Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learning - Feeling empowered and inspired

This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  James recognized this and gave me my space as a good husband does.  It's 6:30 PM now and I'm in a much better state of mind.  Don't you love how that happens? I'm sure James does.  All it took was some time making cheese, watching a cooking show and using what I learned from the show to get ideas for our dinner using food we grew right here at Elk Cliff Farm.

Lately I've been inspired by two Netflix series,  Chef's Table and The Mind of a Chef.  Unfortunately Chef's Table only has 5 episodes.   I love this show.  It really makes me want to cook and make our dinners look as good as they taste.  James works so hard in his garden and his vegetables should be displayed beautifully on our plates.  It goes without saying the animals we raise for our table also deserve respect.  They really deserve a fine chef but James didn't marry one so I do the best I can.  A recent meal here was Roxie bratwurst cut into thirds and placed in nests of homemade pasta with a cheese, goat milk and mustard sauce with caramelized onions, served with fresh strawberries, asparagus and spinach.  Not nearly as pretty as the meals prepared on Chef's Table but to us they taste like a million bucks because we know where it came from and how it was raised.
Because we have so much wheat getting ready to be harvested, I'm trying to use up last years' wheat so we have space in the freezer.  I made a bread that is almost all our own wheat flour.  The recipe called for honey or maple syrup so I used Elk Cliff maple syrup and it turned out delicious.  Very soft for a whole wheat bread.  I love seeing wheat growing in the garden.  Look how brown our grass is.  We're finally getting some much-needed rain this week.

I also experimented with 100% whole wheat pasta.  Last night we had beet whole wheat pasta made from our wheat, free range chicken eggs and beets.  It looked much prettier raw than it did cooked.  Much of the pretty purple cooked out in the water, which was disappointing.
Tonight's dinner is Elk Cliff pork ribs, peas and corn bread made from glass gem corn James grew last year.

Besides feeling inspired, I've also been feeling empowered because of some things I've been forced to do.  I'll begin with our tractor, Betty Ford.  We've been doing some grass cutting in the field with our finishing mower.  We probably need a bush hog but since we don't have one we've been pushing the limits with the mower.  Unfortunately the belt broke before I was done mowing so I needed a quick lesson on replacing it.  I've had to do this on our riding lawn mower recently too.  This mower however, was a bit more challenging.  There were way more wheels and the tension spring was much bigger and tight.  Here's the diagram for putting the belt on.  It has wheels going different directions and the belt has to make 1/4 turns and 1/2 turns.

Getting the belt on the wheels wasn't too hard but re-attaching the tension spring was.  It was so tight it had at least 8 inches to span to reach the place it should connect.  I tried lots of tricks, to no avail.  I called my tractor repair guy to see if there was a special tool.  He said no and gave a few suggestions.  Finally I hooked my riding lawn mower up to the spring with a tie down strap and stretched it that way.  Tada! It worked.  I was so proud of myself.  My excitement lasted all of 30 seconds when I realized a tractor tire was flat.  The next day I pumped the tire up only to find the valve stem leaked and tire fluid (calcium chloride) was leaking out.  Adam taught me a bunch about valve stem removers and letting air out of tires, etc.  What we didn't know about was the different sizes of valves and about the fluid.  I contacted a tire company who came out to the farm and replaced the valve, filled the tire with what had drained and then gave me a lesson in tractor tires.  Since I have a front loader on my tractor he said my tractor would be useless without the calcium chloride in the tires, which creates weight.  Gosh, I could go on and on with what I learned about tractor tires (just ask James) but I have so much more to write about.  

Next, our dishwasher.  It hasn't been cleaning well at all.  We were washing everything well before putting it in the dishwasher, otherwise the top rack would still be dirty.  It was getting frustrating so I Googled "dishwasher not cleaning".  It led me to this video on Youtube, which was exactly what I needed.  Oh my goodness, I embarrassed myself with how much crud was in our dishwasher, even though there was no one there to see it.  Seriously, disgusting.
The video was under 9 minutes long but it took me between 2 to 3 hours to take ours apart, clean it and put it back together correctly.  The great thing about this video is he tells you how to put everything back together so you don't have to remember how you took it apart.  I removed lots of sludge, a piece of a hard plastic straw, a few inches of a chop stick, a chip off a plate, several small chicken bones and other things I didn't recognize.  I ran a big load today and it appears to be doing the job it should be.  Hooray!

Something else I'm excited about is the drapes in my living room that I made out of drop cloths from Lowes.  I'm not the first to do something like this, as evidenced by a Google search for drop cloth curtains, which is where I got my ideas.  The base of our rug is an oatmeal color which matches the color of drop cloths.  
Working with drop cloths requires a person who doesn't expect perfection.  There are many flaws in them.  They shrink unevenly, and may have stains (I don't know where they come from).
They have sewing flaws and seams in unexpected places.  They also shrink a lot and took a long time to iron.
I got carried away with the drop cloth theme and made stenciled pillow covers.

I also made a bedspread stenciled with salamandars.

That's probably more than you wanted to read about but because I'm in a good mood now it was easy to get carried away.  


  1. I'm trying to figure out what you are saying here, Karen . . . but glad you are in a good mood!!!

  2. phew!!!You are an inspiration, to be sure! But I could Never do what you do in a lifetime, much less a day!!!

  3. phew!!!You are an inspiration, to be sure! But I could Never do what you do in a lifetime, much less a day!!!

  4. How long is your day Karen?! Wow what an inspiration! We need to come down and visit! Been too long.

  5. Wow are what are you going to do today?

  6. I don't know what I'll do today. I usually make it up as I go along. I do know we're going to Blackfriars tonight to see Hamlet.

  7. Your dishes look delectable, as does your stenciling, and as for your mechanical skills, well, the image of you stretching that tension spring by attaching to the rider mower will remain an inspiration for the rest of my life! I bet you could sort out Hamlet and the Danish Court too!

  8. I AM IMPRESSED. Are you sure you have time to come and trim hoofs? That is a pretty mundane job, but no, I don't want you to bring your salamander stencil, unless you want to do food bowls.