Sunday, March 1, 2015


At the onset of every season I think it impossible to grow sick of this one, this year. Every solstice is met with a sadness at days already changing their direction. Summer or winter's boots barely on, I turn petulant child wondering how will I get enough of thisThis- sun and time to labor, this- snow and time to turn inward.. Give me more, I urge, plead, pray. More winter! More snow! More time- for family, for hobbies, for just staying put. All with full belief that there won't be enough of those things, a surplus even, come April. And yet. Here I sit, as predictably over February as I've ever been, cursing my foolish dare of calling this winter A Bust when Christmas came our way so thoroughly brown. This winter I certainly got mine, more than mine. And how ridiculous it seems now to have thought I might ever meet a spring with anything other than complete rejection of winter, body thrown down and rejoicing at the feet of the green and growing beast.

I spent the early days of last spring wide-eyed and worried. I buried potatoes in straw and declared life's only focus to be winter. Either we are living it or preparing for it! It (I) was all very dramatic. And I guess it's what you (I) think when short days and deep snow are only a few weeks rewound. It all felt very heavy, a burden no amount of spring or summer would ever lessen. I hadn't yet been shocked awake near sunrise by complete strangers who had managed to bring our roaming cows home with but a stick and I certainly hadn't spent 5 hours, hands and knees, crawling through our wooly blueberry fields for a blessed and measly 5 pounds of fruit. Simply put: I just wasn't tired enough yet. But as the days got longer, and then eventually shorter, the foot stamping and winter cursing eased up. With just enough distance, I could again imagine a happy life in the dead of winter.

And so here I am, on the end of what was a much desired cold season, wailing mercy! and trying to maintain some grace in the painfully slow and snowy final days. After a few years finally spent in the same home on the same land with the same seasons rolling past the same windows, I am slowly coming around to the idea that there's always enough of whatever it is I crave from one season to the next. So I'll stack my library books high, with comforting words like compost and woman homesteader, and I'll make plans for what's still months and more than a couple of melting feet of snow away. And when the weight of this winter lifts, I'll resist the worries of enough.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Betwixt Two Snows, And Chicken Stock a la Foot

 I can't decide if we've endured enough winter just yet to warrant a cry for green growing things and fuzzy peeping things, but the wish for the lush and the warm and the long days of summer is sitting at the edge of my mind, growing more stubborn by the day. I think maybe it's just an inevitable facet of intertwining one's life with land and beast that you find yourself with one foot in the current season, the other in the next. Gus's new winter mittens are hot off the needles and I just picked back up his sweater, which is finally approaching the two-thirds mark. And all the while we're thumbing through catalogues, circling our favorite breeds of chicks to raise and new veggies we want to grow this year.  So here we are, for the most part happily, in a place of both Winter and Spring, trying to not wish either too much closer or farther away. Trying, and mostly succeeding, to accept the beauty of another blanket of snow, the forced rest of another sick day, and the pleasure of last year's roots roasted with two years past's home cured prosciutto. Truth be told, it is not too terribly hard. 

Chicken Stock a la Foot

In the past few weeks, bookended by two great snows, we've really been used up nose to tail. Every inch of us tried. We've been physically and mentally strained with cracked ribs and scary infections, changes at work and disappointment with things we have no control over. And while I'm wont to applaud any act of using something up in its entirety, I must say I would like in the future to use a little less of ourselves, or perhaps spread the using out a bit more over time. We haven't found a stretch of days off that hasn't had one of us in bed for one reason or another and it feels like maybe something, somewhere is waiting for us to cry uncle. So, uncle! A thousand times over, she says from her sickbed. So in keeping with our current life's theme of Using It All Up, a brief how-to for stock made with chicken feet.

I'm not a believer in specifics when it comes to making stock. In our house what finds its way into the stock pot has more to do with what we've eaten the previous week rather than any sort of adherence to a recipe. For a good stock I've learned all you need are basics. Some veg scraps, salt, and then of course animals parts if you wish to make something other than a vegetable stock.

For years I've heard the praises of a chicken stock made with chicken feet and quite honestly, I couldn't imagine chicken feet making that much of a difference. But after a three rooster culling a few weeks ago we found ourselves with feet a plenty and I thought might as well! And here I type converted. A better stock has never left my kitchen. So, if you find yourself lucky enough to have access to chicken feet, use them. Trust me.

How to Prepare Chicken Feet for Stock

Put a small pot of water on to boil and prepare an ice water bath.

Clean chicken feet and rub them in salt.

Once your water is at a boil, drop salted chicken feet in the water. Allow them to boil 30 seconds to a minute, or until their color has gotten vibrant, much like you would when blanching a vegetable. Do not over boil or the skin will be really difficult to remove.

Remove your chicken feet from the water and immediately plunge them into the ice water bath. Allow them to cool for a minute or so. This will make the peeling easier.

Trim the first knuckle off all the toes and very carefully make a long cut from the top of the foot to the bottom. Begin peeling from this cut. There are two layers of skin that you want to removes from the feet. When all the skin is removed your feet should be a light fleshy color and look like bone, tendon, and fat.

Now you are ready to make stock. Combine your feet with veg, salt, water, and any other bones you might wish to use for your stock. Boil away and taste perfection.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Which We Are Animals

Recently Gus has been of the mind to wonder how nice would it be if we were animals? He considers it while dangling a yo-yo-cum-horribly insensitive dog alarm through the stairs over sleeping pups. He asks it of us from the sidelines of whatever too-big-for-you-who-are-still-so-little task Craig and I find ourselves wrapped up in. And it's never just animals that he wonders us to be; there is always the stipulation that we imagine ourselves Animals With Nothing To Do. It's terribly sweet and naive, for, save beasts led by human hand, I think we could agree animals most often find themselves in positions of having everything to do. But what I hope for him is that as he ages out of a wholly innocent mind into one that bears the weight of life and death with all its joy and turmoil, he can cling to this perception of his. That to meet one's own needs isn't a burden of everything to do at all, but rather a privilege of the living. And until then may he have as many days spent as Animal, chasing sun spots 'round the house, cup of switchel in hand and an avid reader of all Winnie-ther-Pooh's tales by his side.