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Kids These Days

This week, Keith and I learned that if you move your hand in a circular motion, kids don’t know that you are asking them to roll down the window.

We are officially desiccated, old human beings.

In other news, someone thought Keith was my dad yesterday.  Maybe just one of us is getting old.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Morning’s News

 

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The Morning's News

To moralize the state, they drag out a man, 
and bind his hands, and darken his eyes
with a black rag to be free of the light in them,
and tie him to a post, and kill him. 
And I am sickened by complicity in my race.
To kill in hot savagery like a beast
is understandable.  It is forgivable and curable.  
But to kill by design, deliberately, without wrath, 
that is the sullen labor that perfects Hell.
The serpent is gentle, compared to man.
It is man, the inventor of cold violence, 
death as waste, who has made himself lonely
among the creatures, and set himself aside,
so that he cannot work in the sun with hope, 
or sit at peace in the shade of any tree.
The morning's news drives sleep out of the head
at night.  Uselessness and horror hold the eyes
open to the dark. Weary, we lie awake 
in the agony of the old giving birth to the new
without assurance that the new will be better.
I look at my son, whose eyes are like a young god's,
they are so open to the world.
I look at my sloping fields now turning
green with the young grass of April. What must I do
to go free? I think I must put on 
a deathlier knowledge, and prepare to die
rather than eneter into the design of man's hate.
I will purge my mind of the airy claims
of church and state. I will serve the earth
and not pretend my life could better serve.
Another morning comes with its strange cure.
The earth is news.  Though the river floods
and the spring is cold, my heart goes on,
faithful to a mystery in a cloud, 
and the summer's garden continues its descent
through me, toward the ground. 

by Wendell Berry

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Almond Roca Recipe

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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:  http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html

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) – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 : http://www.wgbh.org/articles/Julia-Childs-Coq-au-Vin-Recipe-6971

Learn from the incredible Julia Child herself with this video:  http://www.wgbh.org/articles/The-French-Chef-Coq-au-Vin-6970

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

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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My Baby

I have a thing for heavy-duty pickup trucks, and late nineties Fords make my toes tingle.  My love affair with the Ford F-series trucks began when I was probably around 15 and visiting my Uncle Max and Aunt Penny in Lakeview.  I have a distinct memory of  riding down Hwy 140 from Cottonwood Lake in the roomy back seat of their new diesel F-350 Crew Cab, listening to the local country station and watching the sagebrush desert fly by.  In that moment, I wanted it.  I wanted a farm/ranch, a four wheel drive truck, and wide open country spaces.

Just ask Keith – I’ve been looking at Ford F-series pickups online and rubbernecking as we drive by car dealerships the whole time we’ve been together.  And now, I own a farm.  Thus, I need a pickup, right!?  Well, the stars recently aligned and I found myself the exceedingly proud owner of a 1997 Ford F-250.  I realize it’s a little old, it’s not the most fuel-efficient vehicle ever made, and you’re probably thinking this vehicle is not worth all the love I’m pouring into it.  But this truck represents a dream come true for that 15 year old girl inside of me and I’m just going to allow myself to get just a little sentimental over it.

C’mon, admit it, ain’t she a beauty?

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Why I’m Happy in 21 Words

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

Read that quote first ^^^.  If you’re anything like me, you skip over quote-y stuff, but this whole post is about the above quote, so just read it.

I hear some people struggle with one side of the spectrum – anxiety.  I, on the other hand, am perpetually bored. As a kid, I had a dog-eared paperback book with a title that went something like, “Things to Do When You’re Bored”.  I credit this book with teaching me all kinds of useful and useless activities, from entrepreneurial enterprises to stamp-collecting to making fireplace logs out of newspaper (I don’t recall my parents ever using our fireplace).  This book was the bible of my elementary school years.  I distinctly remember my mom saying things like, “When you’re a grown-up, you’re never bored.  You just have too much on your mind to be bored.”

So, I waited to grow up and be un-bored.  In college, I veered towards the anxious side of the charts, as I added on so many minors and credits and work study hours and RA activities in an effort to avoid boredom that I nearly lost my mind.   My harried life came to a halting stop when I suddenly graduated, got married and was unemployed.  Boredom set in big-time.

I’ve had a few jobs since then.  I was always miserable or bored to tears.  Somewhere in the middle of it all, I realized: I’d rather endure anything than be bored. Oh lord, anything but boredom.  

So, I started a business.  And then I started another business.  And then the businesses became successful, and now I’m running around like crazy.  And guess what?   There is so much enjoyment in this place and I’m soaking it up.  I like this balance between boredom and crazy.  Maybe I just like a challenge.  Got anything else for me to try?!

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Good Days and Sunshine

The smile on my face in this photo doesn’t portray the exhaustion I felt at the time.  We were at the tail end of our third 16 hour day in a row, had just butchered 200 chickens and still faced a lot of clean-up.  It was one of the few times I had stopped moving all week.    

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But this is the good life.  I wouldn’t trade all the long days of hard work for anything.  (Well, maybe the occasional Caribbean beach vacation with a rum cream.)   

I love this picture because in it, I’m surrounded by my favorite things.  A pot of strong, black coffee, my border collie Emmie, my wonderful husband (behind the camera), a beautiful farm with my animals on the pastures and a house in the background where Beverly has a bowl of chowder warming and Fritz has a hot toddy waiting for me when it gets dark.   

I think this is going to be a very good year.  From the friends who have shown so much support for all our endeavors, to exciting conversations with chefs about the future, things are looking so promising.  There is lots of hard work in the future, but you can bet I’ll still be smiling.

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