Monday, January 31, 2011


I did not have the intention of posting 2 posts in a row about our walks along the river but we went back on a very foggy morning and it was so beautiful, I thought I'd share.

                                                                           January 2011.

                                                                                                                   Does It Go To Narnia?

                                                                                                       A Turkey Vulture In Flight.

                                                                                                                                 Wild Geese.

                                                                                                       Whose Web?

                                                                                                     Velvety Mushrooms.

                                                                                              Can You Spot the Squirrel?

                                                                      Did A Faery Waved Her Wand To Bring In Spring?

                                                                 Majestic Oak.              

                                                                                 Surely The Faery Folk Live here.

                                                                                         Flight Of Geese.

                                                                                                 Beautiful Lichen.




                                                                                                                   The Deer In The Fog.
                                                                                                                                                                The Meadow.

                                                                                                                             Silhouette Of A Turkey Vulture.

                                                                                                        How Many Turkey Vultures Can You Spot? 
                                                                                                                                  Wild Turkeys.

And I'm so happy to have my little Elf to share all of this with...


Thursday, January 27, 2011

On My Mind.

Following Rhonda.

                                                                                                                                  By The River.

Taken at this wonderful Place.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Thief And The Sunflowers.

Little Thief!

This was last year.

This is this year:

Little Thief The 2nd.

Now they are kind of cute and most definitely entertaining for the dogs, the toddler and the rest of us.
They would win hands down any and all food competitions.
They really are rats with a furry tail.
Which I wouldn't care if,
They were not also comparable with the amount of food they eat.
I don't care if they eat the bird seeds.
Could they please leave my Apricots and Sunflowers alone this Summer, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Twirling Your Way To a Recipe.

And here is the recipe!

                                  Pork Chops with a Mushroom-Sorrel Sauce

Cook the pork chops on medium-high heat until they caramelize but not until cooked through. Remove them from the pan and add a sliced onion and the mushrooms of your choice. Cook until the onion is golden and the mushrooms are cooked almost all the way through. Add the Sorrel and cream. Cook for 2 minutes and add the pork chops to the sauce. Cook together for about 15 minutes.

I served it with steamed Potatoes.

Everybody loved it including the toddler.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fog and The Quince Tree.

While the week-end was beautiful, sunny and dry, today started with a thick blanket of fog.

Droplets on the Fig tree branches.

Foggy Morning.

                                                       Water collects on Laurel leaves from the Fog.

We spent most of the week-end finishing digging in the future vegetable garden and going to nurseries to find a Quince Tree.  This was not easy. But it's easier than trying to find the fruit for sale at the markets in the fall. I can't really explain this actually. Quinces are a very very popular fruit in so many cultures ( from Asia to Spain... Membrillo anyone?), are so incredibly easy to grow and taste so heavenly that I can't quite explain why they are not more popular in the States. Maybe because for most varieties it has to be cooked before you can eat it?

 The Quince, Cydonia oblonga, is related to Pears and Apples and when ripe is yellow with a white-gray fuzz all over that needs to be wiped before cooking. The trees are extremely beautiful in any season: superb blossoms in Spring, the leaves in Summer are a medium green with fine white-gray hairs or depending on the variety, a dark smooth green, making a great contrast with the multitude of yellow pear shaped fruits hanging heavily from the branches. In winter the gnarly silhouette of the tree makes for an interesting focal point in the garden.
The quince probably originated in Iran thousands of years ago. It is now widely cultivated in all the Mediterranean basin and in Asia as well as South America. There are many varieties of Quince Fruit Trees ( not to be confused with the flowering quince tree Chaenomeles); mine is the "Smyrna', is self fruiting (and heavily at that) and could be as high as 20 feet if we let it. But we won't... we'll pruning at a height of 10 to 12 feet so that the fruit is easy to pick and , considering its location, does not put too much shade in the vegetable garden.
Growing a Quince tree is very easy: they have shallow roots and will grow in almost any soil, including clay like mine.

                                                 The Shallow Roots of a Smyrna Quince tree.

They thrive in moist soil and a warm site and benefit from fertilizing from Spring to Summer with a Seaweed solution. Few pests and diseases bother them except maybe fireblight ( they are related to Apples and Pears ). If your tree is affected, cut off the branches at least 12 inches below the signs of disease. And plant them where they'll get plenty of air circulation.

I'll post pictures of our tree as the months go by... and I'll also write of the many many recipes using quinces.

Did you know that you can even use the seeds as a remedy for coughs, including pneumonia?

What's not to love? Maybe I should dedicate my tree to the Goddess of Love like the Ancients did.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Beautiful Day and Poop.

This morning we went to the zoo and got a (really rare) treat of french fries with mustard

                                                                      Almost 2....

Baby Girl skipped her nap so we headed out to the garden, played in the sand box and worked on putting some of this compost full of good poop...

                                                           Leaves, poop and worms.

There, also known as the Future Potager II

                                                                              Potager The II.

And then, then, we drooled other This

                                                                                                       Drool Worthy.

All of this under that sky

                                                                                             January 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mud, The Seeds and a Gardener's Happy Spot.

No, no, no, nothing salacious going on...
This is a gardener's happy spot:

Seed catalogs. Show me a gardener that doesn't like them. In the past I have ordered happily from Johnny's Selected Seeds and Renee's seeds. I also bought seeds from the local nurseries as well as a frightening number of plants, flowers and vegetables ( and let's not forget the trees ). Let's just say that moderation is not my first, middle or last name.
And this year, for the first time, I received a catalog from Baker Creek.
Oh dear. It took me days of looking at the catalog, then an entire day of harassing my family with what about this one, or that one? And what about this!? Did you see the warts, that's so awesome, rhaaaa the agony we don't have enough room, I have to choose, I can't stand this, honey can we buy the house next door to get a bigger yard?

Or move where we can afford 10 acres?

Sadly we are not moving but I finally managed to finish the order at 12:30 am. Their website is great. I love the comments on the products and ordering was easy and smooth.
Now we'll just have to see and taste the results.
Saying that I'm excited is an understatement.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Rain, the Flu and a Potion.


Well, it's raining for a change. At least it's not foggy, that's always a plus. And a weird cold/flu virus is going through the house.
The symptoms?
Aches and a fever at first, followed by a cough and a runny nose with watery eyes.
There are several "potions" that I use for colds and flu but this time I wanted something simple and fairly quick and with what I had on hand because, well, I was sick too and, did I mention this before?, I have a toddler which by definition, means that I take care of a fairly demanding little, but mighty, person.
So, here is what I did:

In a mug:
Crush a garlic clove
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper
A bit of cinnamon
A tea bag of  Gypsy Cold Care from Traditional Medicinals
A tea bag of HerbaTussin from Traditional Medicinals if you are coughing

Pour boiling water, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.

Remove the tea bags, put in raw honey and the juice of half a lemon.

I'm happy to say that it worked extremely well. My son missed only a day of school ( good thing too, it was the midterms ) in spite of falling sick on Monday.
I got it too, 2 days after him, and it only lasted a day and a half for me. Of course with him sick, I knew what was coming and started to take the tea as soon as I felt the aches. I'm breastfeeding my toddler and I did not have a cough so I used the tea for colds Just For Kids, again from Traditional Medicinals.

Drink this tea 3 times a day until all of your symptoms disappear.

I have the project to do an online Herbal and I'll start this very shortly . I'll detail which herb is best used when and also their growing conditions. In case you'd like to start an herb garden.

As always remember to consult your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if you are already taking medications.

I also made a dinner that should help when you are sick:

                         Indian Rice and Vegetables in Goose Fat

Rinse 250g of rice and soak it for 30 mns.
In a skillet, cook an onion until golden and add a chopped garlic clove and an inch of ginger (also chopped)
Cook for 2 mns and add the rice, drained. After a couple of minutes add a large can of tomatoes and a bit of salt.
Cover and cook on low for 20 mns.
If you have some serve with chopped coriander. Sadly I'm out and I keep forgetting to plant it...

For the vegetables,
I cut potatoes in chunks and steamed them with Brussels sprouts. In a skillet I cooked an onion, garlic and dinosaur kale together in goose fat. When cooked I added the steamed potatoes and Sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts and Dinosaur Kale, January 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Bowl with the Rotting Fruit in It.

I don't know how things work in your family but in mine there are weeks where everybody wants to eat fruit all the time. All week long you can hear things like "who took the last pear, it was mine" or "how come there are no more tangerines??". The one-in-charge-of-keeping-the-fruit-bowl-stocked-up scratches his head and logically thinks that next time he goes to the farmers market, well, he'll stock up on fruit since everybody is eating so much of it. And it'll all get eaten quickly. Since everybody wants it so badly. Well, logically.
And on the next Saturday morning as he is about to cross the threshold he'll inquire again what everybody wants from the market and the house will echo with remarkable unison "FRUIT".
So he goes and still thinking logically buys fruit. A lot of it. Persimons, pears, apples and pomegranates. And tangerines, oranges and lemons.
And then, 2 days go by. Some fruit is being eaten and a lot is left. And it is Monday and the postman comes by bearing two enormous packages marked France. The packages that had been eagerly awaited before Christmas but didn't make it because planes were not crossing the ocean at that time. Snow they said.

And the packages were full to the brim with chocolate and a multitude of other French goodies that were promptly munched on by everybody.

And the fruit you ask?
Ah, the fruit. It stayed piled up high in its bowl. Days passed. Turning into a week. And the fruit became squishy at first. And I thought that really I should do something about this.
And then the fruit discolored until inevitably it started to rot.

So I made Fruit Compote

I cut all the parts that  I could from the pears and apples. Cut the persimons in half and scooped the pulp out. And I cut the pomegranates in quarters and took as much of the juice and seeds as I could. It simmered on low with vanilla and orange flower water  until it was nice and soft. I added a large handful of slivered almonds and turned off the heat.
Be warned that if you add pomegranates the seeds will be very noticeable in the compote. It does not bother my toddler or myself but it does bother the rest of the family. That's too bad. More for us I guess.
If you don't want the seeds, it is still worth it to put in the juice.

You can serve as is or add whipped cream or make a crumble with it.

I froze the pomegranates shells... I want to try to dye yarn and linen and see how that goes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


My favorite part of the holidays has always been the food. Well, that and sleeping in but since I now have 3 children the only thing left is the food.
And what I love about the epiphany is the galette des rois, the king's galette. The puff pastry drips with butter and the dense filling smells of almonds and orange flower water. And then there is the feve, a little porcelain figurine that is hidden in the filling. It replaced the dried bean of old. The lucky person to find it is crowned king... or queen for the day.
The youngest person hides under the table and designates the person whom each slice is going to. Traditionally there is only one feve in the cake but nowadays a lot of families will put as many feves in the cake as there are children present.

Some people celebrate the epiphany the first Sunday of January like my sister . Others celebrate it on January 6th. And in France at least, numerous others celebrate it all month long. Like me.

Here is a recipe for the galette. Try it, it's very easy.

Galette des rois:

Enough puff pastry to cut 2 circles into
100g sugar
2 egg yolks
125g almond meal
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp orange flower water
75g butter

Mix the sugar and egg yolks until the mix is pale and makes a ribbon. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spread onto one dough circle leaving 1 inch of space all around. Press the feves or a dried kidney beans slightly into the filling. Cover with the other circle of dough and press the edges together with a fork.
I always glaze my dough with cream or milk because our eggs come from our own chickens and they don't lay much in winter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goose bouillon.

                                                                      Spices for Goose Bouillon.

Well, that goose was expensive but I got a quart of fat from it and 5 quarts of bouillon that I froze. The extra expense and time was well worth it!
To make the bouillon I put all the bones and trimmings that we didn't eat in a very large pot, put onion, garlic and carrots with it. Covered with water and added a few spices: bay leaves, pepper corns, anise, cumin and fennel seeds, and cloves.
I let it simmer for about 6 hours. Now I have a base for many many winter soups.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day.

                                                               Frozen Peas in December 2010

The first month of the year is named after Janus, the two-faced roman god. He was the god of doorways, watching the front entrance with one face and the back door with the other.
Very fitting for a first month!
The Dutch once called January, Lauwmaand: the frosty month. And the Saxons called it Wulf-monath because the hungry wolves would be especially troublesome at this time of year.
4000 years ago the Babylonians already celebrated the new year... on March 1st. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar changed the date to January 1st to reflect the changes the sun went through. The change was followed by the Egyptians and Celtic people.
The Babylonians also started the tradition of good resolutions by returning items they had borrowed during the year.

The image of Father Time is often used to illustrate the old year and the baby usually shown with him depicts the New Year. Father Time is a personification of time. He is an elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe, carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device. He was adapted from Cronus, the father of Zeus, and he belonged to the people known as the Titans in ancient mythology. Cronus existed before the Greek gods far back in the earliest stages of mythology.
The baby usually wears a diaper and a sash telling which year he represents. The depiction of the New Year as a baby started in Greece in 600 BC.

It is often customary to make a lot of noise for New Year to scare away the evil spirits.
And my French grandmother always gave her (numerous) grandchildren a big fat shiny 50 francs silver coin on January 1st so that we would be lucky all year long.

Another tradition that I find very convenient indeed: do not clean or throw trash away lest good fortune be swept away from you. And don't do the laundry or a family member could be washed away.

 I'll be sure to do none of that. I wouldn't want to harm anybody after all!
And it'll free time to pour over seed catalogs. Now that's a good plan.

A happy, healthy and lucky New Year to you and yours :)