Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jon's been busy.

I have some touch ups to do before I can start filling them up.

The room's not quite long enough for me to get the whole thing in one shot. (That wall's about 11' across.) Maybe I'll take a picture from outside the window when they're all done.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm still working on that stretching my comfort zone thing, making an effort to get my shop out there. Today there's an interview on byhand.me, and another on a blog.

I took a peek at Julie Person's shop today, and she's only 2 sales away from 2,000 sales! How cool is that? Maybe some of you would like to be numbers 1999 and 2000? Her work is gorgeous. I love my tapestry (made by Julie and gifted to me by the Traaseths) and can't wait to hang it in its new spot in our studio/office/atelier/gunroom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm going to post some pictures separately, but let me tell you something about maple syrup: it's worth whatever ridiculous price your friendly neighborhood maple farmer wants to sell it for.

Jon got up at 7:00 and had the first batch of sap boiling by around 8:00. We worked our way through the first 45-55 gallons by somewhere around 2:00. (It's all a blur of fire feeding, straining, pouring, and noxious smoke.) Another 20-30 gallons brought us to around 6:00. We're left with about 20 gallons of sap that we won't end up using. Next year we'll either reduce the amount we collect or collect more and plan to cook for two days instead of one.

We now have three large pots of syrup in the house for a final boil, after which it'll be filtered again and bottled.

A few notes on the process so you can understand what you're seeing in the pictures:

First off, you might notice the chimney is gone. When Jon started the fire this morning spouts of flame shot out of the chimney in what he deemed a scary and unsafe way. Down came the chimney.

We worked from right to left, so in the pans on the right the sap was clear, as it is in when it comes out of the trees. In the pans on the left it was more brown, maple-syrupy-colored. So we'd pour clear sap into a pan on the right, then transfer it towards the left as it boiled down. We'd feed the fire, strain off the foam, feed the fire, transfer some sap, feed the fire, pour in some new sap, and did I mention feed the fire?

Once the sap was brown and had reduced drastically, we used flannel and a very fine strainer to filter it into large pots. You can see how dirty the flannel got. It went from white to gross very quickly, which was interesting because if you had looked at the syrup you wouldn't have thought there was all that much to strain out of it.

More on that noxious smoke - It was blinding. Acrid. Our eyes are still burning.

Hard work. Good, hard work.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tomorrow we evaporate.
This soup didn't last long at our house. Rowan opted not to try it. She doesn't believe in eating gypsies.

Gypsy Soup
Source: "Moosewood Cookbook," by Mollie Katzen
Serves: 6 to 8

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic (remember the Rue-l: always double the garlic)
2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash
1/2 cup chopped celery (I skipped this. Celery is just crunchy water, imo)
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
3 cups stock or water
Dash of cinnamon, dash of cayenne (Dagny and Jon have requested we skip the cinnamon next time.)
1 bay leaf (I skipped this)
1 tablespoon tamari (we didn't have any)
2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt

In a soup kettle sauté onions, garlic, celery, and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about 5 minutes.

Add seasonings, except the tamari, and the stock or water. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes.

Add remaining vegetables and cooked chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.
We have a floor,

some chairs (and a lamp),

and an unexpected couch,

and tomorrow we start building shelves.

Still to come: molding, fixing/painting the door, and refinishing two huge old tables with one little old lady.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And Rowan said, "Let there be blueberry muffins"; and there were blueberry muffins. And Rowan saw that the blueberry muffins were good; and Rowan separated the blueberry muffins from their little silicone baking cups.

GrammaDonna's Blueberry Muffins


½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs – well beaten

4 cups flour

8 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

Cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, then add the eggs. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder and add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture. Fold in the blueberries.

Bake @ 400 for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

She's a star! (Don't blink, or you might miss her *g*.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

I saw this article on boingboing. I've come to realize over the past couple of years that I feel the same way about taking care of the dead as I do about taking care of children. It should be done by people who love them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tomato, Basil, Parmesan Focaccia

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved
6-10 fresh basil leaves

grated parmesan
coarse salt

olive oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water and let sit 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and remaining water.

Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and then your hands.

Transfer to a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes or until smooth.

Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down and place on an oiled baking sheet, forming into an oval or circle.

Space the tomato halves across the surface of the focaccia, then sprinkle the shredded basil leaves and parmesan.

Dimple the top surface with your finger tips, and then drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This lasted about two minutes. He's very sensitive to any possible affront to his dignity.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

You know those little 2 oz bottles of vanilla extract? The ones that cost over $7? They're just not cutting it any more.

20 vanilla beans ($10) + 1 bottle of vodka ($11) + 1 month = wow that smells good

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Today I made peanut butter bars so that when Rowan quotes FredFredBurger ("Sometimes my mommy makes me chocolate chip cookies and sometimes she makes me peanut butter bars and sometimes she doesn't make me anything at all. Yes. Chocolate chip is my favorite. Yes.") it'll be true.

Peanut Butter Bars

1 stick butter + 1/2 stick butter
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (very fine)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Line a square pan for easy removal.

Melt 1 stick of butter over low heat. Remove from heat and add sugar, peanut butter, and crumbs.

Stir until smooth, then spread in pan.

In same pot, melt 1/2 stick butter. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted.

Spread over peanut butter mixture.

Cool in refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Store in refrigerator.

We think the proportions are a bit off, and plan to add more chocolate next time - probably an additional 1/4 cup or so.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We've got six taps going.

Forty gallons of sap yields about one gallon of syrup. Based on what we've collected so far, we're hoping for a total of about eighty gallons of sap. Snow and colder temperatures slowed things down today, but seeing those jugs fill up yesterday was a happy sign that spring is on its way.