Tag Archives: food

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?

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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.

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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

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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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Farm Tours – kid version

One of the most rewarding parts of owning a farm is sharing the experience with other people.   Views like these are too good to be kept to oneself.

the farm at sunrise

The biggest attractant, though, is not the view but the fuzzy baby chicks in our brooder.  With batches of broiler and layer chicks arriving every four weeks, we have a constant supply of cuteness.  No matter how ungainly these birds will look in a few weeks, as day-old babies they bring out the  child in all of us.

After all, aren’t baby chicks what a farm is all about?

fluffy chicks

Many of my friends bring their kids out to the farm to see the baby chicks and to feed the laying hens.  The chickens are just the right size for a child to approach. There is nothing more adorable than seeing a little 2 year old girl in a plaid dress, hand-feeding chickens in a pasture. Heart-melting adorable, I’m telling you.

Know what else is adorable? These:

Kid's drawings - the price of admission for a farm tour

The last few kids who have come to visit the baby chicks have each brought me pictures and letters. One sweet little blonde first grader even brought Chocolate Banana Braed, as mentioned above.   Her note was written in blueberry-scented Mr. Sketch marker too…she gets extra points for that!

I’ve decided that the new price of admission for a farm tour is a hand-painted picture. Disney character drawings merit extra special farm tour priveleges.   I wouldn’t turn down a loaf of Chocolate Banana Braed, either.  That stuff was good.

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Chocolate

After a huge Thanksgiving feast, while you still have 6 pies left in your fridge, what better activity to do than to throw a chocolate party? After all, one can never have too much dessert!

Right?

So, I called up all my girlfriends and tempted them with chocolate martinis and decadent chocolate fountains, and big surprise: they showed up!

The men in their lives were pretty bummed about not being invited. That was a twist I didn’t expect. Some of them even came anyway, but Danae deftly removed them from the premises.

Just look at that chocolate fountain!  You really can’t blame the guys for wanting to crash the party.

I am so lucky to have such great girlfriends.  Some I’ve known for forever, like Danae. (Some days I’m still nostalgic for the time before we met, when I used to get all the attention. Those were the days, and they ain’t never coming back.)  Some are bestest buds from my college days.  And some are fashionable farmers who share my love for piglets and the Pearl District.  And many others have wisely refrained from starting blogs, so I can’t publically call them out.   But I love ’em.

Even if I have to bribe them with chocolate in order to get them to visit me.

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Figs

My new house has 3 huge fig trees in the front yard.  They are planted in an awful spot, obscuring our view from the big windows in the living room.   Some pruning is going to have to happen, stat.  In the meantime, though, they are producing prolifically.

Not being much a fig-eater myself, I turned to The Internet in Its infinite wisdom.  I came away with a couple excellent uses for all those figs in my front yard.

One was Spicy Fig Microwave Jam, which I highly recommend.  It’s super easy and freaking delicious on everything from Gruyere cheese to roast chicken.

The second idea I discovered was to dehydrate the figs for use in myriads of recipes like Fig Newtons , Stuffing, and…Figgy Pudding.  Not so sure about that last one.  If you make it, let me know how that turned out for ya.

That said, here’s what I did to prep and dry the figs:

Step 1.  Heft your ladder out to the front yard, climb up to the top and attempt to balance there with a large cardboard box.  Proceed to pick all the figs you can reach.

Step 2.  Haul your catch inside to the kitchen.  Wash the figs and line them up on a towel because fig-drying with Rachel is nothing if not orderly.

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Step 3.  Cut the little stems off with a paring knife.

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Step 4.  Slice the figs in half lengthwise.

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Step 5.  Arrange the sliced figs face-down on the dehydrator trays.

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Step 6. Dehydrate at ~155 degrees F for about 20 hours.  It may take more or less time, depending on the efficiancy of your dehydrator.  You’ll know they’re done when they are pliable and leathery, but don’t have any discernable pockets of moisture.  I left mine for too long.  They were brittle in the morning, but I think they’ll still be fine.

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Step 7.  Double bag the figs in a labeled gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bag.  Store in the freezer or a cool, dry place until the spirit moves you to make Figgy Pudding.  Or something.

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Hungry Eyes


Yes Danae, I google-imaged this photo. Don’t be mad.

Yesterday, I was stopped by a coworker on my way to the kitchen to raid my Lunch Sack. My Lunch Sack is more like a Lunch Duffel Bag, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I must have had that crazy look in my eyes, because she cut our conversation short, and told everyone standing around, “Rachel is starving.”

When I came out of the kitchen with my snack in hand (first lunch, if you will) she goes, “Hey, what is that animal that can eat twice its weight in food everyday? That’s YOU.”

I have a bad reputation at work for being hungry all the time. One time I was so hungry, I accidentally ate my bosses lunch. I have yet to hear the last of that one.

So, Discovery Channel lesson for the day, kids: the hummingbird can eat twice its weight in food every day. Meet my mascot.

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