Friday, April 13, 2012

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Loaf or Two, or Three

My favorite part of this bread recipe from Alicia, at Posie Gets Cozy, is where it says, "The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Shaggy dough? Such an intriguing word, almost worth the trouble of making the dough just to see what this shagginess is all about.

Otherwise, I really have no business baking bread. Not now. We have guests coming, and I have a sincere, if feeble, interest in making the corners tidy, and the surfaces clear(er). But, look... obviously I could not resist.

Call it a perfect storm, for wanton bread making.
First thing: I realized I had three bags of flour in the pantry. I think I bought a sack of flour for each month of winter, imagining, willing myself to be a merry cook and baker.

Secondly: Alicia insisted we "pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease try it right away," and honestly, she had already piqued my interest with the first picture of that beautiful loaf. Her blog has long been an inspiring favorite of mine.

Thirdly: I had yeast. Fresh yeast. No trips to the market necessary, and that is a huge bonus.

Fourth factor: The one room that actually is was tidy... the kitchen, and it was warm and welcoming, enticing me to be the merry baker.

Fifth influence: April showers. It was ideal weather for heating the oven, and filling the air with good smells and warmth.

Five solid, supportive rationals for diving in! So, why not?!

I have no regrets, but I cannot help sharing the whole picture, a little post-baking analysis.

1. I read the recipe... er... well, I looked at Alicia's pictures, and felt all warm and tingly inside, which is not exactly the same thing as critically reading a recipe. Here is what I figured out long, long after I had three bowls of dough rising...
a. I do not own a Dutch oven.
b. the recipe is called "Dutch Oven Bread"
c. it requires 12-18 hours time to rise, and I was imagining this bread being eaten for dinner, the day of.
d. starting the recipe in the morning would suggest that I would be baking sometime well before dawn, the next day. Like a true baker!

2. I am the fool who rushes in. Instead of appreciating how easy it was to mix up one batch of dough, clean, and move on to more pressing matters... I decided to be marvelous! Why not two loaves? Why not three? Suddenly, the once tidy kitchen was getting shaggy. One bag of flour snagged when I brought it out, throwing a white cloud in the air, which gravity took a hold of, covering most surfaces. Nothing tempts fate more than a woman who thinks she has things under control, who takes photographs to share her proud moment of domestic marvelousness... now phones are ringing, goats are bleating, chickens are in distress, things are blowing around in the storm, and those pressing matters are pressing more and more. Why, oh why, do I rush in?

I hadn't even tried baking bread in nine years. Nine years. Goodness. How can this be? Maria was astonished to hear that actual bread was being prepared at home. Goodness. How can this be?

The recipe for Dutch Oven Bread really is easy. And if you do not rush in, like me, then you will probably enjoy simple and faith restoring success making this bread. Turn off your phone. Start before bedtime, and let the night take its time, raising your dough. Procure your baking dish, and be sure you have all the ingredients and tools on hand. Don't let a hot oven par-bake your rising dough... like I did. Doh! Don't forget to read the recipe all the way through. Don't forget to dust the baking dish with cornmeal or flour, as per the recipe... I did, forget. Doh! And remember, the last rise time is two hours, and not eight, so set your alarm if you must!

Do you like how, even in the midst of making bad baking mistakes, and huge messes, I still pick up the camera? I figured I might as well be honest, and show the results of being careless, clueless, and foolhardy with a simple recipe. But... you know what? This may be a foolproof recipe... how fortunate for me. The bread, even after those six extra hours to rise and inflate like a shaggy blob, smelled good, and looked... well, semi-good, and tasted: Good.

My confidence was shaken, then restored, and I am even thinking about next time. Thank you, Alicia.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making Powerful Backyard Fun

Maaaaa! Daaaaa! What are these for?

Since we started building our barn, the quantity and variety of cool construction scraps has been steadily mounting. Everyone has an interest in those scraps, including the newest Bird House kids.

Well, at first we just stacked the 2x4s and let the goats walk the planks, so to speak.

Then I rolled in a eucalyptus log I salvaged last year, and that was fun. They really do play king of the mountain. And we added wider planks from the barn siding.

Then I got extra ambitious, and countersunk some screws into scraps. I made a dandy little bridge, elevated on one end. But, you know kids... they outgrow little things so quickly, and it wasn't long before they were giving me doleful glances and pleading for something new, something challenging.

Having seen a log and plank see-saw at Coral Tree Farm, I asked Geoff if he could bring home a really long and sturdy board. Then he asked how long? and how sturdy? And I said, twice the width of a 2x4 and long enough to teeter-totter, because I am technical, and precise, and stuff. Fortunately, for me, he's even more technical and precise, and he knew exactly what to bring:

4 galvanized 1/2" x 8" lag screws
4 galvanized washers
1 2"x 8"x 12' plank

We marked the center of our twelve foot long, and sturdy board, then Geoff marked a square center for the long screws, that would go into the log. The board was pre-drilled with four holes.

Then Geoff set to pre-drilling holes into the eucalyptus log.
This is the part where my simple plan gets complicated.
Eucalyptus is hard.
We were astonished at the effort it took to drill those holes, and really, we were making very little progress. Do I have to clarify... "we" means "Geoff," and me, in close proximity, saying encouraging things like, "Dang, that is some hard wood." And offering thoughtful reflections, like, "Hmmmmm."

I think we all know what this means...
we need More Power!

At first, I was going to apologize, because I thought this might be an inspiring tutorial about how easy and simple it is to make a fun backyard play thing, then it got a bit complicated. And I almost feel kind of bad about that. But. But, some people love a challenge, and even more... some people love an opportunity to bring out big tools, bigger tools, bigger, more powerfuller tools!! Bwahahahaha! Well, bigger powerfuller tool fans, this unapologetic project is for you!

It took a big drill to bore into the log. It took multiple passes to make the holes big enough.

We did not know: Goats love power tools, too. They loved checking the progress, and would run up when the drill was running. I think Ada wants to thank Geoff for persevering.

With all the holes prepped, it was time to insert the lag screws, with the washers.

And here's Ada, again, all ready to lend a hoof.

But the wood... and those eight inches of lag screw... it's a bit much to handle without... more power!

So, Alex has the compressor ready, and the pneumatic impact wrench.

Yes, you read that correctly.
Now, say it aloud, and feel the power: Pneumatic Impact Wrench!

This is getting the job done.

And while the see-saw comes together, Ada has her last bottle of the day. She'll be fueled and ready for one more romp, before her goodnight.

Can you tell, they see their new toy?
But it's too fun, just for goats... so, they'll have to wait their turns.

Goat's turn!
We have a see-saw! Teeter-totter!
Easy. Sort of.
Fun. Definitely.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Meet The Kids

Last Wednesday, Natalie, the Chickenblogger, calling from the feed store: Geoff.
Help me, Geoff.

Geoff, barn carpenter and pillar of strength:
What? What's wrong?

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
Baby goats. Here in the feed store. They are just the kind I've been telling you about. Squeee!!

Are they cute?

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:

Uh-huh. Well...

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
Did you get the picture I sent?

The barn... it isn't finished...

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
I know.
I'm just looking.
But did you see them?!?!

What's that...
is that the goats?

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
Squeee!! No, that's me.
Joy is bursting out of my pores, and it makes a funny sound.
But I'm okay. Just buying chicken feed.


Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
No, really. I have full control of my impulses, and emotions.
I am master and commander, of my destiny, and wallet.
None shall trespass my sensible and rational fortress of wisdom!


Sorry, one of them nuzzled me.

Uh-huh... maybe you should step away.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger:
Yeah, yeah. I'm just going to the car, now...

Geoff, what if we are more capable than we think? What if we are meant to embrace our dreams, even the scary ones, the whimsical kind, and just go for it? That couldn't be a really bad thing, could it? Because, even though my plate is full, maybe even spilling over, I sometimes feel that denying myself experiences is too great a risk. However our choices may complicate our lives, I take great pleasure in seeing some of our dreams come true. Sometimes following impulses, and doing things that create complications, actually make the usual, and genuinely hard parts, of life more tolerable.*

I would never stop you.

*Does anyone, really, have cell phone reception this dependable? All of this heartfelt soliloquy played in my head, and was later summarized in person, when I said, apologetically, "Squeeee!! I cannot help myself!"

This is Ada Lovelace. She is a caramel and white female kid, a Nigerian Dwarf. Born February 25. She is dehorned and immunized. She is bottle fed.

She is smaller, and weighs less than, our cats.

This is Tasha... named for Tasha Tudor. She is brown and white. She is a quintuplet, born February 21. She takes a bottle, too.

The first time Maria walked away from Tasha and Ada, they bleated, and ran after her.
It was adorable.
They are adorable.

We all think so.

Well, maybe not all of us find the goats adorable. Some of us are slightly aghast.

But those of us who adore them, are very happy.

I want the picture of Geoff, carrying one under each arm... he grins, and asks visitors "Have you met my kids?"