Monday, December 31, 2007

eat pie it's 2008!

Just in from my week long Christmas vacation in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. While I’d like to think that people wanted to see me while I was home, the real star of the week was my apple pie. I made four of them while staying at my folks house. All of them were eaten plate clean. One that I baked at 2 Am for the boys was finished in six minutes by Johnny, Marcus and Ajay. That’s a personal record. Here’s my recipe. You can cheat and buy the Pillsbury crusts in your grocers refrigerated section. I find they are the easiest for slicing into lattice for braiding the top. (that's a homemade crust though in the picture, and it's not candied like you should, just a heads up)

Idaho Apple Pie

To make the filling, son!

3 braeburn apples, pealed and diced
1 stick of sweet cream salted butter (melted)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1-2 cups of powdered sugar

mix these all together. Place in piecrust. Cover with another crust or braided section if you’re feeling fancy. If you do use a solid pie crust, make sure to cut five slits from the center to the edges so that baby can breathe. Before shoving in the oven, melt some more butter in a mug. Add some cinnamon and granulated sugar and make a paste. Brush the candy butter topping over the crust. This is crucial to the pies awesomeness. Bake at 360 for 40 minutes or until crust looks browned and crispy. Enjoy enjoy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

happy holidays from idaho

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

snowplows and the jones street boys

After a long day in the office (Christmas in retail advertising is horrible) I headed for the parking lot, which was covered in ice slush. I grumbled to the car, knowing soon as I got into the driveway I would have to start shoveling. Slush traps cars in ways ice, snow and powder never could dream too. Tired and cranky, and wanting to be in the company of paws and feathers and not in the rain, I pulled off 95 and to my surprise the entire drive was plowed! Ron to the rescue! My neighbor had kindly plowed me out while I was at work. I called them right away to say thanks and not only did they say it was no sweat, Mrs. Crawford had a jar of huckleberry jalapeño jam for me to take home to PA! I love country people so much.

After the usual feeding and dog meals were dished out I was reading on the couch when the phone started ringing. I always get nervous when the phone rings after midnight EST. But it was Taylor in Nashville. She was hanging out at a friends house with the bluegrass band the “Jones Street Boys. I’m not exactly sure how she managed to hang out casually with a band on a Tuesday night but she let me request a song and played it live for me across the country. The Jones Street Boys sounded amazing. Top Shelf all the way. I picked up Annie’s front paws and we danced around the kitchen. Jazz came over to see what the fuss was about and I scooped him up too. I thanked her a hundred times, thanked a lad named Jonny, and said goodnight. It feels damn special to get a call like that out of the blue. Thanks darling!

the jones street boys website (they are lookers)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thomas Kinkade would've thrown up

Last night around 9 PM I went outside to close up the chicken pen like I do every night, but soon as I walked out into the moonlight, I noticed a completely different visual. The circular lights of a snowplow flickered off the barn. There was one beeping and backing up just past the farm on the highway, and it’s flashing was almost police car like. Except it didn’t’ give you that feeling of anxiety the blue and red lights do. Nah, it was more like Christmas lights actually.

Instead of walking behind the house on the well worn path to the coops, I waded in the opposite direction through the snow till I was about 100 feet away from the front door. The sky broke open from the past 3 nights and there were stars coming through the clouds behind the house's steep gable. The big dipper soared up into the heavens pointing forever north. The porch light and the civil plow’s flashes were the only other sources of light besides those stars. In the dark the farmhouse glowed like a storybook cottage, perfect and warm and tucked away from the whole world. Inside I knew there was warm food and snuggling dogs and I had a cup of hot mint tea and a documentary on Thomas Jefferson to get back too under the wool blanets on the couch. But I think I stood there in the cold watching the house for at least five minutes in the stillness. I was waiting for it to get picked up and shook like a snow globe. I waited but it never did. I fed the birds some leftover cherry pie and went back inside.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

winter lodgers

Due to the collapse of their home, the two remaining Silkies have moved inside. They spend most of their time in the garage but I let them hang around the kitchen for about an hour every night. They drink out of the dog bowl, roost themselves on the small metal basic planter of dirt that used to hold lettuce heads but now just has a coating of chicken feed on it. Which means they have soft earth to scratch in even though it’s 15 degrees outside. Last night the quiet, calm pair sat on the top of the couch to watch TV with me. Every so often they would coo or cock their head, but the pretty much just fell asleep. It’s kind of nice having them inside. I never had a parrot, but birds make pretty good company. They’ll sit on your lap and eat out of your hand. They like to be petted and chase each other like cats or dogs would. They have never had an “accident” indoors. I don’t know why some people are convinced all animals want to do when they get indoors is defecate on a carpet, as if they themselves have to run to the bathroom every time they visit someone’s home. Anyway, the chickens aren’t house pets. They’ll be back outside for good when the thaw hits and they have a new home. But right now it’s kinda fun to walk into the kitchen and have a tiny black kitchen perched on the microwave pruning its feathers. Drives Annie crazy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

books for snowdays

Ever since the industrial revolution people have been leaving the city to go back to the land, it’s an American cliché as common as singing 'Take me Out to the Ball Game' at the top of the seventh inning, but this book is hitting a nerve with me. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m intrigued. Two designers leave the city to open and B&B in rural Wisconsin. They have no agricultural experience and both decide to leave high paying advertising jobs to have alpacas in the sticks. I get it, hell, I’m trying to do it myself, but I’m curious what two world travelers who think pullet is a verb are going to do when all the fun of getting started is over? I’ll let you know when I finish reading it.

I love this book. Maybe it’s because I’m from Pennsylvania and the Amish have always been this mysterious local feral group of people. I have a lot of respect for them, crazy amounts. But not the kind of respect this Catholic MIT grad student and his wife have. For over a year they left Boston to live on a primitive Amish-type community. Hidden somewhere along the back roads of Middle America (undisclosed location) they live without even the simplest motor. Unlike Logan Wards new book, “See you in a Hundred years” the Brendes are satiated in a community living the same way. It’s more than a social experiment, a lot more. Eric and his wife become these people, and even have ea baby among the community. He ends up living just a few miles away and opening an inn and rickshaw business with his wife and two kids. I know my mom wonders why a KU student wants to have sheep, well mom, there are MIT students pulling rickshaws so don't lose heart.

Gene Logsdon is an amazing author. He’s been writing about agriculture for decades, but this fairly recent book of his is my favorite. It was given to me as a gift, and I’ve read through a few times already. It stressed common sense, logic and practicality over pride and other people’s opinions of how you work. It’s full of advice, plans, and conversations. If the Nearings wrote the Bible about “The Good Life” Logsdon has taken their inspiration to the cottage farmers. He explains whats wrong with modern methods of agriculture and how modern farmers drop 60k on a tractor they think they need when they could be selling christmas trees instead. It's full of sounds advice and critiques like that. A must read.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

leif is warm

my friend Leif sent me this picture of him sporting a cold antler knit hat in the blustery Midwestern streets of Cincinnati. Or in this case, at his place. Leif and I used to rock the cabash in Knoxville and I miss the old salt. He’s the only Scandinavian mariachi violinist I know, so far. Come home for christmas, son!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

almost there

I’m shipping out about 6 etsy orders today, if you’ve been patiently waiting I’m sorry and thanks. I have a bunch of domestic and Canadian orders, but also my music going to England, and soaps going to the Netherlands. Which is kinda cool. Besides keeping up with the farm store, things are starting to calm down at the farmhouse. The manuscript is hours away from completion and by Saturday it’ll be shipped off to Massachusetts with photography and notes. I’m so glad it’s done before the holiday break; the last thing I wanted was to be worrying about deadlines when I’m back in Palmerton. So, there will be a nice month long break between rewrites for just hanging out. I am grateful.

In other farm news I’ll be teaching my first fiddle lesson this weekend! A co-workers fiancé just got her first violin and wants to learn so she’s coming over to the farmhouse. I’m getting excited and making photocopies and burning cds so she can get started. Helping someone get started in making music is crazy satisfying. The whole teach a man to fish deal, you get the picture. The snow’s melting from rain, and north Idaho is damp and back to it’s usual self – cold and wet. It’s nearly 60 degrees today, a freak heatwave. The elk are psyched though. It’s like someone took the salad bar out of the freezer around my place. Cervine ruminants everywhere. Party!

Monday, December 3, 2007


I came home from lunch to let the dogs out and noticed there wasn’t any snow on the roof above the silkies coop. Oh no. If all three feet had gotten rain heavy and fallen on their pathetic apple crate coop, they were goners for certain. I trudged through the wet snow to the side of the house and there was a pile five feet high, the coop gone. I lost a rabbit Saturday morning, I didn’t want to find two suffocated chickens in a pile of rubble, but I had to know so I got out my shovel.

I stood on the top of the pile and started digging. When my snow shovel hit the aluminum roof I heard the faintest sound. A little coo and some chirps. My god, they were still alive under there? I frantically pulled apart the wood and roof and into a little pocket of air and apple crate that had turned on its side making a little serendipitous teepee. Inside the two wet birds were huddled together, Emily and Mac. I pulled them out and carried them in my arms back into the house. It was pouring outside and I was soaked through from the avalanche mission. I just put them down on the mudroom floor and left to change. I knew they were too out of sorts to go far. The dogs were asleep in their crates so they didn’t even stir when I carried the refugees through the house and into the garage. I placed them in a big cardboard box with pine shavings, clean water and some feed. I covered it with a section of wire fencing and let them go to dry off and relax.

The bird’s pocket of air from the snow couldn’t have been more than 20 square inches of space. Had I waited till after work to check on them I doubt they would’ve made it. Two lucky little black birds in the snow.