Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What is this, a petting zoo?

Luckily, Tropical Storm Fay gave us nothing worse than cabin fever here at the House at Two Palms. We had four days trapped inside with a six year old and a five year old… It’s a wonder we survived.

More Fay photos here

During our house arrest, we watched movies and played board games – Blokus is a lifesaver! We also spent a lot of time reading; at one point I was reading excerpts from a book on pasture-raised chickens to the monsters. That was when I realized that we had all gone insane.

See, it started with sheep and goats. We want sheep for wool and goats for milk, and both for meat. But, if we have sheep and goats, we have to be prepared to fight parasites. We want to minimize the routine use of medications, so we will need something to help keep the parasite load down. That led us to chickens.

Chickens are perfect for the job; they can graze behind the ruminants, scratching up bugs and fighting the parasite cycle. Plus hens lay eggs, bringing us closer to self-sufficiency!

But chickens need to be protected from predators. Now we’re learning about “chicken tractors” and guard animals. We’re thinking of adding a few guinea fowl to the flock as watch animals; they may be one of the ugliest birds on a farm, but they sound an alert against intruders, and they eat a ton of bugs.

Are you keeping count? When you add the rabbits, cats, and dog that we already have, that makes seven different types of animals. It won’t be a farm; it’ll be a zoo!

Our time together during the tropical storm reinforced the fact that we are all invested in this crazy farm scheme. Even the kids are caught up in the idea: asking questions, learning about the different animals and their care, sketching plans for pole barns and chicken tractors, and just dreaming with us. Seeing the kids excited and involved in our plans is absolutely priceless.

Since no storm can last forever, this week we finally went back to work and school. I am the proud mom of a kindergartner and a first grader. sniff They grow so fast!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

Get ready to bookmark this post. You definitely want to try this at home!

In defiance of the simmering August heat, I wanted that fall classic, Butternut Squash Soup, for dinner. I made up the recipe on the fly, and it was amazing. It is not for the faint of heart – or anyone on a heart-healthy diet – but it is sooo delicious that I have to share.

Eryn’s Amazing Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash
2 medium red potatoes, sliced
16 ounces chicken stock/broth
1 pint heavy cream
4 Tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic (roughly 2-3 cloves)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place in a microwave safe dish with one inch of water and microwave on high for approximately fifteen minutes (until flesh is barely tender).

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion, cooking until translucent. Add garlic and sliced potatoes. Sauté until the potatoes are golden brown and the garlic and onion are very fragrant. Add the chicken stock/broth (I used a low sodium name-brand carton), nutmeg, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are done.

Carefully (those squash are hot!) scrape squash pulp from the skin and add to the soup. Add the heavy cream and puree until smooth (I used my trusty blender, but an immersion blender would work great). Serve hot with fresh baked biscuits.

I haven’t measured serving sizes or total yield, but I can say this served my family of four until we were stuffed full, and we have a bit leftover. The soup has a delicate flavor and was very filling. It won’t make it into my weekly menu – if it did, eventually I would no longer be able to fit out the door! – but it is being added to my “seasonal favorites” menu.

Mmmm, yummy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Is summer over yet?

Whoo-hoo! Man, I think I should have just taken July off completely.

Wait, you did take July off…

Oops, I guess I meant officially. Wow, what a month.

My 13-year-old twin stepsons were in town for their annual visit, so the House at (at least) Two Palms was filled with laughter, teen angst, a bit of drama, and a lot of fun. We look forward to their visit every year, but it can feel a bit like a five-week hurricane season – exciting, breath taking, and ultimately unpredictable.

I’ve also been working on Turtle Cove Farm, my new on-line store for knitting with soap. It will be a virtual farm for the next few years, but in 2010 Turtle Cove Farm will be our reality, a small-scale sheep farm on the plains of North Dakota.

Well, that seems sudden…

Mister Man and I had a long talk, and realized that for years we have both had the same dream of a simpler life up North. We were both a little embarrassed to admit it, each thinking that the other loved Florida too much to ever move away. And I do love it here, but I want to give the monsters the kind of childhood I had: a childhood filled with the serenity of wide-open spaces, the slow pace of nature, and a family so big you can never remember whether someone is a first- or second- cousin and you introduce yourself by listing your genealogy.

If you get a chance, wander around the new store and look around. It’s still a work in progress, so if you see something that could use improvement, I’d love to know.

In the meantime, if I get that far-away look in my eye, this is what I'll be thinking of: