Potato Soup Day
By the time my next cartload was stacked the yeast would be activated, frothy are ready for action. (By action I mean flour and salt.) I’d mix and knead it after the one more stacked load. I did this between chores. The dough would rise in my warm house while I prepared for the coming snowstorm.
There was a lot to do to prepare, but all of it familiar which meant it was more effort than thought. I appreciated that. Loading firewood onto a cart and pulling the 150lb cargo to the stacking area took about fifteen minutes a load from ground to stacked. Between these loads (I did this roughly twenty times today) I made sure to get the animals ready. Bales of straw-like first cut hay were carried up the hill to the pole barns. There are two little shelters on the hill and each got lined with fresh bedding. People say sheep don’t care about this but I disagree. It is a soft barrier between cold ground they can snack on if the wind howls too rough to walk down the mountain to their feeding station. No matter what blew in tonight - these sheep had feed if the snow came heavy.
The same was done for the goats and pigs. All got extra fluff to nest in for the snowy night ahead. Every beast, be they equine, ovine, porcine or caprine - all got fresh linens and new buckets of well water. The same water I would soon be boiling three potatoes in. I had soup on the mind all day.
A few more loads to go of firewood and then back inside to do kitchen work. I made dough and skinned and cut up the taters. They were boiling and dough was rising in no time. By this point my body was weary from the combined workout of farm, firewood, and bread. Kneading dough is one kind of muscle group - Carrying buckets and hay another. I was thinking about my dinner with a wolfish mind. The dogs chased sticks in the yard and removed their favorite pieces of kindling from baskets while I separated and stacked. So helpful, them.
Another load of wood stacked and I ran inside to check on the boiling chunks of potatoes and felt them with a fork. They were soft. I drained most of the water, leaving a bit in the base of the saucepan. I mashed them up and added enough milk to turn my mashed potatoes into more of a porridge. I set it aside. More wood to haul. I tried to remember where I left the fence tester? Before the storm I had to double check the pigs were well-kept behind live wires. It wasn't a priority though, in this weather all I would need to do to catch them would be to open the barn door. Pigs are comfort loving fools and would all be asleep in the dry hay for certain come morning. Thinking of this I remembered I had bacon in the fridge, an onion in the cupboard, and some sharp cheddar in the crisper... Oh man, this would be a soup to tell stories about.
Around 4PM I had finished all the animals' care and feeding for the day but I still had piles of wood to go. I listened to the audiobook of Name of the Wind as I did this. Every listen gets better.
Earlier in the day, sometime around noon, I had headed into town to visit my friends at the Commune. Othniel and Yeshiva are part of a Messianic Jewish Commune in Cambridge. I know people there well and even though we aren’t the same faith we are the same religion - farming. I struck a deal for some of the second cut hay in their barn and loaded it into the back of my truck. (I wasn’t out at home, but getting close. I would feel a lot better knowing there was plenty of good grass inside when the fields turned white.) They offered me lunch but I politely declined, as I wasn't hungry yet. I drink a pot of coffee every morning with cream. It holds me over well into the afternoon (longer if I skip sugar). But really, I wanted to savour something delicious. I wanted to make a meal from scratch and adore every bite. To eat it in that holy lightness of being tired, hungry, and grateful.
Making the soup was pretty basic. I had my milky potato base set aside. In another small pot I melted some butter and once it was liquid, added some flour to it to make a roux of sorts. This would thicken the mash up into more of meal that porridge. In a second skillet I fried up three slices of thin bacon and once they were done, chopped them and added them to the potato pot. That’s pretty much soup, guys. Oh, because I love onions I chopped some up and fried them in the bacon fat left over. The fat-fried onions, bacon, butter, salt, pepper and mash made a perfect cold-weather soup when all mixed together. I tasted as I went - never being stingy with the butter or salt (secret to cooking anything, really) and then preheated the oven to 400 for the bread.
I baked a small loaf and let that smell fill my home. I don't eat grains like I used to, but when I do eat them it is like this - a holiday meal. Once done and cooled, I cut a hole in it and filled it with the wonderful soup. I ate by candle and lantern light. Every bite special. Every bit of it worth squeezing into the spaces of the day. Because of the tooth issues it wasn't easy to eat fast or eat much, but what I did manage made up for it. And I am pretty sure even a small serving was a bajillion calories so no worries there!
The snow is just starting to fall now and I am very tired. Looking forward to calling this good day, done. May your beds be warm, your dogs be kind, and your morning be bright.