Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Adorable Appreciation & Omelettes

One of our customers calls us periodically to come pick up eggs, and she came out to the farm yesterday. Not only did she brave our 2 miles of icy gravel roads, she brought us an adorable thank-you.
I guess my point here is that if there's someone in your life that you appreciate, don't forget to thank them! It means a lot.

So I also thought I'd post a recipe for something we actually raise here on the farm: omelettes! No, we don't raise omelettes (that would be cool), but we have some super tasty eggs. Tasty enough that people will brave 2 miles of icy roads for 5 dozen of them. But anyway, back to the recipe!
I know an omelette is a simple food, but it's what we had for dinner, is delicious, is super fast, and is easy. It's also great for a lot of the random leftovers in the fridge! The ingredients are:

eggs (I like 2-3. I make mine with 2 and Ryan's with 3)
milk (just a splash)
salt & pepper
fillings (mine are green onions, provolone cheese, and summer sausage)

First, throw a splash of milk in a bowl. You might even be able to skip this, but I always add it. I'm talking about maybe 1 tablespoon or so.
Add the eggs, salt, and pepper. If you're using green onions or something else that is spice-like, add it now. Paprika works well here, or really anything.

Whisk well. You actually want it both well-combined and to add a touch of air into it to make the omelette fluffy. 

Butter a medium nonstick skillet over low-med heat (yes, this picture is terrible. I apparently can't take pictures with my left hand while buttering a skillet with my right). You could probably use oil here if you want to.
Pour in the egg mixture and cover. This will need to cook for about 2 minutes.
Your omelette is ready for fillings when it looks like this: just set around the edges, and a little soupy in the middle.
Add your fillings. This is a good place for last night's taco meat, that tiny bit of cheddar in your fridge drawer, etc. Put it in half of the pan and run your spatula all the way around the edge of the omelette to loosen from the pan. Then slide the spatula under the half without the filling and flip it on top of the filling.
If you make a mess of this the first couple of times, that's ok! It will still taste good. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Smaller Hands

So I got one of those Phone calls this evening as I was eating the freshly prepared dinner and waiting for Ryan to come in from choring. 
He tells me he's having trouble with lambing and he's got a ewe who's exhausted and there's one lamb's leg in the process of being born.
I feel for the poor gal.
Anyway, Ryan's hands are too big to assist this poor ewe, so I put Hazel in her crib with some toys and I head out there to assist. This lamb has just one hind leg out and the other leg is still all folded up. I get the other leg out there and we discover that the lamb is still alive! (We didn't expect that). So I have now delivered my first lamb. 
Warning, the picture is... a little gooey....

We brought them in to give their exhausted mother a chance to recuperate, so now I have two bleating lambs in my living room. 
Hazel is terrified of them. It could be a long night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pride & It's Cold Outside!

Thanks to everyone who sent me a personal note of affirmation. I really appreciate those! There was one common thread in what people said to me; all of them told me how proud of us they are. 
How proud they are of what we do.
How proud that we're out here sticking it out. 
And they're right. What we do is worthy of pride. So that's the answer to "Why do we farm?" The answer is "We farm because we are proud of what we do."
Incidentally, I looked up pride on Merriam Webster and it reminded me that a group of lions are a pride. Perhaps our family is a group of lions.
As a follow up to the last post, I wanted to show you what Ryan did to his farmagon. He got his drafting supplies out from college and redrew it. Note also the location of honor it has in our house.
So I'm also writing this on what will probably be the coldest day of the year. Because of that, we need a "how Ryan gets ready to do chores" post!
Step one: Put on long johns. No picture for this one because, well, because. 
Step two: After donning jeans (See this post item 1) and a sweatshirt, put on your coat liner and tell your wife with the camera she's being silly.

Step 3: Put on a puffy vest, having chosen the "least stupid-looking" vest of the three that came out of Grandpa's closet.

Step 4: The Carhartts. Yes, these are deeply important. They are not just insulated overalls with a tear in them I've repaired twice. They are an important part of farmerhood. Yes, I made that word up. But it's true. It's one of those things that makes one a FARMER instead of just a farmer. 

I'll note that they're navy blue because the traditional Carhartt color, s#!& brown (for a reason.. think about it) was just plain too ugly for this former city boy. I'm with him on this one.

Step 5: Put on the coat shell and the boots. All told, about a 20 minute process.

It actually just occurred to me that we didn't purchase hardly anything this man is wearing other than the jeans. God bless mothers, mother-in-laws, grandmas, and grandpas.
I take that back. I bought him the wool socks. And he bought the hat.

It's so people can see him during deer season. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Conference Season Again & Farmagons

It's farm conference season again, and today was the one for Practical Farmers of Iowa. This is normally my favorite conference and is an affirmation of why we do what we do.
This is fair warning that I'm really going to treat my blog as a diary today.

I don't feel that way after going today. Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was great networking. But I usually come home after one of these things and say, "Ok, what we do is hard, but it's worth it and there's a whole bunch of people rooting for us and doing this journey too." And farming is hard. Really hard. I almost never see my husband. I seldom sit on the couch with him after our daughter's in bed and watch a movie or even just discuss the day. 

I still feel like farming is worth it and people are there to help us, but the positive energy is just missing. Ryan works so so very hard all the time, and I feel like it's wearing him out. There's not always enough "we" on this team, and that's how I feel after today. Not because he's not doing his part, but because I don't do enough to help him manage his workload. Yes, I make the money. But I could do that if he didn't farm and he could put his energy into our family instead of a bunch of sheep that just die (we lost two lambs this morning and another one tonight). 

We did a planning exercise in a session today. It started with us figuring out what we valued most from a whole long list of options. We had to pick our top 20, then our top 7, then the top 3, then the top 1. We both agreed that family was our number one value. Then we drew "Farmagons" where we made a picture of our farm in 5 years. Here's Ryan's Farmagon.
I have to say I just love his drawing of a cow in the bottom right; it's recognizably a Belted Galloway. The map on the left part of the farmagon is one he's been sketching on every scrap piece of paper in our house for the last 6 months. But this was insightful to me because around the sides of the farmagon you see notes about his capital expense goals for the next five years (one year per side). All of everything is in 2011 and a little bit of 2012. I think this is where we're getting burnout because there's no pacing. It's all crammed up to NOW with this ethereal expectation that some of it will drift into LATER. 

Here's my farmagon (we did this exercise without looking at one another's work):

This was surprising to me because it makes my worldview seem so small. I didn't include any pastures or even very much truly "farm-related" in my vision, except that our shop is a functional retail space (the cars I drew are customer cars, not ours). This makes some level of sense because marketing is my bailiwick and while Ryan farms I watch our daughter, but it still makes me feel sad. I can't even articulate well why it makes me sad. Guilt that I'm not more involved in production? Feeling like my best contribution to this vision is having babies? The only capital expenses I could even think of were big expenses to the house and when we'd have babies. Maybe I'd feel better about this if I didn't feel like it just demands more from my partner. 

I hate to quit things. I feel like if we quit people would whisper behind our backs "Oh, those Marquardts just couldn't hack it farming." Ryan's grandfather will have been right not to work with us. We will let down our customers who have begun to rely on us for their meats and eggs. 
But are these really reasons to keep going? 
Why do we farm?

I'd certainly welcome comments from any readers who stuck with me this far.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter Sunset & Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I love winter sunsets. We had a particularly beautiful one this evening, all soft and blended and bright. Have you ever noticed that some sunsets blend from red at the sun to yellow by the sky and then they somehow magically turn to blue sky without ever going green? This sunset was the other kind where it is yellow at the sun and then red and purple to blue. It's the kind of sunset I used to paint when I was a 10-year-old messing around with acrylics. I never did figure out how to blend from yellow to blue by using just the right shade of brown without it looking green.

So tonight after dinner I got a hankering to bake. Since this is a blog about food and about me (and I like to cook), I decided to share this one. I realize there is nothing local or sustainable about this recipe (although you can use steel cut oats grown locally instead of the Quaker oats, which I did), but it's yummy and well loved. It's also lower fat because it doesn't use as much butter. If you love this kind of post let me know, but if you don't want to read about this stuff let me know too and I'll find something else to post about. 

A couple of weeks ago Ryan thought he saw dark chocolate chips on sale. He was excited and bought them.
They aren't dark chocolate chips. They're cinnamon and they're very strong. Not for the faint of heart. So I mentioned that I could use a few up in my oatmeal raisin cookie recipe and they really did work pretty well! I skipped the cinnamon called for in the recipe and instead melted some of the chips (about 1 Tbsp?) into the oatmeal. Then I threw in about 1/4 c of chips at the end in the place of some of the raisins. I also substituted craisins for about half of the whole raisins in the recipe (again, in the cupboard to be used up). This recipe comes from my absolute favorite magazine Cook's Country, February 2009.

1 c raisins, 1/2 c chopped fine & 1/2 c left whole
3/4 c water
6 Tbsp butter
1 3/4 c old fashioned oats (Quaker quick oats or steel cut oats or a mix work fine)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine chopped raisins and water in saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat & simmer until water has evaporated & raisins are plump, about 15 minutes, let cool. Wipe out saucepan (or get another skillet) and melt butter over medium heat. Cook oats, stirring constantly, until just golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in cinnamon & cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, let cool.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. In large bowl, whisk sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in whole & plumped raisins, oat mixture, and flour mixture until just combined.
Roll 2 Tbsp dough into 1 1/2" balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Gently press balls with measuring cup until 1/2" thick.
Bake cookies until edges are light golden & centers are just set, 13 to 16 minutes, switching & rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool 10 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.