rain day

i just found this photo while going through some old bits of the past years. oscar and rudy. i will never stop loving that pig and the days we had with him.

today is a wickedly windy, rainy day on the mountain. i'm already numb from morning's chores, so i will be enjoying the rest of the day from the confines of the automobile. many errands to run. including seeking out seed potatoes. the antique mall. and the hardware store. a thrilling stormy day.

nick is going to stay home and play farmwife. he is making butter, cheese, and yogurt for the morning. and fetching the washing :)

bon week-end.


milk and eggs and thank you

every day. milk and eggs. some days i feel rich with food and others i want to scream out for pizza and a mexican coke (as i did, just this past tuesday, and nick dutifully brought both home from town). we have been waiting and waiting for the half-assed garden attempts to come to fruition. so far the only thing that is looking truly great is the eggplant rachael brought last saturday. which i have had Nothing To Do With.

so right now we are learning to make all sorts of fun things out of the eggs and milk. quiche, egg pasta, milk potatoes (sounds gross, is a little, but mainly delicious).  cream cheese and mayonnaise are on the docket for today. i keep waiting for an ice cream maker to drop into my lap so we can venture into sweet territory.  we barter milk for bread. and we forage fiddleheads and ramps for greans. dandelions are also up for today.

its hard to justify going to the co-op when you have so very much food being made at home. but it also makes for some frustrating moments, when all you want is a kale salad, but the kale in the garden is barely 3 centimeters tall.

i cannot wait for the life of summer when we have tomatoes and herbs and greens exploding from the garden and fridge. and part of the beauty of their existance then, is their absence now. so, patience.

as a less mundane aside from my obsession with food i wanted to THANK YOU all for your kind and thoughtful comments, advice and suggestions from my post on monday. i firstly just wanted to say, how wonderful it is to have the nicest, most supportive readers one could ever ask for. the second is that, i have taken all of your thoughts into consideration and am trying to form an avenue through this blog where i could make the farm a little bit of money but not sacrifice the content, or look, or your interest or respect. so, stay tuned for that.

and finally on a less presumptuous note, if you have even just a couple dollars to spare today, please visit the kenyan schoolhouse fund. they are just $500 away from meeting their may 1st deadline of school fees for the coming year. since 2002 this fund has taken nearly 300 kenyan children (many of whom are orphans) away from the hard, forced labor of the fields and put them into schools and given them proper medical care. every bit of money counts as they try to make the school fee deadline.


on money

there has been the running understanding in our couplehood that nick is the more pragmatic and i the more irrational. i do before i think. nick tries to slow me down long enough so he can think before we do.  i feel quite blessed to have his balance in my life. without me we wouldn't have quit our jobs in san francisco and moved to france. but without him we wouldn't have a savings account. we wouldn't have had health insurance. we wouldn't have had a place to live. without me we wouldn't have begun farming in north carolina. but without nick we wouldn't have negotiated for hourly pay. we wouldn't have had days off.  we wouldn't have lived in the cabin on our own. without me we wouldn't be living in vermont. without nick we wouldn't have had veggie oil to run the truck and trailer. we wouldn't have fixed the hay-elevator, we would have thrown them by broken back. without nick all of my dreams would be just those.  but instead he, nick, is my thoughtful counterweight. and i am so thankful for this, even if there are times when i run screaming with my fingers in my ears from the planning and budgeting he insists upon.

one such instance was just last week. two weeks into our life in vermont and nick was --in my mind-- already trying to kill our buzz. he was going through the receipts of the weeks since our move. entering them into one of his trademark spreadsheets. asking me how exactly we spent $45 at the co-op. (maple syrup and honey). asking me why he had a 1200 draw on his account from last week (our new dairy cow, i reminded him). he entered them into the magic boxes of excel with lots of mumbling and tinkering. i tried my best to ignore him. there is only one thing i like less than making a budget. and that is realizing that we need to make much more money to have the budget work.

the problem is, you can't make money, you can't make it work. you can't pay off the dairy cow. or the ever-disappearing mason jars. you can't pay off all the yogurt, milk, eggs you give away to friends and family. you can't ever pay off your labor. for it is constant. and hard. and demanding. you can't make money selling raw milk. we knew this. but its still hard to see in the black and red of nick's spreadsheet. you can't make money selling eggs in a state where nearly everyone has a flock of chickens or a friend that does. this isn't outside of boston where such products are desperately needed and coveted and fetch high prices. this is vermont. we are in a state that grew up farming and remains a farming.

as farmers you become intimate with the dance of living this life and trying to make money at it. there are countless ways to scheme for money as a farmer. it seems the lifestyle and work foster your inner schemer. getting paid to help a farmer with milking. tilling another's garden. pasturing some old man's heifers. making hay. helping make hay. foraging for delicious wild edibles and selling them to unsuspecting cityfolk. we're throwing around ideas about milling grain. about selling hay. about making fancy cheese. about tapping trees for syrup. and i find it heartening that we aren't the only farmers dancing this dance, but it is still a scary, fast, and unfamiliar one.

in an attempt to help my more pragmatic better half i am getting in on the scheming. one way that i am trying is through my writing and photography. and that is where i want to ask you your opinions. i haven't made up my mind about how i feel about sponsorships on blogs. i don't know that anyone would be interested in sponsoring my blog, and i suppose its rather presumptuous to bring this up at all. but i'm trying to find a way to make a little bit of money at what i spend so much of my time doing. to help us pay the rent. or to cover the week's chicken feed. or pay for gas. it is me scheming. pure and simple. and i apologize for this. but i want to hear from you what you think about sponsored blogs. i'm not talking ads for walmart or amazon in between posts. but small sidebar monthly ads from even smaller businesses. from fellow farmers. or bloggers. or gardeners. or crafters. as i said. i haven't made my mind up about it. something feels very wrong about monetizing a blog. but i am curious for your opinions and ideas or other schemes :) so please share. here or at my email kathryn.maclean@gmail.com . thank you!


thursday was ted's day

we stayed up until midnight last night eating and drinking with new friends. they are farmers too and we were collectively appalled at the hour when we were made aware of it. i can't remember when exactly i became so old that midnight was an irresponsibly late bedtime.  winnie was unimpressed with the night's cider still on my breath. and today, if these clouds continue to roll through and we get a bit of rain we may be able to excuse ourselves for a slower day and finish watching a movie we started 3 1/2 weeks ago.  so forgive me a post short on words.

but i did want to tell you that ted received an Upgrade of serious dimensions yesterday from stall to paddock. from isolation to five new comrades. we walked the gangly creature up from the barn yesterday to the winter paddock where the main house keeps their aging animals. the paddock happens to be directly next to our modest home (we live in what used to be a sheep barn) which makes it a perfect place for the calf we are bottle feeding. he now lives with two shaggy scottish highlanders. two donkeys. and the horse. the highlanders have taken a motherly interest in ted. as i write this they are eating hay as he lies between them at their feet. the donkeys and the horse are curious and at times unwelcoming. but he is no longer the lonesome calf in a stall. he is now bopping and leaping all around. learning how to be a cow, a donkey, and a horse. and i am trying my very damnedest not to fall completely in love with his big doe eyes.

thursday in photos:
1. ted, the bastard.
2. could you imagine a tinier stove?
3. yesterday i made pasta, and butter. nick made kombucha, yogurt, and pesto. it was a Day for Dishes.
4. pasta dough and foraged ramps for the pesto.
5. keeping a close eye on him.
6. repotting the house plants. if my garden fails we will have plenty of succulents and cacti to feast.
7. we were just recently given a pasta maker and i can tell you, it is a helluva lot faster than pounding and cutting by hand.
8. the sun doing his late afternoon routine.
9. a beer to slow it all down.


look at what nick did! to get to the blog you need only go to  www.longestacres.com  no  more .blogspot.com.yadayadayada.

he must have paid somebody loads of money for this.

4 points awarded to Simplicity.

thank you, my sweet.


with light

i am consumed with the light that comes through our two-room home. i haven't often lived on the literal sunny side of the street. not in san francisco. nor in new york. once in paris. but not in d.c. always in shadows. in north carolina we only got sun sets. in western mass we lived in an army green damp tent. and in boston we lived below ground. but here in vermont i find myself worshiping the sun as he comes through every window. first he rises to our east, right out of my bedroom window. directly above the donkeys. they start to bray. wanting their morning's hay with his rise.

after morning milking he pours all of his strength through the window behind our desk. making  computer-ing near impossible with glare. while we eat lunch he is bathing our deck in his warmth. in late afternoon he is tumbling over the kitchen sink window. and then, by the time we are sipping beers he has lit the living room and dining room, making it so warm we throw open doors and windows.  and there, through that bay window, he sinks slowly behind the ridge line. firing the sky with pink. and giving us a brief darkness til his next dawn.

light in photos:
1. our shared desk. and my grandfather's typewriter. some well traveled succulents. and of course a ball of pink twine.
2. my indoor grower's corner. i would still very much like that greenhouse on wheels.
3. the kombucha getting fizzy and ready for consumption.
4. nick making beer.
5. a tired pup.
6. 3 very good friends reveling in a warm day. post pond dip. post walk. enjoying beer and cake.


the achilles' heel

i haven't left the mountain since last monday. that is seven blissful uninterrupted car free days. but today. we are out of toothpaste. we just had six people visit in the past 3 days. all of which asked what they could bring. and not once did i think of the tube that i had been pressing and squeezing and coaxing along the weekend. damn. i imagine there is some chalky tasteless paste i could make on my own. but, i'll be straight with you, i like the sugar content in my toothpaste. and short of brushing my teeth with honey, i think i'll need to break my town-free streak for this ridiculousness.


the reluctant gardener

i will tell you willfully that i am not a gardner. sometimes i worry it sounds like i'm boasting. because i'll inevitably tell the listener how good i am with animals. as though to offer an excuse for poor gardening. but of course it is no excuse.  it is just the fact of my farming past that i have gravitated almost entirely to the animal husbandry Side of Things. i feel so very comfortable with nearly every animal. i take naps with pigs. i'll spend a solid 30 minutes scratching the cows on their necks. i raise sick chickens in my house. i needn't defend my attraction to animals with you lot. you've all seen and read it with a repetition that makes me wonder why any of you come back at all. and i am so glad you do.

but the problem with this is, that nick is just as much in the animal camp as i. we were raised by the same farmer on this matter. my dear cousin elizabeth. and she instilled in us such love and understanding for her many animals that the gardens were always the afterthought of our focus. but here we are in vermont. several farms later. and neither nick nor i have shown much interest in the gardens to date. and now we are faced with the year ahead and with not making much --or any-- money. we have fertile land. we have a literal sea of old cow manure. we have seeds. and we are in the middle of a swath of warm and dry weather. so we must take interest and notice. we must learn to feed ourselves with vegetables to substitute the appalling amount of animal protein we consume. i have become accustomed to tomatoes in july. and lettuce as early as may. and kale well into december. i also was accustomed to somebody taking the garden reigns on our previous farms and quite literally telling me where and when and what to plant.

and here we are on our own. i have tried to psych myself up by reading and reading and studying garden plans. but every day of the 16 days that we have been here i have walked past the garden trying not to make eye contact with her. ignoring the dried buckwheat cover asking to be tilled under. giving her an awkward half wave and scurrying by down to the barn like the coward i have become.

i was planning on boldly continuing this dance. but the heavens have determined this garden will live. our dear friend billy came up on saturday and drifted our strides to the garden. showing us how to prune back the raspberries. the next morning our friend sam called to offer himself and his tractor to rototill the garden. i wearily accepted --knowing full well what the garden will expect of me, once the tractor had passed. sam came and went adding cow manure and leaving a dark, flat streak of tilled earth for me to plant. nick and billy looked at me with expectant eyes that afternoon. what shall we plant? i immediately changed the conversation to ask what sort of beer they'd prefer.

and then, the heavens intervened once more. sending nick's childhood friend alex to the farm. alex works on an organic csa outside of boston. and came bearing house gifts only a neglectful gardener would appreciate. 600 onion sets. and a dozen cabbage and chard starts. i asked alex if he'd like to see the property, go explore the top of the mountain. see the sheep pen. go to the ridge line. nick looked at me in horror. was i truly trying to sabotage the garden? i wasn't. i am just scared of it. i'm scared it will be a 20' x 100' plot of failure. i don't want the responsibility of the garden. the animals are enough.

but nick and alex persisted. and so we visited the garden in her freshly tilled glory. we stepped out the beds. i got my bare toes in her warm soil. we planned. we put the onions, chard, and cabbage in the ground. we watered them in. to make it final. we even got a second wind and planted a couple rows of sugar snap peas. i tried to soak in as much know-how from alex as i was able. where and when and what to plant. he leaves today. and i have in panic tried to nail down his return.

i am so grateful for the push by our friends towards a garden this weekend.  and i am so filled with anxiety for what lies ahead in her rows.  she is like a new big exotic animal. one i have only read about. one whose language i can't yet understand. i dreamt most of the night of cabbage loving woodchucks. and japanese beetles. we need this garden. we will raise her and protect her and love her just like all of our other animals. even if it means learning a whole new farming language. so a gardening i must go.

weekend photos:
1. the demanding garden
2. rudy and a drying cheesecloth. neither of them particularly stressed about the impending doom of garden
3. the woods south of the cow pasture are literally filled with old glass soda bottles and rusty cars. i rescued a handful of the prettiest bottles.
4. this crew lives in the paddock and stables directly below us. they are our closest neighbors. and one of the donkeys bit me last thursday because i wasn't giving her enough attention. they are demanding neighbors.
5. spring is about to hit this mountain. hard.
6. a stack of birch outside the cabin in the sheep pen.


the story of ted. and friday.

ted is the name of our calf. it is also the name of the calf on our two farms ago farm, in western mass. nick and i decided to name all bull calves going forward, ted. to allow for anonymity but also to provide a name other than bull calf. a couple of you astutely asked what about the calf? when i flippantly mentioned yesterday we had taken him from the mother. (brian, he and his mother are both pure jersey, btw) what about the calf? he's a bullcalf firstly. and as my landlord says, life sucks for a bullcalf. she's very right. because, who wants a bull? we don't and certainly not a jersey bull. so you take his balls. which means he is destined to either be a very large pet with high demands in hay and grass. OR he will be reared to fatten. becoming next year's food. i know this sounds awful. and you must know that this turns my insides around. i hate it so much. not only does his ending sound certain. BUT his current life is pretty crappy too. because we have separated him from his mum. well, more accurately, the farmers before us separated them when she calved this past February. and even if we wanted to, it would wreak emotional havoc to put them back together now.

the main reason for separating calf from mother is to control how much milk you get from the mother. if she is nursing her calf then she can (and, likely, will) hold back milk from you at milkings. she is also capable --because cows are incredible creatures-- of withholding her butterfat and saving that for the calf. meaning we would get a watery, cream-less, milk, and little of it.

predominately these are selfish reasons for keeping calf from mother. we have the calf in a nice clean, sunny, warm, hay-bedded stall. we bottle feed him his mother's milk. we give him hay and a little bit of grain. but he is lonely and bored. and so we are trying, very desperately, to figure out where else he could go. be it on our farm or another's. any ideas?

so that is the story of ted.

and this friday morning in photos:

1. ted. that bastard.
2. finally started some tomatoes, peppers and herbs. fortunately, the vermont spring has procrastinated as much as i.
3. tiniest little thyme seeds. how??! is this going to make something edible?
4. preparing itself for yogurt straining
5. going to strain extra long today. for super thick. greek-style yogurt.
6. the morning's haul. i always get .15 gallons less than nick. this makes me feel inferior and silly.
7. breakfast of granola, honey, and yogurt. and a cheese book. in lieu of previous three days' breakfast of toffee and tea.
8. donkey of a dog in the sunshine.
9. homemade dog treats from his aunt rachael.


this is winnie

"the dairy cow doesn't ask for much but she asks every day." -keeping a family cow

there has become something unavoidably final about our recent acquisition of a milking cow. winnie. she is so sweet. a little skinny. so beautiful. so patient with my fumbling cold hands. so giving. she is there. morning and night. every day. she lets out a great low bellow when she hears the clanking of our arrival in the parlor. washing up before milking. we've taken her calf away from her and now it is completely on us to see this through. morning and night. every day. 

it is a responsibility to animals we have never held on our own. it makes this journey to farming feel more definite. no more nighttime outings to movies, to dinner, to friends, until we have milked. no more sleepins with nick. no more leisurely breakfasts before chores. no more weekends away together, until we find a capable farm-sitter. but i don't feel the loss of these things yet. i don't doubt that will come. but in this first week i -perhaps naively- only feel the excitement and ease in having her there in the barn. morning and night. 


back country how to : le beurre

when winnie first arrived here --all of 4 days ago-- she was very thin. dairy cows are supposed to be thinner than beef. and beef is what we know. but winnie was Bony All Over. she was also stressed from the move. so that first night and that following sunday morning she gave us little milk with virtually no butterfat. BUT we have been putting meat on them bones! with fancy, plentiful hay, thanks to our generous landlord. in the past two days she's started giving us nearly 3 gallons of milk a day. and the cream lines are BEAUtiful. so naturally, i wanted to make butter as soon as. 

this is nearly the time to make butter. we are still on hay, in most places in this country. but we are so very close to fresh grass. and there is absolutely nothing more delicious than the butter made from cows on fresh spring grass. 

and since it is sadly very vermont spring (read, Cold and Wet) outside, i thought i'd share with you how to make butter...and duck my duties down at the barn for another hour or two. 

so, butter. 

you will need: 

cream, any amount ( i used 1 quart )
salt, to taste
small wooden paddle
clean empty jar for your butter 
immersion blender
strainer (not pictured)
large bowl (not picture either, BAD KATE)
wood cutting board


1. set cream out of fridge and bring to room temperature (65ºF); don't heat it up. allow this to happen naturally. if it is particularly cold in your kitchen, place near the woodstove or heat source. BUT monitor carefully. you don't want it to get too warm. i place the cream out first thing in the morning so it warms while i do my morning chores. 

2. make sure the vessel your cream is in as at least 1/2 empty space at the top, so you don't fly cream everywhere when you blend. i had to pour my quart of cream into a 1/2 gallon mason jar for more space. (first, i made sure to get cream all over the kitchen counter).

3. immersion blend. (patti! we love our bamix blender. thank you!!) for cream to become butter you need to aerate the cream. do this by pushing the immersion blender up and down, constantly, through the cream, bringing it just slightly out of the cream and then submerging again. this brings air through. blend on a high speed and continuously until your butter breaks. with a good blender and a quart of cream this takes only 5 minutes or so.

your cream will go through a whipped cream phase and then it will, rather suddenly, "break" into butter. you'll know this has happened when you see yellow clumpy butter and the separated buttermilk in your jar. 

4. strain the buttermilk out of the butter. jar up the buttermilk to use for biscuits or a cake in the next couple of days. or if trying to conserve waist line give to dog, pig, cat, or chickens. they will love it. 

5. place your wet butter on a clean cutting board over the sink and begin to paddle it. you want to work the butter constantly over itself into a ball. squeezing out all excess buttermilk. 

6. once you have paddled the crap out of your butter, give it a rinse in cold water to clarify it further. the less buttermilk left in the butter the longer it will keep in your pantry.

7. salt your butter to taste. not necessary, but i find it much more delicious. if you are using raw cream, this is helpful in preserving the butter. pasteurized cream doesn't require it. paddle the salt into the butter, spreading it evenly throughout. 

8. package the butter in a glass jar, label it with date. 

9. i needn't tell you how many ways to enjoy homemade butter. 


gratitude for the move

i have been so calmed with gratitude for the serenity of the arrival of my family to vermont. so i thought i would come back to the blog first to express my gratitude. later this week i will show you around, the house, the mountain, the barnyard. 

today i am thankful...

for three vehicles and a trailer making the 3 hour journey in 4 intact pieces.
for my parents volunteering their weekend to help with the move. 
for the animals and their patience in transit. 
for pascal who sat in a box in the front of the truck. and watched, with one eye, as nick drove the whole ride. 
for rose and vangogh who sleep like babies in the trailer.
for little egg who was the sweetest little chicken there ever was. who didn't make it through the first night in our new home. we miss you little egg.
for our community on this mountain.
for mom's soups and dad's breads that sustained us well into our first week.
for the sun's rise through our bedroom windows.
for friday's full moon.
for a literal household full of visitors this weekend. for their beauty and whisky and friendship.
for my second glass of milk this morning.
for our new cow, winnie, and her painfully adorable bull-calf.
for the chickens and their uninterrupted lay.
for nick and for rudy. my constants. without whom i could never do any of this.
for chocolate cake. for pound cake. for easter candies.
for a landline. and for all the family phone calls that it brings.
for no cell service.
for a class tonight in town on natural dyes.
for the women who blogged in my absence and the beautiful lives they shared.
for good hay.
for the snow that doesn't stick.
for the spring that is slowly coming.
for our new home on this glorious land.

for all of this and for so much more i am thankful.

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