Blog a la Cart

Category: Homesteading

Apple Cidering // 2015

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In stereotypical Vermont fashion, we spent Sunday afternoon apple cidering with friends on their mountainside property. We are near peak foliage, so we enjoyed an autumnal palette of color and a sunny day roaming in fields, rocking in hammocks, pressing cider, and munching cider donuts. Weekends like these reinforce why this is exactly where in the world I want to live with these children of mine. This life! Feels like a fairytale – and a delicious one at that.

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^^Chinese Lanterns from the garden! They’ll make a beautiful centerpiece all season long.^^

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^^We brought apples from our property so we could make up an exclusive Cartwheel Farm Cider.^^

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^^Taking after her Doda with that tongue – whenever she works hard or concentrates, it exits her mouth.^^

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Cherry Season // 2015

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Last week was Cherry Week at Cartwheel Farm. Our dozen trees ripened and were speckled with red, signaling the all-too-brief yearly harvest of sour cherries. It took us 3 days to pick and then pit the 10 cups of cherries that we put in our annual Sour Cherry Pie. So much work. But a tasty 4th of July treat.

This recipe from the Smitten Kitchen is now our go-to. That almond crumble for the top is everything!

We may need to consider investing in a cherry picker, because right now only the birds benefit from the spoils of the higher branches. And Penelope and the chickens delights in those that fall. It’s a delicious week for all critters, particularly the pie beneficiaries.

Around the Farm // May II

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Updated with a few more snaps from life on Cartwheel Farm of late. Fairies and flowering picking. Egg sales with Kinder Egg Surprise payment. Penny and Gladdy love affairs. A girl and her pig. And lots of lazy swine lounging in the yard. It’s been a beautiful May.

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Around the Farm // May 2015


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Life lately has been blissfully spent outdoors. Grass under bare feet. Coloring en plein aire. Swinging high as the sky. Flower picking. Sand between fingers. Grass stained. Giggle-saturated. Life is good-ness.

James and I have been steeped in yard work, and while during said clean up I often find myself grumbling and wondering why on earth I spend my time in this way, the satisfaction I feel afterward? The way I lounge in the kitchen gazing out on our property? Or drive backward up our road to leisurely survey last years plantings (hooray for perennial flowers bursting to life, and blueberries and strawberries and raspberries and ASPARAGUS! that survived their first hard winter)? Or spend my morning walk with the dogs breathing in the tranquility and beauty and budding life? Or sway in the hammock under flower petal flurries? Well, it makes all the sweat and mess well worth the effort.

I do so love our little piece of the world.

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^^Penelope pig turning our garden clean up efforts into a cozy bed.^^

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^^Frisbee and smoothies and swinging, oh my! And bologna tongues. Lots of pink bologna tongues.^^

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^^Inspired by a recent heat wave, all of the flowering trees blossomed en masse. It has definitely been the most beautiful spring in recent memory. This weekend, it was literally raining flower petals all Sunday and I couldn’t get over how surreal and dream-like our lives felt on account of the scenery.^^

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^^And lots of napping in the sunshine. Penny is an expert.^^

Kale Soup Recipe

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Pediatrician asks about her favorite food. She replies, “Kale soup.” Doctor smiles approvingly toward me and James. What she doesn’t realize is that the “kale soup” is really Parmesan cheese and sausage soup with a side of kale. But we’ll take affirmation about our parenting wherever we can get it. Especially from a physician. Recipe below, because it really is that delicious (and is an easy way to use up the abundance of kale that is our last vegetable standing after Penelope went on a Swiss Chard raid. The pig figured out how to lift the vegetable garden gate off its hinges so she’d have easy access to the Swiss Chard bed. When James discovered this, he proceeded to chase after her in his boxers with a pooper scooper but it was too late. The Swiss Chard was gone. And Sunny wept dramatically because “SWISS CHARD IS MY FAVORITE VEGETABLE!” Maybe we are doing something right.)

Enjoy!

Hearty Kale-Potato Soup from “The Cleaner Plate Club”

1 tbsp canola oil
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, chopped very small
2 garlic cloves, chopped (we mince ours through a garlic press at home)
8 c. broth (veggie or chicken)
1 lb potatoes (chopped to 1/2 in pieces)
1-2 Parmesan rinds, if available
6-8 stems of Kale (although we often use more)
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. Grated parmesan

1. Cook sausage in oil. Add garlic for last minute of cooking. Set aside.
2. In pot, add broth & potatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
3. Add kale leaves and parm rinds and simmer for another 12-15 minutes
4. Remove parm rinds. Use an immersion blender to purée kale, potato and broth. (or scoop into blender or food processor to purée)
5. Add sausage to mixture. Squeeze lemon juice into soup and dust with parm, salt & pepper as desired!

Taste the Rainbow

I’ve been madly processing my July wedding in preparation for heading to a wedding in Maine on Saturday. In an effort to avoid drowning in thousands of wedding photos, I’m trying to put each wedding to bed before the next. Oof. Thus, limited posting in this space. But I couldn’t resist sharing these two iPhone snaps documenting Sunny’s adventures with our garden haul. That kid’s mind sure make me smile. The horse in particular blew my mind – who knew cucumbers and peppers and beans and tomatoes and basil could be so inspired!

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July on the Farm

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We spent the majority of this weekend outside – weeding the garden, walking the dogs, harvesting veggies, doing arts and crafts, feeding the chickens, and brushing slash olive oiling Penelope (she’s shedding her coat, which apparently happens twice a year, and is looking like she is suffering from male-patterned baldness. The olive oil is a safe way to moisturize her skin as the new hair grows in).

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We harvested our basil and made nearly a year’s worth of pesto. We froze it in our old baby food ice cube trays (these are our favorite) and stored the cubes in freezer bags for quick dinners this winter. Great tip: Pour some olive oil on top of the pesto in the ice cube trays before freezing to prevent browning.

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We also harvested our crop of garlic and laid it out in our basement for curing. In a month or so it’ll be ready for braiding.

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As much work as it is to keep up all the gardens, there is something so satisfying about having a household full of food (and flowers!) grown in our backyard!

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We also fit in some family movie watching and relaxing before Sunny headed off on Sunday night for a week of summer camp at our Hunting and Fishing Club. This week I’ll focus on much picture processing and spending some quality time with our second born.

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Around The Farm // 20

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Spring has arrived. And we have only come inside for sleep, food, and a bath here or there to wash the earth from our fingers and clothes.

All the while knowing that by tomorrow, the temperatures will have plummeted back into the frigid zone.

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We’ve owned Cartwheel Farm for just over two years, and this is the first spring where James and I have invested time and sweat into a proper spring cleaning of the property. We’ve been raking and pruning and poop scooping and planting like mad. All the while, our dependents running around the dull brown lawn awaiting the Vitamin D boost to inspire shades of green to usurp the doldrums of winter. Swings and hammocks have been hung. Bikes and wheelbarrows and see saws and sprinklers have been unearthed. Bathing suits have been pulled from the depths of our drawers. Life has looked a bit like this of late…

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^^She had never before experienced a sprinkler. I think you can all see that she took to it quite unabashedly, proper water dog that she is.^^

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^^Our sweet Hanna heads in for surgery on her rear left ACL the last week of April. Fortunately, recovery will be swift, far swifter than that of our bank account.^^

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^^The flock was put out during our bi-annual deep clean of the chicken coop. Bunty was less than pleased. But they were quite delighted when they experienced the resulting cleanly quarters. A dozen baby chicks will be arriving chez Cart the last week of April. The girls have no idea what’s coming. And James and I are readying for the adorable, albeit shockingly messy, onslaught.^^

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^^Can you find the potbelly pig? We’ve been giving Penelope free range of our back yard. She’s been mighty helpful in ridding the lawn of last season’s fallen apples. She’s also very likely intoxicated (ya know, given the state of those apples). But she doesn’t seem to mind in the least.^^

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^^We have quite the green house going in our laundry room slash downstairs bathroom slash future residence of baby chicks. Such a multi-purpose space! This season we’ve really made an effort to get our vegetable garden going early. We had a rather major set back when Gladdy overturned a fully germinated tray of tomatoes and peppers (our most precious plants!) – but we’re trying to regroup, confident that we’ll still wind up with plenty of farm fresh veggies this season.^^

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^^Waiting on forsythia cut from our back yard to bloom inside, while Kaki helps James prep our kitchen garden beds outside.^^

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^^The zip line – a Christmas gift – is an even bigger hit in warmer climes.^^

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^^The always popular horse tire swing!^^

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^^Garlic (which we plant over Columbus Day weekend and cover with straw for the winter months) has been unearthed and is going strong. We’ll try to document our garlic growing slash braiding process this year. Such an easy and amazing crop to grow – I recommend it highly to all.^^

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^^This fall we redid our retaining wall and front porch, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to plant some fruiting plants in the resulting fresh dirt. We’ve invested in two crops of blueberry bushes – including the “Pink Lemonade Blueberry.” How could we resist a literal pinkberry?^^

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^^We’ll resume our house painting project in just a few weeks, beginning with our renovated front porch – in the hopes that all sides of the house finally match one another by fall’s end! We’ve also started some strawberry crowns along the inside edges of our fence as delicious delicious ground cover. While we won’t have any for harvest this year, by next year we should have enough homegrown strawberries and blueberries to get us through a full year.^^

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^^We’ve also begun an asparagus patch. As we’d read, time and time again, the most challenging part of starting a perennial asparagus patch is the work on the front end. That trench was not yet the necessary 18″ deep – but we got there eventually – and in a year or two – should have our own crop of asparagus annually. Oh, I am beyond excited!^^

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It’s been a busy, exciting few weeks on the farm, and I am continually inspired and awestruck watching green life emerge from the recently thawed Earth and our future food burst from seed to seedling seemingly before our eyes. Every year I learn something new. And every year I’m inspired to have more and more of a hand in these important, amazing, magical life processes. I now understand why spring was always my mother’s favorite time of year.

Garden Sweater // preview

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Here’s a snapshot of a knitting project I’ve had in the works for a couple months. I created this one for Baby Brie’s 1st birthday, and just need to put the embellishments on Sunny’s (which Miss Kaki will one day inherit). The hope is to finish theirs before Addison’s birthday on Saturday. But I couldn’t resist sharing a peek at Brie’s version (modeled by Courtland).

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I’ll talk more about the process once Sunny’s is finished. It was inspired by a sweater I saw in a local yarn shop. I adapted a cardigan pattern to create the sky/grass/soil effect, and then all the little bits and bobbles are an experiment. A taste of Cartwheel Farm in a sweater.

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I must say, I have never been so proud of a knitting project. While it’s a bit arty and experimental, I just love it so. I can’t wait to see how Sunny’s takes shape. I’ll share more soon!

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Food Commandments

James has drunk the Michael Pollan Kool-Aid.

Although, as he enjoyed pointing out, he doesn’t drink Kool-Aid. It violates The Commandments, as he’s taken to calling them.

We’ve been paying attention to these “Food Commandments” for some time, but James recently made a list that he hung on our fridge to serve as a daily reminder of what we’re striving for when it comes to our family’s approach to food and nutrition.

I thought I’d gussy it up a bit. Naturally.

Anything we’re missing? How does your family approach food? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Design: Courtesy of Ashley Weeks Cart
Commandments: Courtesy of James Whaley Cart, Inspired by Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin