Carrot Loaf with Ginger & Walnuts

IMG_1756With the warm spring sun these past few days I am hoping that the interminable rains of this last January & February will be gone from my memory. Those soggy months had us out in the weather far more than usual, trying to keep our magic, flying cows at home!

Long before we became the owners/custodians of our beautiful farm, there roamed a herd of about forty Belted Galloway cattle, across about 100 acres of what a half would become our farm. Around the whole of the property ran a three-strand barbed wire fence with split cedar posts. Over the years we’ve been here, almost this entire fence has been replaced with 5-strand & treated posts. Just over 2.5 km. That’s a lot of fence. We are somewhat experts. One small stretch of the original fence still stands, is still in great condition, and for some inexplicable reason the cows believe that it is as strong as a 5-strand.

One area that was a difficult place to build a fence is where the fence runs up the rocky soil to the cliff face. It is so steep, that when I stand on a deer trail my hands steady myself by putting them on the ground in front of my face. Somehow the deer zigzag up these trails with no problem. The cows are heavier and taller, so their trails stop a bit further down where the slope is not so steep. Their trails are about 6” wider than a deer trail. We have always managed this area by pulling deadfall to brace behind standing trees, and stacking up lots of dead branches, knowing that the animals could not climb up and over the piles, when climbing up a slope. We tend to it every few years, adding more to our stacked deadwood walls.

On many of those rainy days early in the year, our late afternoons were spent finding the herd of flying, magic cows, trying to figure out where they could possibly have got through the fence. Our fences are in such great state of repair after many days of fixing what could even possibly be a breach point. But still, they were getting out.  Which is when we became concerned that they’d learned how to fly.

One late afternoon, I did the usual search. While walking the fence line in the valley, I saw a tiny white face at the far end of the valley, at the far reach of our neighbors’ land. As I watched, the whole herd emerged from the distant trees, and slowly made their way towards our property. With opening wide a nearby gate, and a bucket of grain, we were able to get them back home. We locked them up in an 8-acre area, until we could at last find just where it was they’d been getting out.

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Waiting for the waters to recede.

We waited until the waters had receded somewhat from the valley bottom, and got across into the cliff bottom. Climbing up, we found that the property line that is way up the slope had been re-surveyed. Our only guess is that the surveyors had broken through our carefully piled stacks to work the line, creating an access point for the cows. We ran ropes all the way down the hillside, tied from tree to tree; at about waist height over bases of dead fir & cedar, and wove branches and reworked stacks all the way to the top.

That day was for me, the first day of spring. The sun was shining the whole day while we worked in our shirtsleeves. I was hesitant to let the cows out of their incarceration, but knew that we needed to. Spring has continued on, with the cows quietly grazing on all parts of our property, with no venturing to far off places.

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So in celebration of this newfound time (meaning not having to search fences day after day), I made a delightful carrot loaf with walnuts and candied ginger. I hope you enjoy it. It is perfect made using either all-purpose wheat, or gluten free flour. It is also dairy free, an added bonus if feeding those with dairy issues. Continue reading

Hot Cross Buns with Currants & Orange

IMG_9470 (1)Good Fridays, for many years, were spent making dozens of hot cross buns to share with our family and friends over the Easter weekend. Ready to be delivered to homes to be enjoyed. Every year I’d tweak the recipe a bit for each batch, always starting with a basic sweet dough made with milk & butter. Sometimes too much spice sometimes not quite enough, and working towards the right combination. Always the purist, I would stick with currants as the only fruit, with the exception of some orange zest.

When I took out the recipe for this year’s I was reminded of the many years of development, by the fact that I have attached all my ideas into a stapled wad of pages. The top page is the “final” version, and the one that I’m sharing with you. These are very simple to make, and have good staying power, so if they’re made on Good Friday, they’ll last well through the Easter weekend. Continue reading

Smashed Potatoes ~ 3 ways

IMG_1543With the early darkness of winter nights, comfort foods are appreciated far more than in the light of summer. To brighten some of these meals, we look for ways to switch it up, while sticking with the tried and true basics. Here are three ways to enjoy red potatoes as sides. Super simple, but each one gives us a bit of a twist, to complement the main course. The third option is for pancakes, which are so easy to do from leftovers from an earlier meal. Just store the leftovers, covered, in the fridge for up to a week. Ready when you are. Continue reading

Mushroom Soup with Chestnuts & Apple

IMG_1494The first time I ever witnessed someone actually swoon over food was at Pino Posteraro’s “Cioppino’s”. On the other side of sixty, she had walked in wearing a swanky denim pantsuit, with a blond flip of a hairdo. She sat talking with her friends as they poured over the menu, just as we were, one table over. We had been considering the Mushroom & Chestnut Soup on offer. The chef had recently won the Gold Medal Plate Award for this very soup. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, she was served a bowl of this same soup. She lifted a spoonful into her mouth, and she just stopped. People at her table kept talking but she only had eyes for her soup. I think she ate the whole of it without speaking. I could hardly wait for my serving. It was the best soup I have ever eaten. This restaurant is well known for its incredibly fresh produce. Racks of tomatoes stand ready for sauces, with huge boxes of other veg, ready to go.

I knew that I couldn’t possibly replicate the recipe, even with it at hand, as buying produce of that quality and freshness can rarely happen at our local produce market. But, even with knowing that mine would never measure up, I have religiously made this soup once a year since (when chestnuts are available). Always tweaking it a bit, but it wasn’t until this year when I added some apple that it became so very, very close to the soup we had that evening. All I can think is that the apple added in the freshness that it had been lacking before. Continue reading