Friday, April 24, 2015

Heather Smith Thomas — Notes from Sky Range Ranch: Steadfast Grendel

Whether jumping fences or leading the herd, this Hereford lived life at her own pace.

Grendel Hereford cow
Grendel in the distance, sitting like a dog
A couple years after my husband Lynn and I started ranching, we bought a group of purebred Hereford cows at a reduction sale at the neighboring Pine Creek Ranch, to add to our herd of Hereford, Angus, and crossbred cows.

One young cow named Lady Onward 45, whom we nicknamed Grendel, started calving the afternoon before Christmas. We put her in the pen next to our front yard so we could watch her and make sure everything went okay. By the time she calved, it was dark and very cold.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Designing Small: An Excerpt from Cabin Lessons

You can’t buy happiness by the square foot.

Lake Superior Cabin Exterior
Photo © Jeff Johnson
Spike Carlsen is known for woodworking books like The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects and Woodworking FAQ. His new book, Cabin Lessons, isn’t a woodworking how-to; it’s an honest and heartfelt memoir about constructing a lakeside getaway — and the many lessons inherent in building for (and with) family.

When people find we’re designing a cabin, the questions progress in a certain order.
“Where’s the lot?”

“Seven miles north of Silver Bay, two miles beyond Palisade Head.”
“What’s the land like?”
“Three acres with manic-depressive shoreline, terrain like Everest, one almost-level spot the size of a basketball court.”
“What kind of cabin will you build?”
“Small” is the only unqualified answer we can muster. If pressed for a style, we think something along the lines of “funky, seaside, carpenter-Gothic with Danish-style Arts and Crafts leanings” — a style you’d be hard pressed to find in any Architecture 101 book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

French Toast on a Stick

Because food just tastes better when it’s served on a stick.

French toast and fruit kebabs
Try French toast on a stick for breakfast fun! Photo © Julie Bidwell, excerpted from Cooking Class
Whether you’re smack in the middle of school vacation week or looking for ways to add fun to another breakfast at home, these French toast and fruit kebabs are a surefire way to get young cooks into the kitchen.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Brooke Dojny: Shaker Chicken Stew with Scallion Dumplings

This simple, satisfying stew embodies the legacy of Shaker cooking.

Shaker Chicken Stew with Scallion Dumplings
Shaker Chicken Stew with Scallion Dumplings
“Nothing seems to bring people closer together than the act of sharing food,” says Sister Frances Carr of Maine’s Sabbathday Lake Shaker community. In her 1985 book, Shaker Your Plate, Sister Carr, now in her late eighties and still vigorous, puts forward the Shaker philosophy that focuses on “plain, wholesome food…simple, but painstakingly prepared.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ana Maria Spagna: What the Best Makers Know

Illustration © Brian Cronin, excerpted from 100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It)

I have friends who seem to be able to do almost anything. They might, say, build houses and weld machinery by day, care for chickens and horses and bees in the evening, and sit down at night to knit hats or practice the violin. Everybody knows people like this, I think, and there’s a tendency to glorify them as super-human or to sentimentalize them as quaint or old-fashioned — but the truth is they are regular people who took the time to learn skills, a lot of them, and to master a few. 

In the so-called real world, the real things we rely on are almost always made somewhere else, by people we don’t know, in places we’ve never been, who likely speak a language we don’t understand. Our clothes, our food, our tools, our toys, our appliances. Everything.

No wonder we sometimes feel disconnected. We are disconnected.

Amy Jirsa: Together, One at a Time

Echinacea in Basket Herbal Goddess
Photo © Winnie Au, excerpted from Herbal Goddess
I grew up in a household that was open to natural health, but not one in which herbs had a daily presence. Nonetheless, even as a young child, I was fascinated by plants and plant medicine. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I would spend hours in the woods behind my house, foraging for dandelions and anything else I could identify, replanting them in little pots, tending to them, and pretending to make lotions and medicines out of them.

Over the years, I kept that fascination, but there was no community for such an interest. At least, I hadn’t found it yet. When my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, we both found that community — one in which we felt at home — among the teachers, the guides, the healers, and the wise men and women we had no idea we’d been searching for.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Emily Spiegelman: 5 Stories to Read about the California Drought

President Barack Obama tours a field with farmer Joe Del Bosque, his wife Maria, and California Gov. Jerry Brown in Los Banos, Calif., Feb. 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
At the end of last month, I traveled with a few Storey colleagues to Ventura, California, for the Craftcation Conference. This wasn’t my first trip to the conference in the seaside town, nor was it the first time I traveled south from Ventura to Los Angeles — not on freeways but on smaller roads through agricultural towns with encampments of field laborers, rows of citrus trees, and dusty fields sprouting kale, broccoli, and rainbow chard. Farm country.

We were there mere days before Governor Brown imposed the first mandatory statewide water restrictions in California history, but the lack of water was already (obviously) on everyone’s minds. Restaurants did not provide water to patrons unless we asked for it. Watching television one night in the hotel, I’d seen a lengthy news segment about harvesting rainwater using methods similar to those author Laura Allen describes in her book, The Water-Wise Home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Krystina Castella: A Recipe for Tortuga Rum Cakes

Alcohol-infused cakes are boozy fun for the baker and the food history buff.

Tortuga rum cake; recipe from A World of Cake 
Why is baking with alcohol so much fun? Because it opens up flavor possibilities you can’t get with typical vanilla and chocolate. When I started baking with alcohol, I discovered ingredients and flavor profiles to experiment with, as well as a whole world of recipes with deep historical roots.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Botanical Bug Spray for Chickens

A homemade anti-flea and -tick spray for dogs that works beautifully on chickens, too. 

Photo © Keller + Keller Photography, from A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens
Melissa Caughey, author of A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, writes:
My dog groomers turned me on to a homemade bug spray for dogs. They swore that if we sprayed our dog right before heading out for hikes in the woods, this spray would repel ticks and fleas. Well, it worked so beautifully, I decided to try it on the chickens! It seems to help them, too.

Spring is Here at Last! Field Notes from Authors Gail Damerow, Heather Smith Thomas, Sue Weaver, Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

This winter has left those of us in New England especially hungry for spring, and we’re not alone. Four Storey authors from farms and ranches in the southeastern and western parts of the country revel in a new season (and some new arrivals).

Gail Damerow — Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Gail Damerow
Is winter finally over? I thought it would never end! We rarely have snow in our part of Tennessee, and when we do it typically lasts no more than two or three days. This winter we had several rounds of heavy snow, one of which lingered for more than two weeks. The roads were so hazardous we didn’t see mail delivery for more than a week. As we slogged through a winter that seemed to never end, we pretended spring was just around the corner.