Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dreaming of green.

I was scrolling through some photos and these caught my eye.  I was quickly drawn in by the thoughts of warmer days, fresh produce and dirty fingernails.  Go away with me, if you will to greener days.

                                                   Days where lettuce is abundant.

and there are herbs galour.

Garlic is ready to be harvested.

Green beans and peppers are prolific.

mmmm basil...

The days when the garden is green, the temperatures are warm and working outdoors is enjoyable.

In my attempts to avoid complaining about the temperatures that have consistently stayed blow average since the begining of December.  And not complaining about the winter blues that have set in and make fighting the weather even harder.  I am not complaining because I know this is how farm life goes.  There are ups and downs.  There is always work to be done and it doesn't slow down because it is cold.  So I keep at it and remember this too shall pass and not too long from now there will be greener days and dirty fingernails and more basil, tomatoes and swiss chard than I will know what to do with.  This life is a good one!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lazy woman's bread part 2: focciaca

Wow I didn't mean to wait so long to continue this post.  I have been baking I just have not had time to post.  I love to blog but it is so time consuming.  I was hoping the winter months would make some more time to post but so far that has not been the case.  So if you made your dough I am sorry I have failed to show you the correct way to use it. 

So artisan bread, it is free formed loaves.  No loaf pans needed.  What you will need: A baking stone, extra flour, a rolling pin, olive oil and herbs of choice.  (you may be able to bake on something other than a stone but I have not personally tried it and from my baking experience there is nothing better than a stone to bake on.)

Focciaca bread is what we make for all of our pizzas.  We have homemade pizza at lease once a week.  Easy and cheap!  Even Jack's frozen pizza will cost you more and well, shouldn't even be placed in the same catagory as far as food.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Once you have your surface ready, I roll it directly on my stone using a silicone pot holder underneath to keep it from sliding.  Pull off a piece of dough about the size of a large orange.
Use your hands to roll dough over the top and under.  It forms a smooth surface on the top and almost into a ball.  Put onto floured surface and begin to roll it out.  I use the combination of a rolling pin and...
Practice your pizzaria skills buy using your hands and even tossing it into the air!  It can be fun!  Though I must warn you each time I toss it flour proceeds to spin off the dough into my

I am not nearly as graceful at it as you see on tv.
You end up with something looking similar to this.  Remember this is artisan bread the whole idea is that it is imperfect shapes.  So striving for that perfect circle might be frustrating.

                    Then do with it as you please.  I sliced some garlic and put it into olive oil.

Then brushed it on the dough.

 A little oregano, basil and parsly sprinkled on.
Poke it with a fork to avoid bubbling and bake for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  And it will look something like this...
Then do with it what you will.  The options are endless and can be what ever is in your fridge/freezer.  BBQ Chicken or Buffalo chicken are quite yummy along with the more traditional.  On this one we fried up some italian sausage, sliced tomatoes, garlic stuffed olives and my homemade spaghetti sauce.
Put it all together and....

Pop it back into the oven for 7 minutes or so and....
Viola!!!  Gourmet homemade pizza!!!

For our family of 5 good eaters we make two and that is plenty.  So far from our dough 2 pizza crusts/focciaca breads.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The lazy man's(woman's) bread part 1: the dough

Artisan bread it is rightly named I think.  But working with this art form you will never be a starving artist.  Art is interpretive and the artist is in complete control.  There is no right or wrong way and if you use the correct mediums it is hard to go wrong.  I am going to post on this as a series.  First post will be the medium(the dough)The following posts will come over the next two weeks(the lifespan of the dough) I will post all the great, artistic and tastey treats that one can create with this one simple medium.  It is easy, versitile, delicious and I hope to show you just how easy it is to have this bread at your disposal at all times.

All you need is:

A non air tight container
3 C luke warm water
1 1/2 T Kosher salt
1 1/2 T yeast
6 1/2 C flour
First pour water into your container.  Add salt and yeast.  Next add all flour and mix until all flour is throughly incorperated
And if you are anything like me when you need flour you just dip into your trusty 50lb bag from the Amish bulk store.

I start with a wooden spoon but toward the end it helps to wet your hands and and get a little messy.

And when you are done you might look something like this.  Don't worry God made you washable.

Then you find a spot that it can do all the work for you for the next 2 hours.  Place the lid on and....

Then you teach your daughter about place value.

Walk past and say "Hi laundry waiting to be folded.  When will fold yourself?"

On your way to play barbies.

Then read a good blog.

And about 2 hours later your "medium" should look about 2 x's bigger than it did before.

Last you place your NON air tight lid on and find it a nice spot in your fridge that it can stay for the next two weeks.  Or if you are a simple carbohydrate junkie or a bakaholic you could do it all in one day.

Amy's artisan tips:  I have baked literally hundreds of loaves of this bread in many different forms.  A few things I have learned along the way.  It is easiest to handle after refridgeration for at least a few hours if not over night.  Your dough will seem wet for bread dough.  That is the way it is supposed to be.  I always double the recipe(that is what you see in the pictures).  When counting out 6 1/2 or 13 cups of flour count out loud.  You may seem silly to everyone in your house but it is way better than loosing count.  You can use any container you have around the house.  If it is an air tight container you can leave the lid cracked or use a nail and poke a hole in the top.  Lastly I like to use a square container it fits snug in the corner of the fridge and you can easily stack things on it.  Because if you are anything like me space is not something you have in excess in the fridge.

Where the Funny Farm is headed this year.

After all of my experimenting last year with different ways to try to bring in income the good news it not all of them were flops.  We have decided what areas we will put more effort into this year to try to make more successful.  I sat down and wrote down my goals for the year so I thought I would share. 
See I am not intending to make a living off of these "projects" of mine.  My goal is to bring in at least $2500 over the season that my services are viable.  So it is not much but I consider it alot knowing I am starting from nothing.  We decided to take it in two main directions.  Pony parties and summer camps.  So I wanted a clear plan as to how those ideas will be turned into reality.

First the pony parties.  My goal is to do a total of 10 parties over the season.  Which is between 1 and 2 parties a month.  Last year I did two so I have some work to do to get them booked.

Next the summer camps I plan to go two ways with these.  The farm camp was a success so I plan to continue those.  But I also plan to start a horse camp.  Most kids love horses and almost all little girls would love to go to horse camp.  So my goal is to do 2 farm camps and 2 horse camps.  Each with 10 kids.  So I need a total of 40 children to sign up.  That seems like a reasonable number.

Now I did not set my goals incredibly high because I wanted them to be attainable.  And my goal for advertisement is to get flyers to every elementary student in my entire area. 
Next to accomplish is to design flyers and contact schools, get prices on printing and turn these plans into reality!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Being Neighborly.

I am so not going to get into my situation with my neighbors...ugh. But sadly the relationship is far from good. It has always saddened me. I grew up where everyone knew each other and had not problem popping over for a cup of sugar or and egg. Even if it was a 1/4 mile to the nearest neighbor. I played with the neighbor kids all summer long and that is just the way it was. They looked out for each other. Now a days my Dad goes around for hours after every snow storm and clears everyones driveways. And living in MI that is more often than not this time of year. Anyways so it is weird for me that my neighbors are so awful. Sorry there is no other way to put it they are awful. I have tried and tried. Bringing over pies and cookies and always waving and smiling when driving by. But after so long of them looking directly at you and just staring then looking away I have kind of given up. I mean we can be working outside in the summer 10 feet away and they will act like they don't even notice us. Ok I said I wasn't going to get into the details. Anyways it has always bothered me and you never get that feeling of belonging to a community. Something that I think you should have and almost need when you are out in the country. For those little things like an egg or something when you are snowed or just pop over to the store. But I guess that is the way the times are taking us but something I try to hold onto. All that to say I have always wanted to have that feeling of community and today I was completely blessed by on of our neighbors and it just warmed my heart.

We buy our hay from our neighbor about 3 houses down. Every two weeks or so he drops off a round bale. It is wonderfully convienent since we do not have much storage for hay. I can call sometimes even the same day and he will pop on over 30 minutes later. Well today I hear is loud old tractor coming down the driveway and I look outside and see no hay. I mean I knew I didn't call for it but I wasn't sure why else he would be coming especially in the middle of the snow storm. Then I realize he is plowing our driveway!!! You don't even know what a blessing that is. I am not kidding when I say how blessed and excited I was about this. You see the first year we moved in here we talked to local people and they said we wouldn't really need to worry too much about having a plow. Well that year we got over two feet of snow in one day!! We didn't know anyone and our driveway is a good 200 ft long. I am not joking my husband spent 8 hours straight shoveling our driveway. I guess we could have called someone but for $100 we just couldn't afford it at the time. Year after year we have struggled with this problem. There has maybe been one year out of the 6 we have been here that we have had less than a few feet at one time or another. We have payed to have it done or shoveled it or just tried to drive through it but never once have we had someone offer to plow it for us. Not that I expect it but it really is just something that is very common living where we live. But I have never once until today felt like we are finally starting to feel like we belong here. I hope this will become a trend. Not just the plowing thing but the feeling that we are part of a community.

Monday, January 10, 2011


This week was a rough week for many reasons though I will not get into all of them I am going to use one situation as the context of this post.  We went out of town this week and were about 5 hours from home when our car would not shift into any gear.  We had it towed to a shop to find out that we needed a new transmission.  Thankfully we were there to visit family so we did have some help in trying to get it all straightened out and we had a place to stay.  My husband and I were very distraught over the situation.  First because we already had put $1000 into it two weeks prior on 3 seperate occasions (1000 total).  Then to find out at the minimum it would cost $2000 to fix.  Not to mention the fact that we needed to get home the next day which was Saturday and our car wouldn't even be looked at until Monday.  It was just a tough situation.  We were trying to work through the best way we could.  Something was said to us that kind of just added salt to the wound.  The statement was made by a loved one "I know a story of a good christian family that needed $10,000 and met a man on the street that handed them a check for that amount".  I replied "yes those stories are great but God usually has us work through our problems and not just make it all go away".  Her response was "I guess if He needs to teach you a lesson".  Ouch, I don't know what that is supposed to mean but it just rubbed me the wrong way.  A simple I am sorry you are going through this would have been sufficient.  Or a "I will pray for you".  Proverbs 25:11  Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold and pictures of silver.  Meaning they are beautiful things.  The opposite is well kind of like rubbing salt in and open wound.
I am not arguing the fact that God uses EVERY situation in my life for a reason.  I know this is true.  I am arguing the idea that you can be "good" enough for God to bless you and make all your problems go away.  I will use the verses from Luke 12:22-28

22And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Is it not very clear that God does not rely on our goodness in order to provide us our needs????  Does he require of the birds to do anything but be a bird in order for them to be fed?  NO!  What does he expect from the birds?  Just to be exactly what God designed them to be, a bird.  To eat and fly and poop and sleep.  That is what He made them to do.  Now He made all things on earth for the ultimate purpose of bringing Glory to himself.  So tell me what is it that a bird can do to make him more glorifying to God?  Nothing, God just wants the bird to do exactly what He designed it to do and that alone is glorifying in and of itself.  Ok how about the lilies do they do anything special to have color?  No, of course they don't.  Do they bring glory to God?  Yes!  Why?  Because God designed them and just growing and serving their purpose brings glory to God.  How about the grass?  I mean really must I go through it again.  He pretty much says that grass has absolutely no value yet it grows just the way it is supposed to and does exactly what He designed it to do.
Now  I Jesus simply giving a lesson in earth science here?  No He is making a parable.  Are not you more valuable to me than these things???  Then what is your freaking problem?  Why do you think you can do, have or be enough and then I will take care of you?  Why do you work, toil, worry, stress and try your hardest to be better than everyone else around you?  It is not for God's sake.  Why?  Because He does not require that in order to take care of you.  All He wants from us is to serve the purpose He designed us for.  So next time before someone gets up on their high horse and tells you or someone else that if they were good enough then God would provide their needs.  I think I may just say that I think you might be confused about the Bible and you may want to check that information before you spew it out next time.

So to answer our loved one that made such a hurtful comment in our time of need my response to you saying "I guess if He needs to teach you a lesson" is yes I am sure God needs to teach me many lessons.  Hopefully someday He teaches you to hold your tounge.