Friday, January 30, 2009

A weekend away

We are off to Canada for the weekend...back to the beautiful city Jim and I were married in nine years ago: Vancouver, B.C. It's been way too long since we visited and we're excited to be going back.

Whenever we are in Vancouver, we walk. A lot. It's a beautiful city with wonderful sights, friendly people, and it's very pedestrian friendly:

One of the highlights for me (aside from having my husband to myself for 4 days straight in a beautiful little downtown hotel) is visiting the Vancouver Aquarium. It was the first place I ever saw Beluga whales. A new baby Beluga was born there just last summer. Her name is Tiqa and I can't wait to see her:

Here's a peek into the underwater world of the beautiful Belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium via their own personal Beluga webcam (<-- that's a link).

My mom and step dad have kindly offered to mind the farm while we're gone, so we leave things in excellent hands!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Further experimentation with sourdough

Ever since my friend, Angie (farm mom), sent me some of her dried sourdough starter, there has been a lot of baking going on in my kitchen.

I feel like a scientist these days, testing new recipes, tweaking measurements and quantities, controlling temperature and humidity - all in my quest for that perfectly wonderful sourdough taste that my family adores. But guess what? This is harder than I thought it would be!

No matter what I've made, nothing has had anything more than an extremely subtle sourdough flavor. Some things had no sourdough taste whatsoever! This is even despite using starter that has had weeks now to grow and develop.

I've made:
...multiple batches of sourdough pancakes:

Two batches of sourdough cinnamon rolls - using two different recipes:

This second batch was lovely fresh out of the oven, but they turned into fist-sized rocks by the next morning:

A sourdough pastry crust:

..for an amazing chocolate tart:

Sourdough carrot cake (yes, they are cooling outside on top of my barbecue):

Frosting queen is Marcee:

Beautiful, isn't it?:

This is probably the densest, moistest cake I have ever made. Truly delicious. Sadly, no one has been able to detect any kind of sourdough flavor:

Finally, last night, I had some success. I made sourdough french bread. Aren't these lovely? And they smelled so good!:

They are delicious, too. Three of us could definitely taste the sourdough flavor here, but my husband, the perfectionist, still demands STRONGER sourdough flavor:

Yet, despite my less than perfect results, rather than have this take the wind out of my sails, it has made me more curious and determined. I've done a bit of online research about sourdough and have found a few recommended tips to enhance and grow that sought-after sourdough flavor.

1) Keep the starter stiff (reduce the ratio of liquid to flour)
2) Spike your white starter with whole rye (Apparently, "rye is to sourdough microflora as spinach is to Popeye" - wow, sounds worth a try to me!)
3) Use starter that is well-fed (I've been doing this, so no change needed here)
4) Keep the dough cool (I've tried warm and cool and not noticed much of a difference)
5) Extend the rise by degassing (This just means folding over the dough after an initial rise and allowing a second rise)
6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge (Supposedly, doing this, in addition to steps 1 through 5, might make the starter "too sour" for one's taste. Hard to imagine, but I'll definitely be trying this, too!!)

I've also learned that sourdough flavor can be regional, so, before my friend, Marcee (a.k.a. frugalmom) left to go home last Saturday, I packed up a small bit of the starter to go back to Illinois with her. I wrapped it up in multiple baggies and said a short prayer that it wouldn't "pop" mid-flight:

It will be interesting to see what kind of success she has with it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One Year

One year ago today, every room in my house was filled with these:

One year ago today, men I didn't know came in and systematically carried every item I owned out of my house in the city:

One year ago today, the house I had lived in for nine years was suddenly empty:

One year ago today, I said goodbye to my life in an urban neighborhood:

And then...suddenly, with very little fanfare, my lifelong dream of becoming a country girl came true:

My new kitchen was briefly filled with these:

But this is what I see now when I look outside:

One year ago today, I stopped hearing traffic outside my windows and became awed by the incredible silence:

One year ago today, everything was sleeping in my garden and I had no idea what the spring would bring:

What a year it has been!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Look who's come to visit me!:

Yup, that's our favorite frugal mom, frugalmom, all the way from Illinois...
That's why I haven't posted in a couple days. I've been busy. Entertaining.
I'll post more tomorrow if Ms. Bossy lets me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It was a good day

I've been feeling more than a little animal deprived these last few months. Two months have gone by since I was able to find a home for the last of my foster donkeys. Critter Farm just hasn't felt the same since.

So strong was my desire for a fuzzy, furry animal fix, that on my way back from our small town post office yesterday, I spontaneously stopped in at my friend Dale's place to see what kind of animal activity he has going on. Dale's is a good place to go to when I need a big-animal boost. He's the local dairy farmer (and my grass hay supplier when I have donkeys that need food) and owns 400 head of dairy cattle. One of his girls is always calving, so very cute baby cows are always to be found:

This guy definitely had his eye on me:

But what I really had my heart set on was the goats. Dale normally only has one goat, but he currently has nine others (and a sheep), which he is keeping for a friend while the friend finishes building his new barn.

It's a bit crazy how happy seeing these faces made me:

This one, in particular, wanted to be my new best friend:

And then I found these guys. Awwwwwww...:

These little sweeties were born right around Christmas. I couldn't help myself, I had to join them in their pen. This kinda wigged them out at first:

But then this little guy started coming in for a closer sniff:

Everybody else wanted to know what we were doing. Curious bleating accompanied these curious faces:

My less-than-perfect attempt at a self-portrait:

I guess the little guy decided I was ok. He began climbing on me. Oh, it felt so good to be climbed on!:

The babies would run over to me to say hi, jump with all fours into the air, and then race back over to mama to suckle a bit:

I included this picture just because it is so...odd. Mama was extremely patient.:

Now this is the part where Dale's young son, Andy, and his friend began asking to take pictures of me with the baby goats. How could I say no?:

I didn't realize at the time that they took a number of great shots:

Action shot:

In case you were wondering, these guys were still bleating and still curious. Look at the personality in these faces!:

There's something incredibly endearing about a goat who rests his big ol' head in your hand:

What more could I have asked for? I got all this *and* the sun was out!:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's happened since the snow

It's not the prettiest time in my part of Oregon right now.
The remaining snow from our December snowstorm has been plowed off to the sides of the roads:

Leaving huge piles to melt slowly:

and grow increasingly dirtier:

Who'd think it would take so long to go away:

The freezing temps are gone and the more familiar Pacific Northwest rains have returned...with a vengeance. While my area was not hit as hard my blogging friend, Tammy at Wrensong Farm, who lives in southwest Washington, we have certainly felt the impact.

Normally small and unseen creeks are close to overflowing:

This person's yard has a new water feature:

Nice rainbow, though:

This farmer's field is not supposed to be a lake:

And, fortunately, while the water is very close to the road's edge, it hasn't flooded the road - this time:

The broader impact of these rains has been large. The major north/south interstate freeway (I5), running through California, Oregon and Washington, was shut down in Washington for a number of days due to freeway flooding. My favorite market, Trader Joe's, has been unable to get their deliveries:

This has left many of their refrigerated cases:

produce stands:

and shelves completely bare:

On a happy note, though, that pretty rainbow followed me all the way home:

Just as an FYI, I don't go anywhere without my little pocket camera. I would sooner leave without my shoes than without my precious picture-taker. So, while in my local farm store the other day, I saw this interesting message on the outside of my chicken scratch grain bag. My farm and feed store wants me to know that they are doing their part to help my family out during this struggling economic times:

That *is* a really good price.