Friday, March 27, 2015

Heather Smith Thomas — Notes from Sky Range Ranch: Recollections of Rishira

Though some would call her a hard luck cow, Rishira was one of the good ones.

Rishira in her prime.
Rishira was originally our daughter Andrea’s cow. Andrea had chosen her as a heifer when she traded one of her steers to us. Andrea always picked the best heifers, and Rishira was a good one. Rishira’s mother was Rhiney (Rhonestone Rhonda), our good three-way mix (mostly Hereford/Angus, but harking back a few generations to Baby Doll, our Holstein milk cow who lived to be twenty-one), and one of our favorite “babysitter cows” that led first-calf heifers into the barn for calving until she was seventeen years old. Her sire was an Angus-Limousin bull. Rishira was a smooth, beautiful cow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Andrea Chesman: Stretching the Gardening Season with a Seedling CSA

Lingering snows putting a damper on your spring garden dreams? Join a seedling CSA!

Hannah Davidson runs the seedling CSA that Andrea Chesman joined this spring. Photo by John Falk
As I write this at the tail end of March, it is 21°F out but Weather Underground says it feels like 12°F. And it does. It does! I tapped my maple trees two weeks ago and still there’s no sap to boil. I really don’t think spring will ever come.

So what was I to think when a crazy email from my friend Hannah Davidson arrived, inviting me to join a seedling CSA at the Good Earth Farm in Brandon, Vermont? A two-foot-deep blanket of snow still covers my garden. I’m just guessing here, but I can’t imagine being able to sow seeds in mid-April for my usual spring greens and peas.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Recipe: Lemon-Dill Kraut

Happy International Sauerkraut Day!

Don’t knock kraut until you’ve tried lemon-dill.
Last fall, we thought it would be fun to develop a visual introduction to the variety of options that exist in the world of fermented vegetables. After all, while the world celebrates International Sauerkraut Day today, not everyone loves the taste of that traditional cabbage side dish. Authors Kirsten and Christopher Shockey helped us develop a choose-your-own-fermenting-adventure flow chart that anyone can follow with a copy of their book, Fermented Vegetables, in hand.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brooke Dojny: Dark and Sticky Gingerbread with Maple Whipped Cream

This sweet, spiced cake is the perfect showcase for maple.

Photo © Scott Dorrance, from Dishing Up® Maine
Right about now in northern New England, sugar maples along the byways begin to sprout clear plastic piping that feeds into buckets at the base of every tree, or, in large operations, runs down slopes to large collection tanks. The clear sap, which looks like water (Native Americans called it “sweetwater”), is boiled and boiled, usually over hardwood fires in small sugarhouses in the woods, and concentrated into smoky-sweet amber ambrosia. Typically, it takes 50 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup. The syrup is graded – each state has their own system – and bottled, to be used with abandon on pancakes or waffles, in desserts such as maple cream pie or maple pecan cake, or in such savory dishes as maple barbecue sauce or maple baked beans.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Emily Spiegelman: Storey’s Vintage Beer Club — The Taste of One Year

Last year, we began cellaring beer. This year, we tasted the results.

Photo by Mars Vilaubi
If you’re a regular reader of the Storey blog, you may remember that, a little over a year ago, we started a vintage beer club. With Vintage Beer author Patrick Dawson advising our amateur group, we selected three beers that would show enough change in the span of a year to be worth our while: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (an American barley wine) and two imperial-style stouts — Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Though we began our project thinking we’d conduct tastings along the way to the one-year mark, we quickly realized it made more sense to dig deep into our store of patience and wait.

Well, I’m here to report that we did it!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Melissa Caughey: Speaking Chicken

Your backyard flock has a lot more to say than just “Bok, bok, bok.”

Photo © Melissa Caughey
Chickens are pretty amazing birds. The more time you spend with them, the more you come to appreciate their beauty, their eggs, their personalities, and their ability to communicate. In my family, the language of chickens continually amazes us. Scientists have discovered that chickens have more than 30 recognizable phrases used for communication, and we agree!

From Inside the Blind: Q&A with Marie Read

Meet the photographer who’s tickled a kingfisher’s feet.

Author photo © Marie Read
Marie Read fell in love with birds as a young girl growing up in England, when a relative showed her a European Robin’s nest that held four tiny blue eggs. Now a skilled wildlife photographer and coauthor of Into the Nest, Marie answers our questions about the challenges and the delights of documenting bird life on film.

Can you talk about what goes through your mind as you’re setting up and waiting for a shot? What senses come into play? 

When I’m trying to capture something challenging and fleeting like a bird taking flight, I go into an almost trance-like state of deep concentration. I’m staring intently down my lens at the bird, and peripheral distractions seem to disappear. At the same time my reflexes are primed to react as soon as the bird moves. I also pay attention to sounds. Birds’ vocalizations alert me that my subject is about to arrive or that something important is happening nearby.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Niki Jabbour: New Garden Picks for the New Year

Find out which new veggies the author of  The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener and Groundbreaking Food Gardens is making space for in 2015.

‘Purple Sun’ carrots. Photo courtesy of Renee Shepherd | Renee’s Garden
With spring approaching, I’m now in full planning mode, trying to figure out how and where to fit all the new vegetables I want to grow into our 2,000-square foot garden. We always find room for family favorites —  ‘Sungold’ tomatoes, ‘Lemon’ cucumbers, ‘Caribe’ potatoes, ‘Emerite’ pole beans — but part of the fun of “growing your own” is experimenting with the diverse selection of edibles found in seed catalogs. This year I will be adding several dozen new and new-to-me crops to the garden. Here’s a sneak peek at my 2015 “Niki’s Picks”:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hannah Fries: Dragon Breath — A Fire Cider Tasting (Times Two)

Editor Hannah Fries and Digital Features Editor Emily Spiegelman chase the winter doldrums away with a double dose of fire.

A fire cider taste-off: Hannah’s on the right, Emily’s on the left
’Tis the season. Winter has been long and cold. The woodpile is shrinking. Immune systems are battle-weary while viruses are just flexing their microscopic muscles. (Or they would be, if they had muscles.) What do we have to protect ourselves with, besides measly hand soap? Not much.

There is, however, an old herbal remedy that’s had something of a comeback in recent years. Whether it works to repel colds is for you to decide — at the very least, it may repel your germy co-workers and family members, and probably vampires too. It’s not for the faint of heart: it’s fire cider.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Heather Smith Thomas — Notes from Sky Range Ranch: Deer Trouble

This winter, it isn’t the weather that’s putting stress on the livestock food supply at Sky Range Ranch. It’s the deer.

Mule deer in the woods. These native deer tend to winter on the hillsides eating sagebrush or in the woods eating brush.
As ranchers, we love wildlife and enjoy seeing animals making themselves at home on our ranch. We have a lot of deer — both mule deer and whitetail. The whitetail are not native here; we never saw any in our valley when I was a child. Then, a few decades ago, they appeared on ranches along the river and gradually expanded their territory up the various creeks. Mule deer range all over the mountains as well as in our fields, but the whitetail prefer the lower valleys, brushy areas along the streams, and the green fields — especially farmers’ fields.

Even though whitetail deer are smaller, they are more aggressive. The newcomer whitetails have displaced most of the mule deer on our creek. We’ve had many whitetail does raise their fawns in our fields and pastures and we enjoy seeing them. But over the last several years, their numbers have increased and they have suddenly become a serious winter problem.