homesteading

WORKS OF THE HOME: LINE DRYING

 
windowsill
hanging laundry

When I think about clothes drying on the line, two particular memories come to the forefront of my mind. The first, when as a small girl I would look out our kitchen door and see soaking wet pool towels strewn every whichaway on the line. The towels took days to dry because my siblings and I would drag them into the water with us, the reason unknowable. Bless our mom for schlepping our ten pound towels from the pool to the clothesline, summer after summer. (And while we're at it, bless every mom, everywhere.) My second memory is the first time I smelled the garments that had baked on a line under the hot Greek sun. Mark and I spent the summer after college living in Porto Rafti, Greece with his dad and Greek side of the family, and it was there that I fell in love with the art of line drying. And it is an art—just look at the socks on an Amish clothesline, or the number of garments deftly hanging from apartment windows in Europe.

When works of the home feel artful, they are less Chore and more Cheer. I might go so far as to claim line drying as my most restorative choice of summer, though it must contend against bread baking, ocean swimming, and peach eating. Instead of feeling worn down by the fast pace of the season, or melancholy knowing it will soon be time to make way for a new one, might we all sink a little deeper into restorative acts, however small. You know what your mind, body, and soul needs. If you need a bit of guidance, might I suggest line drying? Below are a handful of ways to do so (even if you inhabit a 100 square foot third floor apartment). Happy dog days, friends.


a handful of ways to go about line drying:

for indoor use —
+ This small floor rack is an economical option for drying just a few things.
+ Erin shared a great post about wall-mounted drying racks for tiny spaces.
+ We use one similar to this for kitchen towels, woolens, undergarments, and airing out denim.

for outdoor use —
+ This entire page is chock full of outdoor solutions to fit your situation. Most are USA made.
+ We installed this kit and dug a post to mount it onto, though it could easily go between two existing structures. (See ours in action with cloth diapers, with sheets, and with a smelly raincoat.)
+ You can tie a thin rope from one tree to another. Voila, a clothesline. We did this very thing outside Pink Cameron.

for if you are loyally devoted to your electric dryer* —
+ Ditch the dryer sheet.
+ The prettiest wool dryer balls I've laid my eyes on.
+ The uses for clothespins are truly endless. In a pinch I used one as a hair clip.

*It never helps to be a zealot, and I want to be transparent about our practices. We use our electric dryer roughly half the time in the summer, and 100% of the time in the winter, though I intend to change that this winter. We are actively working towards drying the majority of our things outside, but all in good time. And we have yet to figure out how to line dry Rosemary's prefold diapers without them feeling too stiff. If anyone has suggestions, please do share.

laundry line 2
sedum
back garden 2

—S

GETTING BETTER | ON REDISCOVERING GOOD FOOD

 

For working day-in and day-out at the first level to create high-quality, delicious food for others, it would seem ironic that we, the ones working on a farm and devoting ourselves to food, have failed to eat well. But we have, or we did. It is the paradox of so many farmers we have talked with or heard from: too tired, too consumed, too overcome to prepare a good meal. In our case, we managed to spend our first month back in Vermont eating canned beans almost every night. Sometimes eating nothing until supper. Eventually, and rightfully so, our bodies and brains revolted. Sam broke down in tears, unable to pull the grain bin up the ramp—an ordinarily menial task. 

Our food did not have enough nutrition, was not very tasteful, and was not at all aligned with our life's passion and ethic. But there we were — strawberry season gone, garlic scapes almost gone, turnips and other early brassicas (Sam's favorite genus of vegetable) on their way out the door — with another ill-flavored can of black beans in our bowls.

We were decidedly overambitious. Plans of finding a full-season CSA** and foraging every other day were terribly unrealistic in the context of all that we had on our plates already. Making sure to eat breakfast would have been a better goal. The Grain Bin Incident is what we now refer to as the moment we reached 'critical mass', from which time our eating habits improved tenfold. Unsurprisingly, so did our moods and therefore our marriage. The ol' one-two punch.

Living in a camper without lights and with very limited space to move around in made cooking daunting. The prospect of reaching an arm into the back of the oven to light the pilot light, with the gas running, was sort of horrifying in itself. This camper is from 1986 and will surely blow up, we thought. So for four weeks we forwent using the oven. But Sam's self-named Pink Birthday was fast approaching, and the plan was to cook a “Mediterranean Farmstead” supper for our gang of pals—complete with a lemon olive oil cake with rosemary buttercream icing. We buckled on our proverbial boot straps and Mark lit the pilot light (his arm is fully in tact!). Conversations about nourishment of body, ecology, and economy returned. Our opinions on food are many, but the gist is this: we are incalculably privileged to research, to understand, and to eat what food we choose. It is our responsibility, then, to make good on that privilege. Eating need not be a difficult business.

So we found a CSA with a model that we could afford. Our kitchen is full of in-season produce once again. A veggie farmer taught us how to shuck and skin fava beans, but not before he had us touch the impossibly fuzzy, beautiful casing the beans rest within. Chalk that up as an experience we won't forget. Two days ago, we shared a Pennsylvania peach and proclaimed to the heavens that this, the first peach of the whole year, was glorious and worth the wait. Mark cracked open tins of tomato paste from Greece, a can of imported San Marzanos that we found at our local grocer, and cooked an exceptional shakshuka with eggs from the farm. This is what we call our “Mediterranean Farmstead" way of eating, where culinary aspects of our homes near and far coexist.

On the subject of canned versus “fresh” foods, we believe whole-heartedly in opting for a quality canned tomato over one that was harvested too soon. Quality canned goods preserve freshness — and preserving bounty has been the modality for staying alive for millenia. This is in contrast to the black beans we were buying, which were stripped of nutrients and merely a means to an end: becoming full. Good food knows no category. There are good canned foods, and bad ones. There are good fresh foods, and bad, not-actually-fresh ones (think corn in the winter). In partnership with Lehman's Hardware, who has generously supplied us with the tools needed, we are in the midst of embarking upon a few age-old food fermentation projects. The plan is to put up the summer bounty in order to make it through winter a little more color on our plates (many blog posts to come!).

As Pink Birthday came around, so too did the comforting feeling of full coffers and full stomachs. If we have learned anything at all, it is that we should listen to our stomachs; go with our guts. In a world where food is analyzed endlessly—where butter and eggs are bad for you one day and good for you the next—it seems that we would be better off to acknowledge that there are few hard-and-fast rules that apply to us all. Good food could be any food that makes you feel good and sustained; that which gives you sustenance and allows for your body and mind to function in good health. On certain mornings that looks like farm fresh eggs cooked over-easy in a cast iron skillet sizzling with butter, while on others it is strained, full-fat yogurt — always full-fat for us — with a drizzle of raw honey and a topping of dried dates. So goes it and so go we: in search of good food, as producers and consumers. In the words of our favorite Liverpudlians, "It's getting better all the time."

**Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a partnership whereby the consumer pays an upfront sum to the farmer, who uses your money to invest in necessary growing supplies: seeds, equipment, irrigation, etc. In return, the consumer receives a hefty amount (typically weekly) of what the farmer was able to harvest that week. By investing in the farm directly, you commit to the ups and downs of the farm (one week might be an exceptional harvest, while the next is awash from drought). CSA is a model of farming that sustains so many farms that otherwise could not exist, and it allows the consumer to truly impact their local farming economy and know exactly where their food is coming from. It is a partnership that greatly benefits both sides. To find what CSA farms are in your region, try here.


—M&S

ON RAISING A (TINY) MEAT HERD

 

On a day that now seems so long ago, at the beginning of June, we decided to raise our own goat. We called him Satchmo, cleaned out a pen for him in the barn adjacent to Pink Cameron, and agreed that we would raise him for meat. Our choice was the culmination of a conversation that we have been having since we began our work at Consider Bardwell Farm; a conversation that we thought worth having with the community around us. We promised to give updates and to discuss our thought process and ethics as they relate to the choice of raising animals for meat.

Naturally, much has happened since then. First, Satchmo gained a pen mate. We named him Smithers. Many people decide to forgo naming animals being raised for meat for the simple reason that they do not want to become too attached, as if they were pets. We worked around that by purposefully choosing names that weren’t too cute (because how can you skip out on the opportunity to name your own goat!). We set up an outdoor enclosure and began weaning Satchmo & Smithers from goat’s milk. They started to forage plants and munch on hay and grain, growing bigger by the day.

Then, two more kids came along. Suddenly, we had a herd and an experimental homestead going on our humble little campgrounds. As I write, I can hear Dill & Tuna outside, loudly voicing their displeasure over weaning. Today will be their first day without any mother’s milk. Fortunately for them, they have two older, capable pen mates showing them the ropes of a post-milk diet. Also fortunate for them: Smithers has decided to stop bullying them. Surprising as it was to see sweet little Smithers head-butting the newbies, the naturally selective & competitive instinct in animals always comes to the surface, no matter the size of the herd.

Raising our own herd of meat kids has been challenging, enriching, fun, not-so-fun . . . all of the above. There are many times when the last thing we want to do at the end of a twelve-hour farm shift is more farm work. Alas, these four kids are living beings that need and deserve our best care, day in and day out; and because we really believe in what we are doing, it is not too difficult to muster the energy required to do just that. This whole experience circles back to the fact that we are consumers of meat. More than that, we are striving to be conscious consumers of meat. For us, that means coming face-to-face with all that choice entails; it means that we will see the process through from beginning to end, and that we will try to “do things the right way” from pasture to plate.

Our goal is to keep Satchmo, Smithers, Dill, and Tuna as healthy and as happy as possible. We make nutritious food available to them in an outdoor environment that is perfectly suited to goats; and we personally interact with them, showing them affection on a daily basis. If we are going to be consuming meat, we want it to be coming from an animal that we know was happy and healthy during its lifetime. And a significant reason for why we have chosen to raise four goats is so we can nourish not only ourselves, but also our family & friends with the very same peace of mind.

We have received a few common questions on the subject: Why don’t you just raise them as pets? Don’t you think that it’s wrong to kill them? These are valid questions and deserve answers. It is our view that goats fall into a category of working farm animals that are called to a productive life (just as we are!). The herd of milking goats here at Consider Bardwell is a prime example of that. They work hard to give us clean, nutritive milk, which is then made into cheeses of excellent quality. They “come to work” twice per day, seven days per week; and between their “shifts” (a.k.a. between milkings), they are rewarded with lush, fertile pasture and all of the tasty shrubs and weeds that grow around it. In order to do all of this, they need to be bred every year. As is the case with humans, with all animals, without babies there is no milk. So, there are kids every year—kids whose gender it is impossible to select or predict. Some are female and can be raised as milking goats, while others are male and cannot. In a world where meat is consumed, it makes sense for those kids to become meat. It is their most productive purpose. In that way, meat is a necessary byproduct of dairy.

As for the final step in the process—slaughtering—it is an inherently difficult task. We have yet to perform it ourselves, but we have given it a lot of thought. Let this much be clear: no, we do not take pleasure in the idea or the act of killing anything. We anticipate that the final act of our goats’ lives will be a painful and emotional one for us.  Nevertheless, it is a part of the production of all meat. And as consumers of meat, we have already had a hand in the slaughter of those animals we have consumed—whether we see it or not.

So long as we slaughter our goats in a humane manner, it is an act that we believe is acceptable and in no way “wrong.” Their meat will help to sustain our bodies and give us the energy needed to live, and that seems reason enough. Moreover, that goes without saying that the meat kids who are being raised on the farm for sale—who will be slaughtered and processed at an Animal Welfare Approved facility—help to pay our salaries, giving us the ability to make an honest living. Their mothers, the milkers, do the same. They make our lives here possible. So it goes on our little experimental homestead at Consider Bardwell Farm. We owe so much to these goats, and so we try to give back to them the best way we know: by caring for them, by loving them, and by giving them the best lives that we can.


—M

NEW ADVENTURES + NEW FLAVORS | GOAT CHEESE TWO WAYS

 
TableSetting

I started a new job last month at a wonderful place called Lucky Penny Creamery. The opening was for a part-time delivery gig, butlike most life things—reality has strayed far from the plan. After a few weeks of building websites, running donation drives, and campaigning against national food policy, among other things, I am beginning to question the point of making any specific life plans at all. It has been an exciting, challenging, and slightly scary start to a new adventure.

With a new job comes new perks, and one particular benefit of my affiliation with Lucky Penny makes my life feel much fancier than it really is. A few times now, I have come home toting several pounds of goat cheese (or chèvre). This past weekend, that comically oversized bag of cheese was accompanied by an assignment to craft a simple holiday recipe using Lucky Penny's chèvre.

We developed two different spreads. The first, a Honey + Balsamic chèvre, is moderately sweet and tempers the tanginess of the goat cheese while maintaining the earthy integrity. Using good honey is the key. The second, an anything-but-sweet Winter Spice chèvre, is perfect for dolloping on eggs or a whole grain cracker. It's a little bit Moroccan, a little bit Indian, and very holiday-centric.

BowlofChevre
PouringCarrotJuice
carrot-juice
spreads

WILDFLOWER HONEY + BALSAMIC CHÈVRE
2 tb. Down Home honey (hey, that's us! but any local honey will be good)
1 tb. balsamic vinegar
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, mix the honey and balsamic vinegar. Then, incorporate the chèvre, mixing until the texture is nice & creamy. Garnish with herbs if you've got 'em. We used a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.


WINTER SPICE CHÈVRE
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
dash carrot juice (optional)
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Then, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, combine the spice mixture with the chèvre. Once mixed, you may add a dash of carrot juice. Or don't. It helps with the creaminess, but isn't critical.

Enjoy!


—M