them upside down on the paper. The sugar caramelizes on the bottom of the cookie and it has to harden while they cool. I could hardly wait until they were cool enough to eat. Oh, how I love that crunch of the sugar with the tender cookie.
            Many years have passed since that day and Frances taught me how to cook and bake many things. It was in her kitchen that I first learned how to make a pepperoni roll. Both Paul and Frances are in heaven now but the time I spent in that kitchen is some of my most treasured memories. I will never forget how she took in a young girl, thousands of miles from home and taught me so many things.
            Here is the recipe for Hungarian Keflee:

            1 pound of butter softened
            2 cups cottage cheese
            5-6 cups flour
Combine one cup of finely chopped walnuts with one half cup sugar, set aside.  In a mixer combine butter and cottage cheese. Add the flour one cup at a time until the dough is stiff enough to form into balls.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Put a cup of granulated sugar on a plate. Press the ball of dough out in the sugar until about 3 inches across, turning it over and over as you press, pushing the sugar into the dough. Add more sugar to the plate as you need it.   Put one teaspoon of the nut/sugar mixture on the dough and roll up. Form into a crescent shape on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 400 until golden brown. Flip cookies upside down on wax paper and allow to cool.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Scream at Midnight

         I've heard several times from some of the old timers that a bobcat screams at midnight. I know that we have bobcats in our woods. Last year Tim had one come by his tree stand while he was hunting. But I'd never heard one scream at midnight until last night. Well, it was actually 11:54 But close enough. I was in a sound sleep and it woke me up like a shot. You know that feeling when your heart is pounding in your ears and the goosebumps are standing up on your arms? Yeah, that was me last night. In the fall of the year, I don't close the barn up tight at night because I want my animals to grow good, thick coats. I want them to feel that chill and do what nature tells them to do.  The windows are open and the top of the Dutch door is open. I never worry about anything getting in there because I have Kaloyan, our Karakachan, in with all of the animals. Within a split second of the scream, I could hear Kaloyan barking like a madman. The coyotes have been really close lately, so he has been a little on edge anyway. I grabbed a flashlight and went out to the barn. Everyone had that sleepy look about them and you could tell they were wondering what I was doing there that time of night. I took a quick head count and calmed Kaloyan down, telling him what a good job he was doing and headed back to bed. I will be trying my hand at trapping this year and a bobcat is certainly on my list.
         In other news, we have a new face in the crowd. Tim has a new colt. Drifter moved in a few days ago. Luke is thrilled to have a buddy. So far, Drifter has been kept in the barn until he forgets about his mama, so he and Luke have been getting aquainted through the windows.  In a few days we'll be able to turn him out in the pasture. We also have a baby llama coming at the end of next month. We are excited to get her here and start working with her. I'm also looking forward to spinning her fiber. I've heard such wonderful things about it. We have twenty new chicks growing in the brooder, getting ready to replace our old girls. The does are all bred back for January freshening. The garden is winding down. I'm canning potatoes this week and still a few hot and sweet peppers. We need to dig some horseradish before the ground freezes.  We also need to cut more firewood. And so on and so never ends around here. I feel like we never get caught up. I guess that's life on a farm. Happy Fall wherever you are!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

While you were sleeping...

       Everywhere you look on this old farm right now, you will see the work of the orb spiders. Nearly anywhere there is a corner, you will see their webs. Some are wider than a foot across and some are no bigger than a quarter.  It's just one of the many signs of an approaching autumn. I never get tired of looking at these webs, especially in the morning when they are glistening with hundreds of tiny dew drops. They are such a masterpiece! Have you ever taken the time to watch one being constructed?  Such immense patience of the tiny spider working her way back and forth, attaching strand after strand of silk.  Some strands she makes of a sticky substance to catch insects and some aren't so that she can walk on those. When an insect flies into her web, she quickly grabs them and begins to wrap them in silk, turning them over and over. Did you know toward evening, she usually eats what is left of the web and then begins to spin a new one for the next day? Isn't that amazing? How wonderful that we know the Creator of these special little spiders. He instilled the knowledge into each spider how to build a web and provide for herself. And I will say it again...what an awesome God we serve!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How does it happen?

       How does it happen that in just a few weeks, we go from a newly planted garden and being excited to see the first lightening bugs, to feeling fall in the air? The windowsills are all full of ripe tomatoes. The shelves in the pantry are quickly filling up. The zucchini and crooknecks are done and the vines are drying up. I can see orange pumpkins peeping through the leaves. The cabbage are full and just waiting for the Almanac to tell us when to start the sauerkraut. The pepper plants are heavy with their treasures. New potatoes are melting in our mouths several times a week. The kale plants are taller than my knees and feeding hungry rabbits daily. There is a rustle in the corn leaves that wasn't there last week. The crickets are tuning up every night now and singing us to sleep. The Joe-Pye weed is on its way out,  just to usher in the vibrant purple of the iron weed. Queen Anne's Lace is bobbing on their slender stems every where you look. The woods are full of half grown turkey poults and the deer fawn are losing their spots. The antlers on the bucks look huge with all their velvet. The monarch butterflies are flitting over the milkweed, laying their eggs. The smell of a rutting buck greeted me this morning in the barn, reminding me of a whole new crop of baby goats that will appear in just five months. The new smokehouse is ready to smoke the bacons and hams and the deer meat that will be harvested. Wood is beginning to stack up, ready to warm us this winter. Everywhere you look the signs are there.  How does this happen so quickly? I wonder why summer seems to just fly by? I'm so thankful that we have a God who is in control of the times and the seasons, Daniel 2:21. We serve an awesome God!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Four weeks?

        How did it get to be four weeks since the last time I posted? Sheesh! I tried to take the above picture in the same spot I took the other one so you can see how the garden is growing. And yes, I need to weed. We have had a VERY wet summer so far. It has made weeding rather difficult, to say the least. On the flip side, the plants are loving it. We will be harvesting zucchini and crooknecks in a couple days. We are enjoying the kale immensely! And so are the bunnies! We have tomatoes as big as baseballs but they are still very green. 
         All this rain has made it a challenge to keep animals dry and happy. The barn stays wet when they are in it all day and it makes it miserable for them and us. We are doing the best we can but it certainly is trying some days. We would love to be able to get more hay up. We were able to bale twenty round bales a couple of weeks ago but we need at least twice that many to get us through the winter. The hay is ripe and ready but no dry days in which to get it up. We are expecting another three inches this weekend and rain all next week. Well, we will keep trying. Maybe by July or August things will start to dry up a bit. I hope you all are enjoying your summer. I've got weeding to do before the next batch of rain starts. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

View from the office...

        Doesn't look like much, does it? But in just a few short weeks we will get enough from this garden plot to feed us for another year. The cabbage row will give us enough cabbage to can fifty or better quarts of sauerkraut, not to mention the yummy coleslaw that we will eat. There is over one hundred tomato plants there. That's enough for ketchup, stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, chili tomatoes, salsa, tomato juice and of course, lots of  'mater sandwiches with plenty of mayo. The peppers will give pints and pints of hot peppers to enjoy this winter. The potatoes will give us new potatoes to cream with peas and then I will can what's left at the end of summer. On the far right is two rows of kale. We love to eat kale. There is nothing better than lamb chops baked in a cast iron kettle on a bed of kale. Oh my, that's good eating! We eat kale all summer long. It also gets fed every day to all our rabbits on the farm. They also love kale and it helps to offset the cost of feeding the rabbits in the summer. You can't see the zucchini, crook neck squash, hubbard squash, cucumbers or pumpkins but they all provide also. We are so blessed to be able to eat out of our garden all summer. I love canning it up for the winter also. How's your garden doing?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

View from the office...

          Today's view is one of the lettuce beds. We have an abundance of lettuce, spinach, green onions and radishes right now. Tim built me two raised beds last year right by the kitchen and we have them filled with greens. It's so handy to have them close by and be able to run out the back door and grab a handful of whatever I need. The spinach is trying to bolt, so I cut them back and will give the tops to the bunnies. I have found with the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, if I cut it, rather than pull it, it will give us fresh lettuce all summer long. I plant the onions a little at a time, so we always have fresh green onions all summer too. I just picked a huge bunch of green and red about taco salad for supper?