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Friday, December 27, 2013

Cutting Down a Tree

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas this year. Either calm or chaotic, I am sure it was magical.

It's amazing how quickly Christmas zoomed up on us and then it was gone like a flash! We had a low key holiday with a simple menu of caramelized onion puff pastry appetizers, Cornish game hens with a lovely rosemary garlic sauce, mashed potatoes and a spicy but not too spicy Swiss chard. Pepperidge Farm cake was for dessert. We kept it simple and enjoyed each others' company.

Here are some photos of a project Tom and Z did around Thanksgiving. Macho man stuff, that's for sure.

There was a dead pine tree needing to come down, so Tom waited until Z could help. Z says he likes to do manual labor when he comes to the ranch, so we are taking him at his word.

Z is the hatchet man.

And Tom is the chainsaw guy.

Ms. Pearl just can't stand the snow.

Here's the tree almost ready for the words, "Timber!"

Luckily, the tree landed just exactly where they wanted, between two smaller trees, so nothing was damaged.

Ms. Pearl wants to tell everyone it was a job well done.

So what's my part in this? When it's time to cut up the tree, I promise to gather the logs and help T stack them. Yep.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Remember to take a break (or two) today while you prepare for Christmas Day.

I want to thank Debbie Watral Kitchen of Woodstock, Georgia, for this most apt photo. 

May all of you have an excellent Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Biscochitos: New Mexico Christmas Cookies

I've written about biscochitos every Christmas because they are such a part of New Mexico culture. Heck, they are The New Mexico State Cookie, so you know they are great.

At Mora's Winterfest a couple weeks ago they even had a biscochito contest. I didn't stay to find out who won, but really, every cookie I tasted from the many bake sale tables there was excellent: almost like a cinnamon-sugar-anise seed shortbread cookie.

I buy biscochitos rather than bake them because I like to support my neighbors and when I give the heating guy or the propane guy a little baggie of biscochitos, I hope it gives them a little Christmas cheer.

One biscochito vendor stood out this year because he is into branding and packaging. A member of our Livestock Growers' group and the CEO of our new growers' co-op, he really is into marketing big time. Look at the artistic packaging for his cookies.

His cookies are tasty and dusted with a little more cinnamon sugar than others I have sampled.

Whether you dunk your cookies or eat them straight up, enjoy!

Here is a link to a good biscochitos recipe.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Our county is small, just around 4,700 people or so, which works out to around 2.5 people per square mile. I can drive six miles to the post office and not meet one car coming or going. Something I just read says we aren't even considered rural, but a frontier. Who knew there was something more rural than rural?

So when our community has an event, it will be well attended, even if the temperature outside is 19 degrees. It's a chance to meet up with family and friends, have some Frito pie or a tamale, do a little gossiping, a little people watching, and buy art, crafts, and baked goodies from the folks at the tables and booths lined up on the elementary school's gym floor. Santa makes an appearance, too, so there are kids, lots of them, waiting for the old guy to show up.

This is my third consecutive Winterfest, always held the first Saturday in December.

The first time I went alone, knowing no one, feeling like everyone was leaning over to their friend from their perch on the gym bleachers, asking, "Who is that?" I felt self conscious, alien, and alone and quickly bought some baked goods and got the heck out of there.

Last year was a bit better, but this year was different. Maybe it's because I went with a friend, but that was only part of it. About half way around the gym I heard someone call my name, "Bridget! How are you?" Vicki was at a table selling baked goods with some high school students earning money for a trip to Europe.

A few steps later, Darlene and Jonathan stopped to chat. There was a short conversation with Veronica, whose hoop house we helped to finish last spring.  Roger and his sister stood behind a table selling their Rancho Carmelo goodies and bath and beauty potions. Across from Roger, John and Pam's daughter displayed her home baked designer cupcakes.

I sat down at the bleachers and chatted with Rita who sold us some beef cattle about a year ago. She introduced me to her mom and I immediately missed mine.

From my perch on  the bleachers I scanned the gym and spotted Betsy, our driver to Winterfest, and a new friend, Barbara. We all have the initials B.B. and may start a club.

After a lunch in a local diner, surrounded by friends both old and new, I went back to the ranch realizing something had changed.

This place feels like home now.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't Toss That Turkey Carcass!

It would be a sacrilege to toss the turkey carcass without getting as much as possible from your investment. This year we bought an intensively raised, grass grazed, free range designer turkey, so we really wanted to get our money's worth. That turkey cost as much as the budget for a small town!
 After Thanksgiving dinner, we had Friday leftovers: sliced turkey for sandwiches and all the stuffing, rice, mashed potatoes, green beans, roasted butternut squash, beet and arugula salad and gravy we wanted to eat.

But there was still meat left on that turkey carcass. This is a stock photo, but you get the idea.

So I found a cooking show to watch while I dismembered the turkey. I broke the thighs and wings off the bird, picked the bones clean, flipped it over and over, scouring that lovely bird for all it would offer.

There was much more dark than light meat, and I used quart freezer bags to save 2 cup servings of all my pickin's.

 Into small snack bags went skin and other yucky stuff (no bones) to add to Ms. Pearl's dinner: not so much that she has a digestive upset, just a little yum to add to her senior dog food.

Here's what I got:

But we weren't done. The carcass, complete with the stuff I had used in the turkey's cavity for Thanksgiving roasting, apples, onions, tangerines and rosemary sprigs, went into the stock pot for a leisurely slow boil lasting about an hour and a half. Since I had brined the turkey, I didn't add any salt.  After I removed the carcass from the broth, I strained it and picked more meat from the rescued bones.

From the stock, daughter M made some Turkey Barley Soup. She added extra mushrooms and because we ran out of celery and are not near a store, sliced some chard ribs into the soup and added some celery seed. The leftover white meat and some of the dark meat I had gleaned after the simmer went into the soup toward the end of the cooking time.

The rest of the meat is in the freezer now, waiting for its reappearance. 

For your inspiration, here are a few recipes that use either leftover turkey or cooked chicken. Cooked turkey and chicken are interchangeable at our place.

White Chicken Posole (Skip browning the chicken and add your turkey toward the end of the cooking time)


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ms. Pearl wants to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

We pretended that Ms. Pearl helped, even though she didn't.

Not your basic store bought turkey, but excellent eating, that's for sure.

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Had Some Snow!

It's hard to tell how much snow we have had in the past four days, but my not-so-educated estimate is almost a foot based on our tromping about outside and looking at the accumulations on fences, tables, and other fixed objects in the yard.

Raised Beds and Long Porch

Garage and Grand Entry

Yesterday the guys and Ms. P went outside for some exploring. No blue sky yesterday.

Z and MP Snowshoing Along Coyote Creek

Ms. P loves the snow!

Today we went looking for the L'il Guyz, which is my current name for the new beef cattle. We've been feeding them hay since it's so cold and their grass is covered with snow.

This is down the driveway looking north.

And this is looking south. Z says it looks like a Norwegian fjord.

It's a winter wonderland out there and it isn't even winter yet!

And here's a photo of something new, a sheepherder's wagon. More about that later.

We are snug in the cabin and today will be a let's-finish-something-anything day in the sewing room.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Maybe the Drought is Over?

We've been having snow for the past four days, with daytime temperatures in the 20's.  Last night there was enough snow to cover the grass, so the L'il Guyz are eating hay. It helps them stay warm and conserve calories.

They were waiting just outside the garage this morning, saying, "We would like some of that hay!" So, until the snow melts, that's what they will have.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ms. Pearl, Half a Retriever, Goes All The Way

Ms. Pearl is half Labrador retriever and half Australian shepherd, which means she has excellent retrieving abilities and spends much of her time, when there are guests, shepherding them, imploring everyone to please, please stick together.

Besides retrieving birds, she also retrieves her collar. Every evening before bedtime Tom removes the collar and gives M.P. a highly appreciated neck rub with many doggy groans of pleasure. He tosses the collar to the floor of the upstairs bedroom where it rests until I step on it in the dark and move it out of the way.

In the morning, we used to say, "Go get your collar," and off she would go, up the stairs, to find it. Nowadays, all Tom has to do is brush his own neck and Ms. P remembers what that means, usually, and goes up the stairs to do her retrieving thing.

And she tosses it to Tom.

Wild Eyed
The collar is lovingly placed upon her long Australian Shepherd neck. There are pets and many compliments.

Then there is some roughhousing and a treat.

Sometimes Ms. Pearl doesn't want to climb the stairs to get her collar, and stalls, rolling on the floor, groaning, sitting at the bottom of the stairs and not moving.

But she eventually realizes the collar is upstairs and it's the ticket for Going Outside.

Where FUN and EXPLORING await.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Old Dog

Ms. Pearl likes her comfort.

But that doesn't mean she can't mix it up if someone isn't following orders.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Meet the New Guys!

A little over a week ago we bought two new Black Angus steers to wander around the ranch and eat grass.  They were born a little over six months ago on a ranch just eight miles away. By purchasing our stock locally, the babies won't have any altitude or weather adjustment issues.

First, though, they had a week's stay in a corral since they had just left their mommas. We wouldn't want these little guys wandering down the road, looking for their moms.

When I went to their home ranch to choose, the babies were with their mommas, ambling about, eating grass and drinking milk. Little did they know it was time to be weaned.
So for the first couple of days they were sad, mooing for their mommas. A friend who learned about this said it made her boobs leak!

And then she said that was TMI.

But the other day we opened the corral gate.

It didn't take much for them to realize there was a whole other world out there.

One with real grass, not hay. Yummers.

These guys are a little under 350 pounds right now, but in a year they will be close to 1200-1400 pounds after almost nonstop eating of grass, oak, and whatever else looks tasty.If it snows and covers up the grass, or gets really cold, they will get some hay, too.

How will their lives be different from factory farmed steers?

1. They will never see a feedlot, where thousands of cattle spend six to twelve months of their lives eating mostly corn, which they are not evolved to eat.

2. Because they will never see a feedlot, they will have happy tummies and never need antibiotics. The grain that factory farmed beef eat causes digestive upset and liver damage and they are often ill, so they need medicine.

3. They will breathe easily and see clearly. No gigantic pens full of beef cattle, kicking up manure contaminated dust which can get into lungs and eyes.

4. Stress will be minimal. Treats are served almost every day so the steers will not be afraid of their caretakers.

5. They will have a calm death. Some slaughterhouses process 300-400 cattle an hour. It can be chaotic. Our steers will either die right here at the ranch, not knowing what hit them, or will travel 30 miles to a processor who kills one beef at a time in a quiet room.

One thing I have learned in the three years we have raised beef cattle is that it's important to put a face on what you eat and on who is raising it.

When we eat an animal we are complicit in that animal's welfare whether we want to be or not. I have a hard time eating meat from animals and farmers I don't know because who knows what kind of life that animal had?

May I suggest a book?  Read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan where he follows each of four meals from source to final product.

That's when I really began thinking about how my food is produced.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Early October Snow

While I stayed inside, toasty and warm on the couch and perusing the internet, Tom and Ms. Pearl went out exploring the snow that accumulated last night. Pearlie had fun chasing those pesky ravens. They drive her nuts.

The snow is a couple weeks early, but because the daytime temperatures are well above freezing, it will have melted away in a day or two. The steers will get some hay rations today since the grass is covered over.

Tom Boyle photos

The weather dudes and dudettes are predicting rain and some snow for the higher ups, with sunny skies tomorrow.

That's good, because these photos look bleak and I don't do bleak.

If we were like Ms. Pearl, this would be an opportunity to enjoy the change in weather and to plow through the snow like an insane person. Not a bad attitude at all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Do You Have Your Wood In?

This is a common sight right here in Northern New Mexico. Nights are starting to freeze which means nippy mornings and wood fires.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apple-Golden Berry Blend Crumble (Grain and Gluten Free)

Through a lot of trial and error, I recently came to the conclusion that items made with wheat flour were causing me to have acid reflux. After eliminating most baked goods, wheat pastas and breads from my diet, not only did the reflux disappear, but so did the joint pain I have had for years in my knees and shoulders. Score!

One day this past summer I had a big plate of pasta at a relative's home which tasted ohsogood, yet the next day my knee and shoulder joints were killing me. So now I know.

Anyway, I needed to make something for the Sangre de Cristo Livestock Growers' meeting potluck and found some canned apples in the pantry. Okay, apple crisp it was.

I'd been using almond meal as a substitute for flour when frying, so that's what I used for the topping instead of flour and oats.

Later at the Livestock Growers' meeting, a big old pan of apple crisp disappeared in no time at all and I spied someone using their finger to scoop up some of the leftovers from the corners of the pan. It's that good.

Here's the recipe. Since not all of you have canned apples in your pantry, I've used fresh ones since they're easy to find.

Apple-Golden Berry Blend Crumble (Grain and Gluten Free)
(4-6 servings)

 (for the apple layer)
2 large tart apples or 3-4 medium apples, sliced (or the equivalent in canned apples-not apple pie filling, well-drained)
1/2 cup Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cherries and dried cranberries or the equivalent in other dried fruits)
2 T honey
2 T lemon juice
1T arrowroot powder or substitute cornstarch
1 t cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

(for the crumble layer)

1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts, your choice
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
a dry sweetener like stevia (I used maple sugar) to taste, about 1 T
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

For the apple layer

1. Place apples and dried fruit in 2 quart baking dish. Drizzle honey and lemon juice over the top.

2. Add the arrowroot powder or cornstarch and cinnamon and toss everything together in the dish.

3. Pour 1 T of the melted coconut oil evenly over the apple mixture.

For the crumble

4. In a small bowl mix the almond flour, coconut, nuts (I used pine nuts because we are in New Mexico), ginger, nutmeg and sweetener. Pour the remaining melted coconut oil over this stuff and mix until it is crumbly.

5. Spread the crumble topping over the apple mixture. It will be a thick layer.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the apples are tender and the top is golden brown.

Just so you know, this makes an excellent breakfast dish, too.

Note: I love Trader Joe's, which will have all the stuff you need to make this. If you don't have a TJ's, a Sprouts market or your grocery store's healthy food section should suffice.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall Already?

The past couple of weeks have reminded me that winter is coming. The yellow-flowered chamisa is the last of the allergens to bloom and I think this blooming schedule has been designed to make all the hay fever sufferers happy to see the first frosts and the last of their runny noses.

"Die, chamisa, die!"

The first frost was about a week and a half ago, killing the summer veggies, so goodbye to you,  tomatoes, peppers and green beans.

Since then we've had a few more nippy nights but the kale, carrots, cabbage and lettuce survive.  I planted too much cabbage and we are not sauerkraut fans, so cabbage soup is in the cards.

Next year the summer stuff will go in earlier since the raised beds are in place and ready to go.

Upcoming jobs: the dead plants are outta here and garlic goes in that empty bed in the foreground.

Plant garlic by Halloween; harvest it on Fourth of July. Sounds okay to me!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Mi Familia Part 2

There is more progress on the Mi Familia quilt and we are excited! This quilt has been a collaborative effort between Ann (owner of Thread-Bear in Las Vegas, NM) and me and we make quite a team!

Today we added the thin black print border, auditioned about 8 fabrics for the wide floral border, and eventually decided on this greenie one.

Here is a closer look at some of the details:

For the past three years or so that particular green has been my go-to color to make a quilt "pop." Love those half circles? Read the previous post to see how Ann made that inspired choice.

The black batik border is next, with the flying geese in opposite corners. The batik has streaks, some of which echo the colors used in the center panels.

While we are working on this project I just can't stop smiling. It's a friendly picker-upper. Maybe it's those grinning guys in the center, but it's just a happy quilt!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Mi Familia

Friend Ann, owner of my local quilt shop Threadbear, asked me if I'd like to work with her on a quilt, so we have been collaborating for a couple months on something very different.

The center panels are from a collection by Jesus Cruz called Mi Familia (My Family) by Andover fabrics.  I apologize for the photo quality. I think I messed up my phone camera lens so everything looks a little fuzzy.

We thought it would be fun to work on this quilt collaboratively, not really knowing what the end result will be,  making parts like the four patches and flying geese and trying them out as we go. Some parts we made worked, and others were, "What the heck was I thinking?"

Working by the seats of our pants can be scary and absorbing at the same time. "Stop Staring and Start Sewing!" is our refrain.

Mi Familia is still a work in progress, but the way Ann decided on the orange border is neato: Ann had a quilt top in her "whoops" collection. You know those projects you start and almost finish, but have enough misgivings you don't want to complete them? I have a few of those and I'll bet you do, too.

Anyway, the discarded quilt top looked like this, but multiply it by a zillion circles because this is just a piece.

Ann cut each row of circles in half. We thought a scalloped border would be interesting and tried that, but then she started playing around and staggered the rows of half circles until they made a type of serpentine pattern.

She's been fussing around, sewing the two half circle rows together, offset, and making sure they are all the same size. As you can see in the first pic, Ann needs to fill in some spots which requires cutting and matching half circles, not always matching the fabric.  Recycling in action! And it looks really cool!

I made some flying geese using hand dyed fabric supplied by quilting friend Linda S. and the "sky" for the geese is a cosmic, spacy looking black fabric.

There are still more borders to go, so we will keep you posted on how it's going.

Have you ever made a quilt with someone else? Have you ever "winged it," not really knowing what you were going to do with your quilt before you started?

If you haven't, take some time to play a little.  Whether you call it liberated, intuitive, or improvisational quilting, you will have a real mind stretcheroo and may find yourself standing and staring at your in-progress quilt for much longer than you realize.

You may even start dreaming about your quilt. And that's a good thing!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sun Worshipper

With autumn comes the sun through living room windows and a dog who worships that sun with panting, eyes-closed bliss.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-When Someone With ADHD Takes Up Paper Piecing

At Threadbear, my local quilt shop, we are working on a Block of the Month project from the book, Hard Times, Splendid Quilts by Caroline Cullinan McCormick.

It's paper piecing, something new and kind of daunting especially for me, an early Ritalin junkie.

The term back then was hyperactive, and I was an easily distracted, always needing something to do, smart-mouthed trial to my parents, my brother and my teachers. As I matured, I learned to channel that energy into productive projects, a successful consulting business and a fun job helping teens to get ready for college. And to keep it interesting, I made clothing and quilts in my spare time.

Paper piecing is good for me: It satisfies a need for order. You see, I was the kid who did her algebra homework on graph paper, one digit or symbol per square. It helped to make sense of what was happening and if I made a mistake, it was easier to find in all its linear neatness. It was a successful coping technique for a hyper kid.

Sewing little fabric bits helps to train my mind to focus: One Step at a Time. But it is also maddening, because the opportunities for error are there, right in front of me, if I lose that focus.

Case in point:

The triangle with the pretty 30's fabric should actually be black pindots, plus, it shouldn't be joined to the black pindot square.  I'd been binge-watching Scandal and allowed myself to be distracted. After sewing the units together, I realized, "Hey! This isn't right!"

Since paper piecing requires the stitch length to be shorter, using the seam ripper becomes a Zen experience.

"Be in the moment, Grasshopper," I say to myself, picking away at the teensy stitches.

There. Now they are correct.

Eventually, the tiny pieces of fabric are placed accurately on their paper foundations, the tattered paper underneath repaired with tape, but still falling apart after all that taking apart and putting it back again. The units are sewn into their correct places and they finally look pretty good. You wouldn't know what a wreck it is underneath, would you?

At our paper piecing group yesterday I volunteered that it would be an amazing feat if I could put together at least one block without having to do any unsewing.

And I realized that maybe it wasn't my ADHD causing the mistakes, because almost everyone admitted to making at least one mistep in each of their blocks.

So it's good to know that I am not alone. The paper piecing continues.
Caroline Cullinan McCormick