Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An almost perfect day

Have you ever had one of those really pefect days? You know, the kind that keeps surprising you with sweet moments, little ones, that even individually would be cool, but all together make the kind of day that you'd love to have go on forever?

I'm not talking about big or monumental things happening. Just things, like, where you keep noticing the weather getting sunnier and the air getting fresher. Where you find yourself, even if only momentarily, happy with the world and feeling good in your own skin. I had one of those days recently. This is how it went.

Jim and I had decided, at the spur of the moment, to go to the beach. It's just a little more than an hour away from us, but, sometimes, with all there is to do here on the farm, we have a hard time giving ourselves permission to just "take the day off" and do something that doesn't involve getting all the chores done.

Yet, on this day, we did. The day started out kind of crappy, too. The weather was cloudy and cold and I got carsick on the way down (which hasn't happened in a long time). When we got to the beach, I was completely green and decided to sit in the car for a bit while Jim took Roxy for a walk.

As I sat there, feeling pathetic, eating salty potato chips and willing myself to feel better, the clouds dissappeared and I was suddenly enveloped in warm, incredible sunshine:

I looked out window next to me and saw this guy:

Very cute. So, I threw him a couple of chips. I like seagulls. This is fortunate, too, because a friend of the cute guy decided suddenly to land on the hood of our car and look at me:

So...I gave him a chip, too:

"Please, ma'am, I want some more." Did you know that seagulls could be so polite? (and quote Dickens??):

He was asking so nicely, how could I resist?:

You want more!? But seems now some very attentive friends have noticed the handout:

Uh oh. Now, that's not polite. That's just plain pushy, if you ask me:

Snack time's over. Time to move on, you guys. Besides, I'm feeling better now:

I looked down to the beach and could see my beloveds enjoying their walk:

One of them saw me and waved:

Roxy was happy when I caught up to them on the beach:

Jim, of course, had already mapped out all the beach geocaches before we had left home. It was fun that there was one hidden close to our current favorite beach. Off he went to try to find it:

Is it considered bad form if I post a picture of him looking for the cache? I hope not:

Roxy wondered for a split second what he was doing:

and then became distracted by a smell. When she found the smell, she rolled in it. Ewwww:

Since Jim and Roxy were clearly involved, doing the things they love, I went off in search of heart-shaped rocks. I like heart-shaped rocks. Look, here's one:

Here's another:

Here's one, but it appears broken. How sad:

The Oregon coast is known for its dramatic clouds:

I always try to get at least one picture of the three of us together. I really need to get better at self-portraits:

Jim suggested we stop in at our favorite cafe for shot of espresso, a soy mocha, and an incredible cinnamon roll:

It was a perfect day:

Before we headed back, we couldn't resist one more quick run on the beach:

We left with smiles on our faces.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicken Law & Order

Forgive me. This is just so funny. A very short episode of Law & Order, performed entirely by chickens. Enjoy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Good girl, Dottie!

Some of you may recall my loopy chicken girl, Dottie:

She is a White-Crested Black Polish hen with a crazy head of feathers and an extremely unusual personality.

Dottie is what is known as an ornamental breed, one that is better known for her high strung behavior and beautiful feathers than for her egg-laying abilities. To illustrate this point, Dottie stopped laying last September. What this means is that, while all my other hens continued to lay, there were no eggs from Dottie in October. There were no eggs from her in November. There were no eggs in December. You get where I'm going with this, right? No eggs.

What a surprise it was then, when, one month ago today on January 20th, I found a small, white egg in the coop nest box. Of my ten laying hens, she is the only one who lays white eggs, so there was no confusion who the egg bearer was. Dottie had decided to lay again! (Modeling hands courtesy of Marcee, a.k.a. frugalmom):

I'm not sure whether she laid in honor of Inauguration Day:

or Marcee's visit to Oregon:

but lay she did and this little gal has been laying ever since. Every other day since January 20th, I have gotten a beautiful, white egg (weighing somewhere between 1.5 and 1.8 ounces, for those interested):

We had long ago accepted Dottie's sporadic egg-laying and, instead, decided to appreciate:
...her unusual personality:

...her curiosity:

...her talkative nature:

...and how proud she holds her head, even after a rainstorm:

Despite her breed being considered ornamental and, therefore, more fragile, she has surprised me with her hardiness and resilience. (Two traits I think every farm girl should have!):

And now she has surprised me again, giving me enough eggs to fill a farm truck:

What are we doing with all the Dottie eggs, you ask?:

Why, we're making scrambled eggs, of course!:

Go Dot!:

(My baby Dot, ten months ago):

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baking bread in the snow

Since it's now February, silly northwest Oregonian that I am, I thought that the wicked wintry weather was behind us. Yet, on the day that I planned to prune my apple tree:

...this is what I saw when I looked outside:

And it kept coming down, all day long:

So I amended my plan of the day and decided, instead, to do something with all the various ingredients that had begun to gather on my counter:

I've had enough of sourdough experimentation for a while and have recently become interested in baking with different types of flour:

I found a recipe on the Bob's Red Mill site that intrigued me: Gruyere Rye Buns. I'm not a fan of caraway seeds and most of the rye bread I've seen has this in it, so I loved that this recipe gives me the opportunity to experiment with rye flour without that nasty seed getting in the way.

I've included the recipe for these buns is at the end of this post - these were very fun to make!

Bread with cheese is wonderful. I've rarely met a cheese I didn't like. Gruyere is yummy:

The dough remained very sticky and was a bit awkward to work with:

But it rose beautifully in my pretty wooden bread bowl:

The tops of the buns were brushed with olive oil and egg yolk before baking:

A few of the tops got a bit browner than I would have liked, but the flavor is delicious and the texture moist and light:

Because this recipe calls for a mix of rye and white flour, the rye flavor in these buns is extremely mild. It is a nice change from traditional wheat flour:

p.s. Note to Farmer Jen: Hey, Jen, look what I found:


Recipe: Gruyere Rye Buns

2 Tbs Yeast, Active Dry
2-1/2 cups Warm Water (110 - 115 degrees F)
2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Honey
2 tsp Sea Salt
4 cups White Flour, Unbleached
2 cups Rye Flour, Light (unbleached)
2 cups (8 oz.) Gruyere Cheese, divided
2 Large Eggs, separated
2 Tbs Cornmeal, Medium Grind
2 Tbs Olive Oil

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil, honey, salt, 1 cup unbleached white flour, 2 cups rye flour, and 1 cup cheese to yeast. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into dough.

Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the boil. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl; turn to coat the entire ball with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over the dough. Knead the cheese into the dough slightly – there should be large streaks of cheese visible in the dough. Cover with a towel and let rest on the work surface for 5 minutes.

For crispier buns, sprinkle well-seasoned baking sheets lightly with cornmeal or semolina flour.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 24" long rope. Cut each rope into 10 equal pieces. Place buns 3" apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten the tops so they’re about 2" high; cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Just before baking beat egg yolks with olive oil and brush over the tops and sides of the buns. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the buns reaches 190°. Immediately remove from baking sheets and cool on a rack.

Makes 20 buns.