in my kitchen, around the farm
with a side of "housekeeping"
Note from Tara: Before we jump into all of the shenanigans that have been going on around our little farm in the woods, I would like to take a few moments to address some housekeeping stuff, if you will. Last autumn I moved my Substack from the regular twice weekly posts to once weekly while I concentrated my time towards writing a book I’ve been working on. At that time, my writing consisted of a Wednesday piece on various topics with Saturday’s posts being dedicated to either my monthly Q&As or an “around the farm, in my kitchen” post where I shared some things we were doing around here, including tips, the odd recipe, and a general ‘in real time’ look at what was going on around our homestead at different times of the year.
I’m going to be returning to the twice weekly format and it will be as it was before. There’s just so much going on around here at this time of year that a.) my book will wait for the odd quiet moment or for the leaves to fall again and, b.) Saturday posts are such a good way for me to share insights and information around the things that support good living - our homes, our food, nature, and all of the practical and tangible ways that plays out in our day to day.
I’ve also made a personal decision. For the last couple of years, Troy and I have been aiming our sites at completely untangling from outside systems. The one that remains is his job. We’ve gotten to a very good place with that and I’m extremely grateful for how that’s turned out, especially after the hysteria of the last few years. He’s only working minimal shifts every month and they’re all at his discretion. That said, I’d like it to be over completely. The health care system is a toxic environment and it is a misalignment with who we are and who we are striving to be. Troy is an incredible trauma physician, literally built of the stuff it takes to be someone who can do such a job, but it it is his “job”, not his life. Not his identity. After years as an Infantry Officer, he went back to school, an old fart in comparison to his peers, because we wanted a better quality of life for ourselves and a career in medicine was a way to do that while allowing him to use his strengths and talents. But his purpose and his calling is beyond that and I want to do everything I can to make that happen. He has spent his whole life providing for his family. We don’t need so much anymore. Time for him, too.
I’m cognizant that many of the people reading this are younger than us, maybe just starting out, in that time of your lives where you’re building and expanding. That’s such an exciting, promising time. That’s not the time we’re in now. We are growing, forever growing, but we are also simplifying, living with less, slowing things down. What calls to us now is different. To that end, mama (that mama being me) needs to step up her game.
My time here on Substack is, and remains, so rewarding. I am truly grateful to all of my subscribers, but especially my paid subscribers who have thought what I share worthy of your hard-earned dollars. About a year ago, I had left Instagram, a place I had built up a pretty good following over many years, in sheer exasperation. I was being throttled in algorithms and throttled by trolls and it never did feel all that reciprocal. However, now that I am hoping to expand my reach, I will be returning to Instagram albeit with a different approach. I won’t be answering comments or DMs. I’m going to use the platform to share images and a couple paragraphs here and there. If anyone would like to learn more, in a real way, they can mosey on over to my Substack. It’s more marketing than anything, but isn’t that what everything on Instagram is?
I am sharing this with you because it’s important to me that my subscribers understand that what I offer here, and on our paid subscriber chat, is where my loyalty and time are directed. As an example, I may post a photo on IG about colostrum, but I’m not going into detail there explaining things with nuance and practicality. Here is where I do that.
A year ago, while I was still actively using Instagram I had a woman unsubscribe from my newsletter, writing “If I had known you were on Instagram I would have never subscribed here in the first place.” Ouch. Maybe it was that comment that drives me to explain myself here. To me, Instagram is shiny gloss and here is where things are real. I hope you feel the same, at least about me being real here and sharing something of value with my readers.
So, moving forward, I have a whole host of projects bubbling and brewing in my hope to pluck my husband from his present work situation to allow him to explore his next manifestation as a sovereign man. Here’s some of them:
I will continue on here with Wednesday essays and Saturday homesteading/homemaking type stuff with monthly Q&As. Our chats will continue to be more of the tangible, day to day type discussions on everything from health related topics, nutrition, food processing etc.. (this week there was a little meet & greet campfire in the chat that I hope you all got to participate in if that’s up your alley). My hope is that I can continue to grow my subscriber base, not with glitz and glam, but with real world connection and authentic knowledge and skill sharing.
I’m also in the last bit of getting our online farm store ready for primetime. My daughter, Ella, and I have been working all winter to stock our shelves and I’m excited by what we have - everything from our farm, made to my high standards (some may say anal, but let’s keep it nice, shall we?). It will be open for business on a future-announced day and when it’s sold it, it’s sold out until we restock again in a few months. In between, we will keep working on future products. My paid Substack subscribers will have first kick at the cat when the store goes live.
I’ve also been working with an artist to have my farm logo done because every business needs a logo right? In addition, I have some children’s books I’ve started outlining (something that’s been in my heart for over a decade and will not cease its relentless call). And, of course, my book.
I feel good about this new direction. I also feel full to the brim. And with that fancy little segue, it’s about time we leave the housekeeping and get into the meat of today’s post, “around the farm, in my kitchen”.
The big news (and noise) this week has been the handy fella’ that’s been here with us all week grading and digging and piling and moving. A couple of months ago, we had a company come down to give us an estimate on a simple limestone, flagstone pad in front of our summer kitchen addition. It’s not a big area and all we wanted was some rustic flagstone put in. $20,000! And this is why we do things ourselves. Instead, we hired our friend who owns his own excavating company (of one) to come down and grade the area so Troy and I can lay the stone ourselves. Our excavating friend also worked with Troy to finish off the sand and soil covering our root cellar.
It takes artistry and finesse to finish off a root cellar, at least it does with ours. We have a poured concrete root cellar with a poured concrete roof. It sits on solid granite. If you just covered that with soil it would look weird. There needs to be grading and slope and mammoth boulders to act as retaining walls. Rocks and rocks and rocks piled by hand and machine and machines with metal hands into precise position. What a feat! I can’t imagine what we would pay for the boulders that we spent a few days pulling out of our woods and ditches. Instead of paying someone else $20,000, we paid a local guy a few thousand for his time and we used our muscle and ingenuity for the rest.
This was also the week for me to get the first round of my garden in. Yes, I was late, but not that late. We did have a killing frost last week so if I had been earlier, I would have paid for that. I don’t ‘start’ any of my vegetables indoors and I don’t have a tunnel house or greenhouse or anything like that. It’s the school of hard knocks over here - I put you in the ground and you grow or you don’t. Gardening is lovely but it’s never been my great love. I’d rather sit with my cow while she chews her cud. But there is no denying the delights that come from my garden. More and more, I see vegetables as the condiments in our diets rather than the needed nutrition. Animal foods are where the nutrition is, but vegetables and fruits are nice as those perky sides and special desserts in the depths of winter. To that end, I am ever-expanding my cooking repertoire.
As I showed in our chat earlier this week, my daughter and I spent a few hours picking ramps on the weekend. I have a basic, ramp pickling method I use with vinegar. I heat the vinegar until it’s scorching hot and then pull the scorching hot jars out of the oven and cold pack them with bulbs. Cold packing them. They’re really delicious as a veggie side, minced into dips and sauces, and with a cheese plate when guests come over and you want to pretend you’re fancy.
With the leaves I made ramp salt and dehydrated the rest in our solar dehydrator. I will use those dehydrated leaves in spice blends I concoct in the winter. At this time of year, I am collecting plants and dehydrating and I will return to them in the autumn, when time allows. I just finished drying a bucket of tender juniper tips - so soft and sweet you can nibble on them raw.
If you decide to make flavoured salts with herbs, I highly recommend blending up the