Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Monday

7:30 : Up and out of bed.  I make a pot of coffee and Keith does a few loads of laundry.

8:30 : Keith heads to work and I work on this blog.

9:30 : The bank is now open, so I head down there and get a cashier’s check for the car purchase.  I run a few errands around town and then head home.

12:00 : My friend Jessie and her daughter E come pick me up.  They are giving me a ride to Monmouth so that I can get the car.  It’s about an hour drive to Monmouth.  E has had a lot of questions about God and Jesus lately, so Jessie asked me to try to answer some of them for her.  The questions were heavy-duty ones for a six year old.  She munched noisily on her carrot sticks in her car seat while I fumbled to answer.

  • When did Jesus’ spirit leave his body after crucifixion?
  • Why do Christians have a problem with gay people?
  • Do you like this cross I just made with my carrot sticks?
  • Why was there a stone across Jesus’ grave?  Why wasn’t it called a boulder?  That would make more sense, Rachel.
  • What does a Bible look like?  Does it have pictures?


I think next time we will talk about theology during a hike or long walk.  Doesn’t it seem easier to think about God while you’re out in nature?  I think E and I both had trouble wrapping our minds around some of the concepts we were discussing, while being strapped into a car hurtling down the highway at 60 mph.  She apologized later for being wiggly.  I felt kind of wiggly too.  Sometimes I have as many questions about God as she does, and often they’re the same ones.

1:00 : We arrive in Monmouth and exchange payment for keys and title to a snappy ’06 Ford Freestyle. (Fitting car name for a former competitive swimmer, don’t you think?!)  I’m pretty stoked at owning a car that was made in the last six years.  Keith and I have a big aversion to debt, so we save and invest most of our income.  We’ve been driving our paid-off cars since freshman year of college in 2002 and they weren’t new then.

I’m all kinds of impressed by the little features of this new vehicle:  automatic locks and windows!  a keychain button to unlock the doors!  adjustable lumbar support! bluetooth built-in!  interior lights that actually come on when you open the door!  headlights that light up the road even on dim setting!  Doesn’t take much to impress the Pricketts.  We think we’re fancy folks now.


E tries out all the configurations of the seats and cargo area before we leave the seller’s driveway. They all fold up and down and inside out.  It’s like a transformer – one minute you’ve got seats for 6 and then you pull Tab 1 and Tab 2, and you’ve got cargo space for miles .  E thinks it’s the best car she’s ever seen and approves greatly of my purchase.  She tries to get her mother to trade their newer model Subaru Outback for our Freestyle.  I was hopeful, but there was no deal.  Jessie is smart.

2:00 : Jessie, E and I decide to go have a celebratory late lunch.  We end up at J’s Grill in Monmouth and  we all order whopping big baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli.

3:00 : We all head back to the farm and the girls help me collect eggs, feed the chickens and the cows.  We work with Fritz to repair a fence that broke when he hit it with the tractor earlier in the day.  It’s kind of a two-person job to pull smooth wire with a fence stretcher.

I go inside and chat with Beverly for a little while.  I invite her to join us for dinner tomorrow night.  She is such a good cook and invites us to dinner so often that I like to try to return the favor once in a while.

5:00 : Jessie and I hang out in the farm driveway and talk while E scrambles around in the car trying out all the seat configurations once more.

5:30 : I head home, drop the mutt off and drive to Safeway for almond roca ingredients.  I have been making almond roca every Christmas without fail since I was in middle school.  My mom made it every year until I took over.  It’s my favorite candy in the entire world and I could eat it til my teeth fell out.  It’s best to get this stuff out of your house as quickly as possible, but I rarely abide by that wisdom.  Here’s the recipe, because I love ya so much:   ALMOND ROCA RECIPE

6:00: Home from the store.  I make myself a homemade Yumm bowl.  You’ve got to have real Yumm sauce for this, but other than that it’s so easy:  rice, black beans, salsa, cilantro, cheese and a dollop of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.  Keith is eating dinner with his coworkers at Big River.  They are in training for developing their latest top-secret, super-dooper-cool electronic products all week, and are getting catered breakfast and lunch every day  and the occasional dinner out.

I clean the whole kitchen. I can’t cook in a cluttered space – it makes me feel crazy.  Then I pour myself a glass of wine and begin whipping up the first batch of Roca.  The whole house is soon filled with the delicious smell of warm butter and sugar.

Roca, pre-chocolate stage

Roca, pre-chocolate stage

8:00 : Keith gets home and admires the new car in our driveway.  He has brought all the frozen lamb over from our chest freezer at the farm and we go through it, picking out cuts of lamb to thaw for this week’s meals. Somehow I am missing all the roasts…they must have fallen out of the bag into the freezer depths.  So I pick out a beef roast to thaw for our dinner guests tomorrow night instead.  Not quite as exotic but still delicious on a winter night.

I finish up making the almond roca and leave it to cool on the countertop.  It probably won’t be ready to eat til tomorrow.  Agh, the agony of waiting!

11:00 : Bed, Fred.



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Almond Roca Recipe


I’ve been making almond roca every Christmas since I was a kid.  It’s been a Burke family tradition for as long as I can remember and I’ve been addicted to it for at least that long.  You can take away all the fudge and Chex Mix and I’ll be fine as long as you leave me the roca!

It’s incredibly easy to make, especially once you’ve done it once.  And you will want to do it more than once, because it will disappear quickly.  Trust me.

Almond Roca Recipe

  • 1 lb salted butter  (If you use unsalted, the recipe will not come together properly)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 1/2 or 2, twelve-ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped medium-fine

Grease a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

Put the sticks of butter and the sugar in a heavy-bottom pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

When it starts to boil, keep stirring constantly at a boil for five minutes.  Then add the whole almonds.  Continue stirring constantly until the candy reaches hard crack stage (300 – 31o degrees F).  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can tell it’s getting close when the mixture starts to turn a carmel color.  I use the cold water method to determine hard crack stage.  I find it’s easier than fiddling with a thermometer.

See this webpage for more instructions on knowing when your candy has reached hard crack stage:

As soon as the candy has reached hard crack stage, remove from heat immediately and pour into a greased cookie sheet.  Spread the mixture evenly on the sheet, making sure the almonds are reasonably evenly distributed.

Let the candy cool completely.  Once it is cool, heat the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double burner until melted.  Pour the chocolate over the candy in as thick a layer as you like and spread it evenly with a spatula.  Chop walnuts and sprinkle them over the chocolate, coating it completely.  Let the candy cool again for a few hours until the chocolate is completely hard.  I usually store it in the fridge.

Turn the cookie sheet over onto a large cutting board and let the candy fall out in one big sheet, chocolate-side down.  If it breaks up, that is fine.  Melt more chocolate chips and spread them on the uncoated side of the candy.  Chop more walnuts and sprinkle them on top of the chocolate.  Allow it to cool completely.

Break the sheet of roca into smaller bite-size pieces.  You might need to hit it with the handle of a wooden spoon to crack it more easily.  Pile the roca on a plate and enjoy!  It should probably be kept refrigerated so it lasts longer.




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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Sunday

7:00 : Up and showering to get to church

8:30 : Keith and I arrive at church (Grace City Church) and I begin putting together the Powerpoint presentation for our church service.  I’m in charge of projecting all the worship songs, announcements and the sermon slides.  One thing I love about our church is the number of women in leadership roles.  Kristin Osborne knocked it out of the park with her sermon on Mark 5. You can hear it here once it’s uploaded to the internet:

While I’m putting together the Powerpoint slides, Keith contacts a seller about a Craigslist ad we saw last night.  It’s for a 2006 Ford Freestyle, which happens to be an earlier version of the Ford Taurus X we were enthralled with yesterday.  We arrange to go see the car in Monmouth this afternoon.

9:30 – 11:00 : Church!

11:30 – 12:30 : Home for lunch

1:00 : Drive to Monmouth and see the car in person.  We take it for a test drive and decide it’s a keeper.  It’s got so much cargo space I can hardly believe it! We negotiate an awesome deal!  It was owned by a 89 year old woman who hardly put any miles on it.  The bank is closed though, so we have to wait til tomorrow to get funds from our checking account.


3:30 pm : We arrive back in Philomath and head over to the farm to do a little work before sunset.  I try to take advantage of Keith’s weekend availability to do things that I can’t easily get done by myself. Together we clean some old nestboxes and heave them into the barn loft. We store a bunch of chicken roosts and feeders, and then wash a few baskets of eggs to keep up with the farm store demand.

6:00 pm : It’s now dark and I haven’t had a chance to get in my long run this weekend.  I am starting to get more serious about base-building and upping my weekly mileage at this point, because I have my sights on the Eugene Marathon at the end of April.  It’s only 21 weeks away and it’s time to get cracking.  More immediately, I plan to run the Cascade Half Marathon on January 20th, which was my inaugural half marathon earlier this year.

We live near a pretty sweet bike path that runs from Philomath all the way to the Corvallis waterfront, about 7 miles away.  Keith and I decided to do a 9 mile out-and-back run on that path, so we strapped on headlamps and put a leash on Emmie.  She doesn’t usually run with us, as she gets plenty of exercise racing around the farm. Today she was inside a lot while we churched and car-shopped though, so we thought she better join the family run.

It was a beautiful dry December night.  We ran through quiet neighborhoods and enjoyed seeing everyone’s Christmas trees sparkling through picture windows and elaborate light displays decorating porches and yards.  Emmie was extremely well-behaved, trotting quietly at my left heel without pulling the leash at all.  She’s so fit that the run was like a stroll in the park for her.


Keith and Emmie during a run earlier this year

7:30 pm : We trot back home and stretch in the driveway for a while.  It’s so warm and peaceful out…a rare December night in Oregon so I try to soak up every minute.

7:45 pm : Showers and then we start warming up leftovers for dinner.  Keith got a pasta maker for his birthday and he whips up a batch of fettucini noodles to go with some leftover spaghetti sauce.  The man is a genius in the kitchen, have I mentioned that?

8:00 pm : We eat dinner and watch Netflix movies til about 11:00 when we both get sleepy and head to bed.

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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Saturday

9:00 : We slept in!  I decided to take today off from formal exercise.  We are both recovering from and fighting colds, so we laze around for a while.  Once we get up, Keith makes me coffee and a delicious breakfast of locally-grown swiss chard on toast with poached eggs. This man is a seriously good cook.  I’ma keep him.

10:00 – 11:30 : We spend some time online researching SUVs and crossovers because we are looking at buying a new vehicle.  We sold the trusty Ford Ranger earlier this week, and are about to sell our car too.  Adios to our first cars!  Can you believe we are still driving our college vehicles?  Frugal, much?

photo (23)

We need a vehicle that meets the following criteria:

  • seats more than 2 passengers
  • has plenty of cargo space for farm deliveries
  • gets decent gas mileage (anything is better than the gas mileage on my beloved Ford F-250, which is awesome but can’t make it to Portland on less than one tank of gas)
  • AWD or 4WD because we gotta get over the pass to Mt. Bachelor every couple weekends in the winter! We have become ski addicts since going through the Ski or Ride in 5 program in February.

Next to farming, my second best skill is researching.  I research the crap out of everything.  So, I’ve been so deep into analyzing crossover SUVs lately that I could practically get a job at Car and Driver.

11:30 – 2 pm : Keith and I head over to the farm and move our two flocks of layers to new paddock spaces.  Fresh grass for everyone!


Setting up new paddock fences for the hens


Moving hen houses while “drinking” a Corona I found floating in the floodwaters in the field


Fresh grass!

Collecting eggs in the pullet house
Collecting eggs in the pullet house

2:30 pm : We head to Vollstedt Tree Farm in Albany with our good friends Jessie and David and their darling little daughter to harvest the perfect Christmas tree.  Keith and I love this place because it’s located on a Polled Hereford farm and you get the full holiday experience:  wagon rides out to the back forty to cut your own noble fir, and then a wood stove to heat your hands on while you drink the complimentary wassail or hot chocolate afterward.  There’s even a vintage sleigh!  If only we had snow instead of mud.


4:30 pm : We throw the tree in the back of the pickup and go look at some SUVs at some Albany dealerships.  We test drove a couple vehicles and then came across the Ford Taurus X.  I wouldn’t normally have entertained the idea of this crossover, but it had more cargo space than a Ford Explorer and got much better gas mileage.  Intriguing.  We went home and researched some more.

8:00 pm : Keith trims the Christmas tree down to size and we bring it into the living room.  It smells so good!  Our living room is quite small but the tree is the perfect size.  I pour myself a glass of wine, and our neighbor Angela comes over with a plate of brie and crackers, along with some fudge.  We decorate the tree and the living room together and it suddenly looks so much more festive!

10:00 – 11:00 pm: We introduce Angela to a few episodes of the Office and a few more glasses of wine and then we part ways and head to bed.

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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Friday

5:30 a.m. : Up and out of bed.  I’m joining a few of my favorite running girls to do a quick one hour run around Corvallis.

6:00 – 7:00 : Run baby run! I’m starting to enjoy running in the dark, past the grand buildings of the university campus and through sleeping neighborhoods. We live in a very fitness-friendly town with plenty of trails and bike paths.  The variety comes in nicely when you are training a lot. We run nearly 7 miles, stretch and chat back at our cars and then head home.

photo (33)

7:30 – 9:00 : I make breakfast and coffee for myself and take a long shower.  Keith wakes up and heads to work around 9.

9:00 – 12:00 : I have a lot of accounting to finish up and then I head to the bank to make a deposit.

12:30 : Lunch

1:00 : Head over to the farm and wash a bunch of eggs to stock the farm fridge.  Keith calls in his weekly Friday order for his “Buying Club” … made up of his coworkers  at Marvell. I pack up a case of eggs for the Marvell employees and drive them over there.

Afterward I do some grocery shopping at Safeway, as we are having dinner guests this evening.

2:00 : The too-few hours of sleep are catching up with me.  I’m fighting off Keith’s cold too, so I suddenly feel terribly tired. I take an hour nap.

3:00 : Back to the farm to work until dark.  I am trying to tidy up the place and get all of our seasonal equipment put in the barn for the winter.  Slowly but surely it’s looking better around there.


5:00 : Keith is home from work already and has tidied up the whole house and set the table formally in anticipation of our dinner guests.  He is in the kitchen, frying bacon in butter against all common sense.  We have Julia Child’s Coq au Vin on the menu, as we’ve got a lot of stewing hens in the freezer and they are excellent for Coq au Vin.  I guess it isn’t technically Coq if you are using a hen, but I don’t speak much French.


My major contribution to this meal was lighting the cognac on fire.  If you only get to have one part in cooking a meal, always try to get the part where you light food on fire.  Fortunately, I survived the fireworks with my eyebrows intact, and the Coq au Vin was amazing.

Follow this link to the recipe if you’d like to try your hand at Coq au Vin :

Learn from the incredible Julia Child herself with this video:

If you need a stewing hen for your Cognac-lighting adventure, you know where to go:

6:50 : Our friends arrived for dinner.  They are another farming couple who have 30+ years of experience on us.  They mainly raise Angus beef and I have to tell you:  their beef is the finest.  We buy a few animals from them every year to finish on our own pastures and are always so pleased at the gentleness and quality of the cattle.

What do you feed cattle ranchers?  Chicken, of course!  (My grandfather the cattle rancher would not have approved).

We all wined and dined until nearly 11 pm and then parted ways.  I truly enjoy this time of year, because we and all our farmer friends are less busy and can afford time to spend visiting over a good meal.  The seasonality of farming is so good.  We all need a rest period after a Spring, Summer and Fall of hard work.

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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Thursday

I know you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seat for the next installment of “A Day in the Life…”.  Well, without further ado…

7:00 : Alarm goes off and I get up and make coffee and clean the kitchen. Blog a bit.


8:30 : Head over to the farm. Feed the laying hens and collect the eggs – chores I should have done last night but I ran out of daylight.  The hens are hungry and half the pullets have escaped their enclosure and made their way across the field in desperation when they heard my 4-wheeler coming. Emmie and I catch/herd them all back toward their paddock.  This takes a while.  I feel bad for letting them get hungry.  It affects their egg-laying when they don’t wake up to hot coffee and a warm breakfast.

photo (34)

10:00 : Wash the eggs I just collected and package them.  I distribute some to our little self-service farm store because we always sell out quickly.  The rest go in cases for Portland restaurants/bakeries.  Talk to Fritz about my cold hands and lack of dry gloves situation.  He suggests I dry my non-waterproof gloves next to the furnace in the wood shop every night.  The man is a genius!

11:00 : Dig coolers out of the barn loft and start sorting frozen chicken out for Portland restaurant orders.

photo (15)

12:00 : Home for lunch. I eat more leftover chicken enchiladas than I probably should and then top it off with homemade guac and pita chips.  I watch a bunch of SNL skits on YouTube and chat with Keith at work.  It becomes clear to me that I am stalling because I don’t really want to get in the car and drive to Portland.  I get so bored driving!

1:30 : Convince myself I better quit wasting time and so I start the trek to the Big City.  I’m listening to East of Eden by John Steinbeck on audiobook.  This is my favorite book of all time and I hang on every word of it.  I think I could live on nothing but Steinbeck for the rest of my life, he’s that good.  Hyperbole aside, I make it to Portland in good time, stopping only at Starbucks in Woodburn for a little afternoon perk-me-up.  Coffee makes the world go ’round.

Deliveries go well.  I’m selling Cornish Game Hens weekly to a sweet new restaurant in the Pearl District called The Parish. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I’m dying to.  Oysters!  Red Beans!  Chicken-fried! They make absolutely everything from scratch –  and it’s fun to hang out in their kitchen and watch the prep happen.  One of the best parts of being a farmer is getting to walk through the back doors of some of the nicest restaurants in town and chat with the chefs while I unload my products.  I always love to hear how they plan to serve my chicken or lamb.  It feels good to know that such accomplished chefs are working their magic with the meat I’ve raised on my own little farm.  It’s worth the drive to spend that time interacting with the chefs and kitchen staff.

4:00 : I’m back from Portland, unloading the coolers and unpacking the car in a hurry before the light fades. I feed another flake of hay to my fat little spoiled heifer who stands at the gate bawling.  I call her The Pet because she has been following me around like a lost puppy every since the rest of her herd got sent to the butcher.  It’s probably not such a good idea to name your cow that has a date with her Maker on the 21st, though.

photo (32)

I feed the layers again and collect the eggs.  Emmie tears around the field like a lightening bolt, as per her usual routine.

6:00 : Off to the HOTV Social Run.  Keith hosts this every week. We run 5-7 miles and then meet at a local brewpub for a pint or two afterward.  It’s pretty freaking fabulous!


7:45 : Coffee date at the Beanery with a girlfriend.  We stay there late and close the joint down.  Party animals.

11:30 : Head hits the pillow and I’m out like a light.


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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Wednesday

Everyone always asks me what my days look like as a farmer.  I find this question really hard to answer for a couple reasons: no two days of the week look alike for me and I feel like the details of my day are pretty mundane.  But I’m starting to realize that for those who aren’t able to live on a farm, a peek into a farmer’s life can be rather fun.

So the following is my week in all its glorious banality.  As I don’t have much time to blog in the summer time, when things are actually incredibly busy and slightly more interesting, I give you a Week in the Life of Rachel/Provenance Farm in the Winter. And yeah, I’m starting in the middle of the week.  Mixin’ it up!

Wednesday 12/5/2012

Up at 5:10 for Parking Garage Bootcamp workout from 5:45 – 6:45.

6:45-7:30 : coffee and a muffin with friend

7:30 – 9:00 : clean my kitchen, have 2nd breakfast (I get hungry yo!) , do a couple loads of laundry, get orders ready for farm store customers and Eugene stores.

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9:00 : Go to farm, feed hay to cows, walk the lower pasture to check on river levels and see if my lamb’s hurt leg is healing. See how the laying hens weathered the night and ensure they have enough food.  Hang out in the barn for a few minutes, patting the cats and the Jersey cows.


10:00 : Give a farm tour to a friend visiting from Virginia with her 11 month old son.  Make some sales.  Talk to Beverly for a while.

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11:00 : Wash and package eggs and put together Corvallis First Alternative Co-op egg orders.

12:00 : Lunch at home. Make invoices for Eugene and Corvallis store deliveries.  Find an old jump drive so I can take a file to Office Max for printing.  Discover pictures of 7 year old Rachel skiing (with very bad technique) on said jump drive.  Laugh uproariously and email copies to my ski buddies.


1:00 : Load up car with egg crates and coolers, head into Corvallis.  Office Max stop first for the print job and some office supplies.

2:00 : Deliver eggs to both locations of the First Alternative Co-op and chat with the grocery managers.


3:30 : Drive to Eugene.  Suddenly realize it gets dark at 4:30 and I won’t get home in time to collect eggs before nightfall.  Console myself that the hens have plenty of food and I can collect eggs in the morning. Deliver eggs and chicken to Eugene grocery stores. Stop at Coastal Farm and Ranch for some Christmas gifts and look (in vain) for some waterproof gloves that will fit my small hands.

5:30 : Arrive back in Corvallis.  Shop quickly for a white elephant gift for our Ekklesia Christmas party. I decided on an awesome Advent calendar that I actually want for myself.  It has stickers, guys!

advent calendar

6:00 : Run to farm, get the dog, unload all the egg crates and coolers. Run home to change, do my hair and makeup, wrap white elephant gift and warm up some artichoke dip.

6:45 : Arrive late to Ekklesia.

11:00 : We have watched 2 episodes of the Office, 1 episode of Star Trek (Keith), browsed the entire internet (Rachel) and are falling asleep on the couch.  Time for bed.


December 6, 2012 · 10:04 am