Tag Archives: Cooking


In the middle of our waiting-for-goat-babies night, I realized I was absolutely famished and needed animal fat NOW! The following took about 10 minutes of hands-on time to prepare (including running out to pick kale) and will definitely be repeated.

Kale-wrapped mint lamb burgers – 4 servings


  • 1 lb grass-fed free-range natural ground lamb*
  • 1 tbsp crushed fresh mint leaves (from our garden last year)
  • 8 big leaves kale (from our cold frame)
  • 1 small egg (from our chickens)
  • 4 tbsp rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp shelled sunflower seeds
  • pinch or two of sea salt
  • several apple wood twigs, soaked in water if dry
  • olive oil


  1. Start the BBQ on high (keep at about 400°-500°)
  2. in a large mixing bowl, combine ground lamb, nearly-powdered mint leaves, sunflower seeds, salt, rolled oats, and egg. Make sure the egg gets thoroughly mixed in, it helps bind the burger together and keep it fluffy & moist.
  3. coat a dinner plate with olive oil
  4. shape mixture into 4 patties, putting each one on the olive oiled plate when it’s done. Not too thick; we want to cook these at high heat, actually flame-broil them a bit, and the inside should be cooked before the outside is charcoal!
  5. get a little more olive oil and make sure the patties are completely coated
  6. put dry applewood twigs into the grill…I drop them on the lava rocks, on the OPPOSITE side from where I’ll put the food (there will be enough flame from the olive oil dripping!)
  7. plop the patties on the grill. the dripping oil will probably burst into flame; that’s ok. close the lid to keep the applewood smoke in.
  8. cook until done – the outside should be a bit seared, even slightly charred. USDA blah blah blah standards blah blah blah specify 160° internal temperature. That recommendation is geared toward the filthy, diseased CAFO stuff at the supermarket; I cook ground meat to about 145° for myself but am not advising you to do that because you will surely poop yourself to death or something. The gov’t says so! I guess I died years ago.
  9. Take patties off the grill and let them drain a bit on newspaper. Wrap in fresh-picked kale leaves and enjoy!

To make a portable, one-hand meal, I wrapped some sheets of newspaper around the finished product. The oily newspaper is wonderful stuff for starting the woodstove later.

Sorry no photos; these got scarfed right up!

*“Lamb” refers to meat from a sheep under 1 year of age, not little tiny babies. Generally, the older it is, the “sheepier” it tastes, and the more salt and mint you will want to use.

I didn’t murder the taters!

I thought I blew it with the potatoes. Everyone warned not to use supermarket ones as seed, and I ignored them. When the plants suddenly started dying a month ago after an unseasonal 3 days of cool, rainy weather, I figured I’d learned my lesson.

Yesterday, I thought I’d better deal with the mess. I raked aside the mounded straw, too deep and wet with hot compost action on the bottom, and the spading fork touched something soft. I bent down and dug with my hands; it was a large, mushy, foul-smelling potato. I made plans to drag all the straw away to the burn pile so as not to spread the fungal blight I was sure had taken our tubers.

Then I spied a tiny but healthy-looking spud peeking up at me. No more than 1/2″ long, but perfectly shaped. I put it in my pocket as a memento to show Teri later, and kept digging.

When I had two one-gallon buckets almost full, I decided to leave the rest there, so Teri could enjoy uncovering a few. It was so unexpected; I’d been sad about the sudden departure of those formerly vigorous plants.

Tonight, we had fried potatoes (ours!) with onion (Wintergreen Farm, about five minutes down the road):

Also had a salad – romaine from Wintergreen with our own heirloom tomatoes and the one very-non-local ingredient: Danish blue cheese

…and for dessert, our very own homegrown watermelon, another first for us:

It wasn’t by far our most homegrown meal, but the potatoes were a big deal…they can be a really significant part of our diet for fairly little work, and like almost everything we’ve grown here they tasted incomparably better than those things at the supermarket.

The more we eat this way, and the more I learn about food production, the more it seems that most other human foolishness pales in comparison to the way we’ve transformed our food into poisonous, flavorless garbage that leaves a wasteland behind after harvest.

My food’s made of goat poop and old straw (well composted, of course) and it’s way better than anything I paid $30 a plate for in NYC.

What I do, when I’m avoiding studying for finals…

First, I notice that there’s a big pretty bird in our yard, that I’ve never seen before. He’s so distinctive that I have to try to identify him. Thanks to my handy-dandy Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest, I can pretty confidently say that he (along with his partner, who showed up later), is a Northern Flicker, part of the Woodpecker family. Since I’m still avoiding studying, I decide that I would be remiss if were to miss this opportunity to get some photos of the pair of them. (Notice that the male has the red spots on his cheeks – the female’s coloring is similar to the male’s, but she lacks those red spots.)

papa flicker

mama flicker

Next, I remember that Peter had separated the cream from our latest jar of fresh raw cow’s milk (if you missed it, he posted about our first raw milk tasting and the local family farm that’s supplying us here), setting it aside to try our hands at butter-making. Suddenly it becomes quite urgent to get the butter made today – so I pull the mason jar from the fridge and start shaking. And shaking. And shaking. When my arms start feeling like they’re going to fall off, I take a break. By this point, what I have in the jar is whipped cream. So I shake some more. And some more. And some more.

And then, whadda ya know! The curds (the chunky bits that will become the butter) begin to separate from the whey (the liquid). This is what it looks like:


This inspires me, so I keep on shakin’. Pretty soon, I’ve got a pretty good chunk of butter in the middle of the whey (the jar is tipped on its side in this photo, to better see the almost-butter):

becoming butter

I drain off the liquid into another jar, and keep shaking for a few more minutes – the shaking is what’s separating the liquids from the solids, and I want to make sure I’ve got all the liquids out. Next, I put the hunk of butter into a bowl, and rinse it with cold water, “massaging” the butter with a spoon to squeeze out the last of the milky liquids. I keep rinsing with fresh water until the water remains clear.

Here’s what we’ve got:

itâ??s butter!

And here’s the finished product put away in a jar, along with our approximately 1/2 cup of buttermilk! (I think I may see buttermilk pancakes in our future…)

finished products

Of course, I now realize that in order to fully appreciate our first-ever batch of homemade butter, we’ll need some fresh hot homemade cinnamon raisin bread, so I move on to bread-making.

And since I’m still avoiding studying for finals, I decide that now would be a good time to tell ya’all about our first-ever batch of homemade ginger ale. I’d found the recipe a few weeks ago, but we hadn’t gotten around to trying it – until Peter got inspired and I came home the other day to a freshly-bottled batch (ignore the labels – we washed, sterilized, and re-used old soda bottles we had saved for this purpose).

a different homebrew

It’s actually pretty easy to make: simmer chopped-up ginger root and sugar in a pot of water for about 30-60 minutes (the longer the simmer, the stronger the flavor), then remove it from the heat and strain out the remaining ginger pulp, add more water and let it cool. After about 15 minutes, add brewer’s yeast and let it sit for a few more minutes, then bottle it up! You just need to keep an eye on it – once it’s carbonated, put it in the fridge to stop the process. **Peter added a bit of cayenne to this batch as well, to give it an extra kick.

One of the best things about the homemade brew? We control the amount of sugar we use – and much of it is eaten up by the yeast. And the waste products of the yeast? B vitamins! With less sugar and actual nutrients, it’s not only tastier – it’s way healthier than the store-bought stuff.

ginger yum!

And, now that I’ve enjoyed a bowl of Peter’s homemade stew (made with locally raised goat meat), a slice of homemade raisin bread with homemade butter and a glass of homemade ginger ale, stacked a large pile of wood as Peter did the splittin’, and written up my quiet country day, I think it really is time to turn my mind to studying.

Raw milk, pastured goat meat, and free-range eggs

This evening I stopped in at a nearby farm to pick up an order of drug-free, hormone-free, etc. goat meat. Deck Family Farm is a beautiful place about ten minutes* from us, with lots of happy looking cows, chickens, sheep, ducks…I’m pretty sure I saw a bison there too, though it may have been a big muddy brown cow from a distance. I didn’t see the goats…I was tempted to ask, but didn’t want to impose and delay what must be a zillion chores on such a large (for one family) farm.

I ended up leaving with a half-gallon of fresh, raw cow milk, a dozen eggs, a pound of stew goat, a pound of goatburger, and a 3-pound goat roast. This is the kind of thing that excites me these days. Yes, I am almost 40.

If we ever buy “supermarket” eggs again, I will have to do side-by-side photos; pastured, free-range eggs from our neighbors have bright orangy-yellow yolks and make the store-bought kind look and taste pretty much like cardboard.

The goats we’re preparing to get will be a dairy breed, but I’m an inveterate carnivore and would like to eventually produce my own meat, so buying the goat meat is sort of an experiment to see how I like having goat as a primary meat source (though we’re planning on keeping chickens, too). If it works out, we may at some point consider getting some meat goats (different breeds from dairy goats).

[edit] The more I think about it, the less likely it seems that we will want meat goats, for practical and sentimental (ie, they’re too darn smart and cute) reasons. Looks like we’re gonna be eating a lot of chicken! Rabbits are another very good smallholder meat animal, but suffer from the same “how do you eat a pet” problem as goats. I don’t think I’d have any problem eating chickens, though they do have a lot more charm and personality than I knew before [/edit]

I feel that if I can’t bear to put the bullet into the back of its head and cut up the carcass, I really don’t deserve to eat meat. We’ll see. But for now, we have a local source for clean, humanely raised meats =)

Of course, the moment I got home I had to try the milk side-by-side with some “whole” milk from the supermarket. A sip of one. A sip of the other. Remaining supermarket milk goes back into the bottle for emergencies, and I pour another glass of the rich, delicious raw milk. It’s on the left in the photo below

Raw, fresh milk from a pasture-raised cow (left) and anemic-looking supermarket milk

* Ten minutes on normal roads. On the way back, I decided to try a “shortcut” involving steep, twisty logging roads. It was a nice 45 minute drive; fortunately the van has a refrigerator to keep our food from spoiling.

Room for ruminants

After a few weeks of mild weather, today dawned chill and rainy. I stayed inside for a while, but then had to just go “look at” the goat house. About 8 hours later, I had cleared several hundred square feet of thick old blackberry brambles. That’s the sort of thing we do for excitement out here, you see. Now I’m satisfyingly exhausted and enjoying fresh banana bread (Teri) and oatmeal cookies (me).

The whole reddish area in this picture was a tangled net of blackberry vines, mostly dead ones. It was about as tall as me, and to get the scale of it, you have to know that the white square is a bathtub that was hidden in there. (background mosaic-ed out to preserve neighbor’s privacy)

Clearing Goatlandia of old blackberry canes

Yesterday, I created and placed the roof beams for the goats’ house. They’re the only part of the structure made of purchased materials (aside from some screws) . I want it to be really, really solid in case one of the 30 foot limbs from the tree above the house falls.

You can tell I did more work on it – there’s another empty beer container resting on the beam.

Goathouse 20080224

Eclipse, bread, spider, pancake, truck, ice, Eugene

More-or-less chronologically…

I’ll start you off with a wildlife photo (and I promise, it gets prettier as you progress through the post)…a spider wrapping up a buzzing fly:

Spider wrapping fly

Letting the spiders live happily in some corners helps with the flies…but the really scary looking ones get put outside.

While we’re on the topic of food…we finally tried cooking something on the woodstove, and frankly it worked much better than our electric stove:

woodstove pancakes

Here’s a scary/lucky sort of thing; this is a fuel line with a big split in it…a split that was sealed up by a giant icicle! I went to replace the line and when I splashed warm water on the icicle, gasoline started spewing out. Moral of the story: do not wait till your car is in her mid-30s to replace all the fuel lines.

icy leaking fuel line

Last night I tried making Challah bread from a bread machine recipe…well, it was yummy, and pretty, but I’ve got a lot of R&D to do before it remotely resembles a proper Brooklyn bakery loaf:

Challah attempt 1

Our silly red monster truck got a fun drive up the logging roads today. She’s so at home up there:

Big stupid redneck truck

Eugene’s lights twinkled in the distance:
Eugene, Oregon from the Coast Range, 20 miles N/W

And to the North East, the rising moon appeared to be occluded by a cloud…but actually it was starting to eclipse already:

Pre-eclipse gorgeousness

These last two eclipse photos were take about two hours later, from our orchard, as the moon began to reappear. Full disclosure: the darker photo is a composite of two bracketed exposures; my digital cameras don’t have the range of Kodachrome…sigh…

2008-02-20 Full Lunar Eclipse

2008-02-20 Full Lunar Eclipse

Chop wood, carry water

Ok, really it was chop wood, carry wood…

Our new year’s eve day was chilly but bright and sunny, allowing us to spend much of the afternoon outside (a welcome change from the bitterly cold winters we’re used to).

I finally harvested what was left of our rose hips (if you don’t know already: rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant, and are very high in vitamin C – a good food to preserve for the winter). I’d been itching to get at them for quite awhile, but they weren’t ripe and weren’t ripe and weren’t ripe…

rose bush

Then I went away for a week, and by the time I returned, most of them were overripe and mushy (above). But I still managed to get a decent harvest, which I’ll next need to clean, slice each of them in half and scoop out the seeds, and then place in the dehydrator for drying. (If we’d ended up with a larger batch, I would’ve been tempted to make rose hip syrup or rose hip marmalade. But that’ll have to wait for next year.)

rose hips

The next and best part of the afternoon consisted of Peter teaching me how to split wood rounds into pieces small enough to fit into our wood stove. I’d been quite nervous about swinging around a heavy sharp object (I’ve been known to bonk), and I’m sure that my first several swings were pretty girlish.

But as I got the feel of the tool and began to feel more confident, my swings improved (as well as my success in actually splitting the wood).




As you can see, we can easily tell which logs are the ones that I split – for some of the more stubborn ones, it took many, many, many tries!


But what a satisfying feeling, at the end of the day, to see the new pile of wood that I helped create (and which will keep us warm for several days). And to continue closing the circle, inch by inch. And as we enter the new year, to be, quite literally, chopping wood and carrying water.