Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happenings Around the Homestead

Ok, so it's not really a homestead. They're still happenings! We had a lovely day today. The sun shone (this is rather unusual in the Walla Walla Valley during the winter), and it was 50 degrees! Here's what's going on around The Cherry Tree Farm:

Scott is building us a chicken coop! We will be getting the chicks in a few weeks -- eight of them. I've never raised chicks before, but Scott has, so I imagine we can handle it without killing off more than three or four!

Look! It's a gravel ditch! (It's really pretty like that around here.) No, it's really our irrigation canal. This property has had first water rights on the Little Walla Walla River (meaning we can use all the water we want, and everyone downstream has to lump it) since 1886. Most of the year, this canal is deep enough with fast-running water to be up above my knees, and in the middle of the summer, I'm not sure I could keep my footing in the current. In the summer, reeds and yellow flags grow along the banks and it's beautiful. In the late winter, however, the water board reroutes the water and all the landowners along the canal line have to clear out the old reeds and get the canals ready for the growing season. Our gardener, Vincente, has been working all week on digging out the old reeds (he's so cheerful about it!). I miss the water when it isn't running -- the sound is so peaceful.

Our cherry trees are still looking rather straggly at this point in the season. This is a view facing east toward the Blue Mountains. The new growth on the trees is always reddish. The trees should begin blossoming in late March, and it shouldn't be too much longer now before the beekeepers bring in the bee boxes to get the pollination going.
And then there's the resident farm dog, Cap. He's having a lovely day, as I bought him a giganto-riffic beef knucklebone to gnaw on just this morning, and he's been working on it all day. He also loves it when Vincente is here doing farm or garden work, because there's someone to talk to him outdoors (when he IS outdoors, that is, and not sleeping in the patch of sun on the living room floor!).

What's happening at your house?

Love, kristin

Friday, February 13, 2009

Student Bloomer of the Week

(From an essay about logical fallacies in the "Nation and Race" chapter out of Hitler's Mein Kampf -- you have NO IDEA how beautifully that whole chapter illustrates one logical fallacy after another!)

"Adolf Hitler was a Nazi leader in the Civil War."

Sigh. Sounds of teacher taking more medication.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your Wednesday Poetry

What sort of English teacher would I be (for those of you who don't know, I contract teach writing for our local university) if I didn't occasionally improve your minds with some poetry, as well as the occasional thought-provoking quote? Besides, it's an homage to LadyEloise, who first taught me to really appreciate and analyze such things (she was my high school English teacher ... and, actually, the same for several other blog readers! Yes, it's a small town). This poem was in the newspaper this Sunday, and it seemed awfully topical for this blog, beyond the fact that I just liked it.

The Cherry Tree
by David Wagoner (University of Washington professor)
from Crazyhorse, No. 73, Spring 2008

Out of the nursery and into the
where it rooted and survived its
first hard winter,
then a few years of freedom while
it blossomed,
put out its first tentative branches,
the insects and the poisons for insects,
developed strange ideas about its height
and suffered the pruning of its
quirks and clutters,
its self-indulgent thrusts
and the infighting of stems at
cross purposes
year after year. Each April it forgot
why it couldn't do what it had to
and always after blossoms, fruit,
and leaf-fall,
was shown once more what
simply couldn't happen.
Its oldest branches now, the
survivors carved
by knife blades, rain, and wind, are
sending shoots
straight up, blood red, into the
light again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Our Daily Bread

At the women's Bible study I attend, our fearless leader (the woman at whose house we all meet) asked us each to name one thing we loved. The answers were hilariously varied (though not especially numerous; we're not a very big group!), including such things as "sunshine" and "my husband -- because he makes me laugh so hard I snort." I said, "I love making bread." And I do. Beginning when Scott was in residency and I first began to stay home full-time with the children, I started messing around making bread.

My Grandma Bergman used to make bread daily when she cooked on the chuck wagon (literally a horse-drawn wagon) for the wheat harvesters in the summertime. She mixed up the dough in a big bowl and held it in her lap so it would rise as the wagon driver and she jounced along to the next stop to serve lunch.

I can remember my mother making bread regularly when I was a child. She made it in serious quantity -- it seemed that she did a dozen loaves at once, though I don't know if that was my childish perspective, or not. She mixed up the dough by hand in a huge metal kettle, and baked the loaves in coffee cans, so they were round and tall. When I started making my own, I had some fairly spectacular failures -- I made one batch of whole-wheat walnut bread which could easily have been used to batter someone senseless with one blow!

Then I learned a few tricks. I'm all about tricky cooking. I'm such a lazy cook. If I don't have to measure it, I don't. If I can swap ingredients, I do. Mom told me that Grandma always made a "sponge" when making dough that was whole-wheat, or used a large quantity of whole-wheat (I'll explain that later). It makes a huge difference in ... um ... weight. I found a recipe I liked and tinkered around with it. I learned about vital wheat gluten (more about it later, too).

The result is, I make the following recipe about once a week. Only I make it in quadruple quantity. We eat it for toast, sandwiches, everything. I'll post the quadruple one, too, if any of you would like -- I just thought it might be more usable this way, as I wasn't sure anyone wanted to jump off the high dive quite that quickly! The recipe is adapted from one in Heather Houck Reseck's Fix It Fast cookbook. Note: I'm sorry, those of you outside the US -- I have no metric quantities for this recipe (*blush*)!

**Kristin's Everyday Bread**

1 1/2 c (10 0z) warm water
2 1/2 t active dry yeast
3 T honey or molasses
1 1/2 T nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 t salt
3 T oil
2 T vital wheat gluten (this is often available near the yeast in grocery stores -- sometimes called
dough enhancer? It's optional, but makes the bread rise better.)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I have a grain mill, so grind this myself -- makes a great loaf!)
1 1/2 c white flour (unbleached)

Mix all ingredients but the white flour together in a large bowl (or a bread mixer/Bosch if you have one), stirring well. You will have a soupy sort of dough. Cover the bowl and let it sit for half an hour or so. This is the "sponge" my grandma suggested, and gives the yeast a head start. After the half hour, stir briefly to knock down what has risen, and add the white flour as needed for a slightly tacky (but handle-able) dough (it should pull away from the sides of the bowl if you're using a mixer/machine). Knead by hand approx. 10 min. or in your bread machine 5 min. or so.

Place the dough in a clean bowl; do not grease the bowl first -- the heavy whole-grain dough needs to be able to "climb" the sides of the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled -- approx. 1 hour.

When dough is doubled in size, punch down, knead briefly to restore shape, and shape into a loaf. Place in a well-greased loaf pan, cover with the tea towel again, and return to the warm place to rise for approx. 1/2 hour. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 mins., or until bread is well-browned and sounds hollow when tipped out of the pan and thumped on the bottom. Let cool out of pan on wire rack. For a glossy top crust, smooth a bit of butter or shortening on the top of the hot loaf.

love, kristin

Hurrah! More Babies!

NO! Not MINE! Sorry about any inadvertent heart attacks out there -- my three are all that are going to be growing up at the Cherry Tree Farm, I'm afraid! But my niece (Amanda, for those of you who know my two nieces) has had twins! Yes, that would in fact be two newborns at once. I am so proud of she and her husband Chris -- the journey to get here has been long and difficult. God is really good.

You can look at pictures of Mason and Madison (and Amanda, looking absolutely disgustingly put-together and camera-ready ... it's hardly human, but she's just got that natural ability) here. I do have to acknowledge that this does make me a ... ahem ... great-aunt. I was already, actually, as my other niece, Melissa, and her husband Michael have two children as well. This is just another reminder. Perhaps I can think of "great" in terms of "stupendous" and "marvelous," as opposed to "in the same generation as your grandmother." I'll console myself by remembering that this makes four great-GRANDCHILDREN for my parents!

Love, kristin

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Butter. Mmmm, Butter.

My parents will recognize the cover of this cookbook, and my sisters will recognize at least part of the name. Endicott, Washington, is the town to which my great-grandfather (Conrad Schierman) and his three brothers moved after emigrating from Russia. They were Volga Germans, and established what became known as the Palouse Colony, which became a destination for many other Volga German immigrants -- either as a place to settle, or as a place to get used to America!

Conrad Schierman had a large wheat farm outside of town, on which he raised his eight children (including my grandmother, Esther Schierman Bergman). My father also spent large chunks of his growing-up years on The Farm. The land around Endicott is smooth, rolling hills. In the spring, the ground seems upholstered in green velvet (which is really the sprouting wheat), and in the late summer, just before harvest, the whole earth seems to be one carpet of white-gold.
Even today, many of the farming families have German/Volga German backgrounds. Potlucks in this part of the state are outrageously delicious. The food is not fancy or gourmet -- it's good, old-fashioned farm food. Lots of meats, potatoes, casseroles ... and desserts. Pies, cakes, cobblers. You do NOT need to worry about calories when you're working hard on a farm! (You know, like I do all the time.) Our family reunions are absolutely sinful when it comes to food. I can't even tell you.

My mom gave me this cookbook several years ago for my birthday. It was actually published in 1964 by the Endicott Education Association and the communities of Endicott and Winona (another small town nearby) -- I assume as a fundraiser for the school. Here is one of my favorite recipes from it. It looks long, but is really very uncomplicated:

***Sweet Rolls *** (Mrs. Elmer Bafus)


2 T dry yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 t. salt
3 eggs
5 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. vegetable oil

Soften yeast in lukewarm water to which 1 t. sugar has been added. Scald milk, pour into large bowl. Add sugar and salt. Cook to lukewarm. Stir in yeast mixture. Add beaten eggs and part of flour (about 2 c.). Add oil. Mix well. Add remaining flour and knead until smooth (dough should be kept as soft as possible -- almost sticky). Let rise in warm place until double in bulk -- about 1 hour. Knead briefly (adding a very small amount of flour if necessary to prevent sticking), and let rise again until almost double -- about 45 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll one portion into oblong 15 x 9 inches. [Mrs. Bafus here gives directions for making only the one portion of the dough into sweet rolls, and suggests making the rest into dinner rolls. If you want to make two pans of sweet rolls, just do the following instructions twice.]


4 T melted butter [personally, I just dump some vegetable oil on the rolled-out dough and swirl it around with my fingers--that's the way Grandma Bergman did it]
1/2 c. brown sugar [I never measure this part or the cinnamon --just dump away!]
1/8 t. cinnamon

Brush rolled dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up as jelly roll [starting with the long side]. Cut into 1-inch slices.


1/3 c. melted butter
1/4 c. corn syrup (or maple syrup)
1/2 c. brown sugar

Pour melted butter in 12 x 8 1/2 inch pan. Sprinkle in brown sugar and add syrup. Place rolls in pan. Let rise till double in bulk, about 45 minutes. Place in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Makes about 20 rolls.

Enjoy! And thank you, Mrs. Bafus, wherever you are.

Love, kristin