Saturday, January 15, 2011

one truck farm

Missed the NEBCA annual meeting because the pony and I were down at Midas for two hours. That muffler I needed to replace... Well, turns out the tail pipe was shot too. Had holes in it scattered and rusted through like bird shot. I also found out why it was so horrible in the snow—the sway bar was broken, not even connected to the right wheel. So those things were repaired and I was silently grateful that they accepted staggering checks to be cashed after I got paid for the service. I also had fluids topped off, oil changed, hell I even washed the old girl to get some of the salt off her. After all that attention she felt like a new truck again, drove quietly and true. She still needs some other maintenance, but we'll get by for a while. Things like tires, a transmission flush, and some horrible issue with the back end's structure keeping it suspended over the wheels.

Looks like the money I'll get for selling the Subaru (once I get the title from the State of New York) will cover most of the repairs though, and that's a wash I can deal with.

It felt good actually. I was a little upset at first that I missed the only meeting of the year the Border Collie Club held (rumor has it I was nominated Newsletter Editor?), but to know I was taking care of something so important was comforting. The truck is like any other animal on the farm: needing attention, care, and regular check ups. Even though the repairs were more extensive than I thought they would be, hell, at least she's here. In all this chaos of the last week I kept forgetting how lucky I was to have this truck in the first place. I'd be lost without that scrappy beast.

It's snowing here pretty steady. The sheep are birds and fed and Pig is chomping away at her cracked corn and sow ration. It's hard to believe that in a few days she'll be inside the house. I picked up everything on Mrs. Frost's list of supplies after the car was freed: the plywood, bleach, freezer paper, ziplock bags, plastic wrap and such. It's odd shopping for someone's execution. I had no qualms.

Friday, January 14, 2011

and so...

The Subaru is gone. Now it's just me and the pickup. I feel like my Rhino died and all I have left to travel through the world is a paint pony. Not that there's anything wrong with ponies, I just really felt safe on the back of that Rhino. But what's done is done. I sold the Subaru for a couple hundred bucks, and it will start the savings pot for a new truck. I know some of you are shaking your heads at all this, but trust me, that Rhino was dead. Transmission ruined, cat converter gone bad, a destroyed interior, busted fuses, no working wiper fluid tubes, electrical problems...I ride them hard. My lesson has been learned though. Take care of your car and it takes care of you. I ran that Subaru into the ground.

So here's my plan. I will save up a couple thousand dollars over the spring and summer and by fall I'll have a new 4-wheel-drive pickup with room for my dogs and ready for winter. Now, when I say "new" I mean new to me. The plan is to buy an older truck outright for a trade in and cash. I'm past the point in my life where paying the bank for owning a truck for me sounds like a good deal. Cash for title, thanks.

At least that is the plan. If something tragic happens to the Ranger, it might all change. I have learned that "plans" on a farm are really just incantations. You can hope with fury and try your hardest, but sometimes weather, transmissions, and circumstance get in the way. Anyway, I hope to stick with Ford. I like buying American, and I've grown so fond of my little truck I can only imagine an F150 or 4x4 Ranger would suit me just fine. In the mean time, I have to start treating the Ranger like she's the sole vehicle that she is. Tomorrow morning she goes into the garage to repair her broken muffler, get her fluids changed and checked, and so forth. After that is the annual NEBCA meeting in Albany, which I will stay for just long enough to beat any afternoon snow.

The car crisis has been met and defeated in honorable combat. Sorry for the melt down. (You know I'm freaking out when there are a lot more grammar mistakes than usual.) Now back to your regularly scheduled bloggramming.

Edwardian Farm

Thursday, January 13, 2011

i know they could be worse.

The Subaru was kinda running yesterday, but today I can't even back it out of the driveway. It just stopped working. It is blocking the pickup and the three feet of snow around it leaves no other options except removing the Subaru to back it out (which I can't). I am scared to drive the light truck, which I have to dig out and re plow the driveway by hand just to attempt driving it to work, which I am very late for. I have missed two days of work this week, and I might miss half of another one. I am sure I'm not a big hit with my boss right now. I'm on the phone with my roadside emergency service but the tow trucks under my plan are all busy with the storm...no one can get me out of here until this afternoon, and they don't want to drive up the mountain and risk getting their own tow trucks stucj. I can't just get a ride to work because, I have to be here to sign the invoice of the roadside assistance won't cover it, and I NEED them to cover it because paying for any extra expenses is totally out of the picture right now. I'm out of morale, and energy, and dog food, my cell phone is out of juice, and I have an embarrassingly low checking account till next paycheck two weeks from now due to heating oil and a mortgage payment. I'm worried and scared that I won't be able to get a new car with my iffy credit. I hate this storm, it is making everything a hundred times more stressful. The barn roof is buckling, the animals are stuck in small spaces, and hauling water is a feat that humbles you.

What do you do with a broken car you can't fix? Do you sell it to a dump? Do you hide it in your driveway till another day? Where is the how-to manual on everyday life?

I just want this week to be over with. I know things could be worse. I know I am lucky to even have these problems in the first place. But that doesn't solve such big problems. I'll be okay. I just need a miracle, or a dealership willing to finance a new truck for a humble trade in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

eat local food. support local art.

If you will be around Southern Vermont next weekend there's going to be a friendly little gallery event you should not miss. My coworker (and part-time Cold Antler photographer) Tim Bronson will be hosting his first-ever photography show at Izabella's Eatery in downtown Bennington. There will be food, music, and great prints on the walls. I don't think there will be any Cold Antler animal images on display, but there will be plenty of other compelling eye candies to keep your artistic gears grinding. See his work here.

Izabella's is a wonderful little restaurant that offers seasonal/local foods and supports local farmers and artists. It's a great place to eat, and Tim's award-winning photography will not only be on display, but for sale. So head on out and support good food, good people, and good pictures. Local food and pictures, hot dang.

January 23rd
Izabella's Eatery
351 Main Street
Bennington, VT
1-5pm

storm front video update

storm ewe

storm

...WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM EST THIS EVENING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN ALBANY HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM EST THIS EVENING. THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

* LOCATIONS: THE SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS...EASTERN MOHAWK VALLEY AND LAKE GEORGE SARATOGA REGION.

* HAZARDS: MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS: 6 TO 16 INCHES OF SNOW WITH THE LOWEST SNOWFALL TOTALS ACROSS NORTHWEST HAMILTON COUNTY AND THE HIGHEST TOTALs ACROSS SOUTHERN WASHINGTON COUNTY.

* TIMING: SNOW HEAVY AT TIMES TAPERING OFF TOWARD EVENING. SNOWFALL RATES HALF AN INCH TO AN INCH PER HOUR.

* IMPACTS: HAZARDOUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED ON WEDNESDAY. SNOW COVERED ROADS WILL BE SLIPPERY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW...SLEET...AND ICE ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

good news and bad news

My day started with an exciting trip into Manchester, Vermont for a visit to a local NPR studio. Lynne Rosseto Kasper of the Splendid Table was calling into the station to interview me about keeping backyard chickens and how to deal with tough roosters. I had never been in a real radio booth before, and just sitting there with my headphones and the giant poofy microphone made me feel all sorts of special. It was a quick half hour, and I think it went well! The segment will air in two weeks, and hopefully spread the gospel of backyard chickens to the foodie masses. Before I said goodbye I gushed at Lynne about how much I loved her show. I really do. I've been listening for years. Falling in love with cooking is a side-product of growing and raising your own food. Cooking is a celebration. I am damn Mummer.

My day ended however, in a transmission shop. The Subaru is dead. The transmission is at a point where replacing it would cost about $3,500 and I don't even think the old girl is worth that much anymore, certainly not after what I put her through. Even if I wanted to replace her for sentimental reasons, I can't afford to. It was a hard blow to this small farm. It's the only four-wheel drive vehicle I have—and while I am damn lucky to have the pickup here to remain the lone workhorse—it's not a snow car. The Ranger just can't handle ice or any road covering beyond a dusting. Hell, I got it stuck in wet grass. To really frost the cake, they are calling for up to ten inches by tomorrow afternoon, starting late tonight. Most of it dumping in hard storm surges that make driving up a narrow, winding, mountain road in a light, 4 cylinder, 2WD pickup near impossible. All I can do is put weight in the back and hope the studded snow tires do their very best after the roads are cleared. Ugh. The sad reality is I need to sell the Subaru and find a replacement 4WD something. If anyone has a lead on an F-150, let me know.

I can't even really think about it tonight. It's too much. I know it's certainly not the end of the world, but It is times like this when I really wish I had a partner. When you're a team you simply figure things out. When you're alone you have to stress through it, become a burden to your coworkers, and lose sleep tossing and turning over the solution. There's no one to decompress with, or talk through it, or tell you things are going to be okay. On a new farm: 99% of the daily effort is based on convincing yourself that is true.

Monday, January 10, 2011

goose bread

I made the sweetest, flakiest, sugar-coated bread this weekend and wanted to share the recipe. It came out perfectly, and it was one of those happy miracles amateur cooks come across among the many flops of an educational kitchen: but this, this bread was heavenly. I made some flourishes and variations on a basic farm loaf recipe and added a secret ingredient...goose.

Well, a goose egg that is.

Goose Bread

You'll need:
Good Flour
Room Temperature Butter
Honey
Yeast
Sugar
Goose Egg (can substitute one and a half chicken eggs)
whisk
cake pan (or cast-iron skillet)
large baking bowl
large saucepan of water


Start your bread by placing a teaspoon of dry active yeast into a bowl, and cover it with about a tablespoon of good honey. Then add about a cup of hot water (like as hot as your tap will go) and using a whisk—quickly mix together the honey, hot water, and yeast into a dirty, frothy, water that looks cloudy and useless. Then set it aside and come back in about 5 or 10 minutes to see what's come of it. If you have a frothy head of yeast foam; then your yeast was fresh enough and your water was hot enough. If you just have the same exact dirty water your bread probably won't rise and be hard as a brick. (Try again with hotter (non boiling) water and fresher yeast.)

But if you got the frothy goodness...
Crack your goose egg and whisk that in as well. (I add about a 1/4 cup of sugar at this point too) and about a 1/2 cup of flour. This is my starter. What you should get is a wet porridge of yellowy goodness. Add half a cup of flour at a time and mix/knead it in to thicken it up to the point where you can start kneading on a table top. You want a firm dough that still remains a little sticky. (You can sprinkle flour on your counter while you knead to keep it from messing up your table and to keep it intact.)

When your dough has been well kneaded (about 5 minutes of good arm working out), take some soft butter into your clean hands and literally rub your hands together like it came with a Jergens label on it. Then use that soft butter and massage it into and around your dough, really give it a coating like you're repairing cracked skin. Cover the thing in a film of real butter and let it set to rise in a clean bow with a damp cloth covering it. It needs at least two hours (egg breads rise slower, the dough has to work more) in a comfortable, undisturbed place.

When it's doubled in size you're ready to punch it down and knead it back into its original shape. When you got all the air out, break it into three balls, coat them with some fresh flour (as to make them less sticky) and roll them into long snakes of dough with your hands. (You want them fairly skinny, like as thick as your thumb.) Take all three snakes and braid them now. Make them into a long, beautiful, horse-tail braid and then coil that braid around itself so you have a gorgeous knotted circle. Make sure you really seal the ends and bottom by pinching the dough together so it is really connected and won't break apart while it bakes.) Now place your pretty dough into a buttered cake pan (or better yet, cast-iron skillet). Set it aside for another two hours to rise again. You want the skin to get a little hard to the touch, almost stale. that's when you know you're ready to make magic happen.

Next you'll get some water to boil over your stove. When it's bubbling, take your small circle loaf and carefully place it into the boiling water (like you would with a bagel) for about half a minute, and then flip it back over. Set it on a clean dish towel to air dry and then brush it with melted butter. Before the butter gets a chance to dry too, gently sprinkled sugar on top. (If you sprinkle from about ten inches above it your sugar will fall over your crust more evenly). Place it back into your greased up skillet and bake for about 25 minutes at 360. When it is a healthy brown take it right out of the oven, free it from its pan, and set it to air on a rack or towel. Eat with real butter. Smile like the happy beast you are and take a bite.

Goose Bread. Hot damn, it's the next big thing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

is there anything more beautiful?