Sunday Morning on the Farm

We need to bring in more wood.  I shall find some more kindling.  Empty the ash into the compost.   A wood fire is far more warming than the furnace.  And delightful as well.

The grandfather clock chimes and the morning is still.  Blue jays call in the distance.  Steam rises from my coffee cup as my husband sips his beside me.  A quiet Sunday morning save for sounds of the homestead.

Blur….upp, the sound the honey wine makes while fermenting.

The busy whir of the sewing machine as I work on Yuletide gifts.

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Gentle snoring from the farm dog who reclines comfortably on the sofa after a cool night outdoors keeping watch over the urban farm.  He loves his work and does it well, coming in to rest then opting to go outside again late morning.

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This life, this home, it balms, sweetens, and simplifies.  This homestead life.

Root vegetables- sunchokes, parsnips, and potatoes- harvested from the garden beds will be roasted for brunch alongside fresh eggs from the coop.

The chickens dig around in the leaves and the golden light of autumn cascades over the sleeping beds.  I jot down ideas for a preservation garden.  I will need more fencing.

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Dreams, and the gentle lilt of every day life pervades me and I smile, and take another sip.

A Special Coffee Pot Indeed

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Coffee.  A homesteading necessity.

Doug and I have gone through many a coffee pot in our adult lives and for the past several years on the farm we opted for a simple French Press.  Off grid ready, rich, fresh, easy.

This apartment has brought on the “great respite” for us while outside its walls we work and save for a farm.  Inside it is peaceably quiet with only the old clock ticking.  The overhead lighting (where are my oil lamps?!), fireplace run by a switch, dishwasher, washer, dryer, easy layout to clean, all of these things make life remarkably lazy and sweet at the moment.  Not too bad.  And as I relax further I realize how much I do not want to wake at six (still on farm time) and boil water and pour it over the grounds.  Oh my, I have gotten lazy.  (It’s only temporary, Folks.)

Doug and I reminisced over a certain coffee pot we used to have.  Some sixteen years ago I wanted it so much.  It was a hundred dollars, a fortune for a coffee pot at the time.  It had a grinder built in.  And it was programmable to show the time, set a timer, and by itself grind and brew coffee.  Grandma and Grandpa bought it for me for Christmas that year.  Grandpa used to joke that it did everything, wouldn’t surprise him if it served you too!  I’d get up, feed the children, turn on Martha Stewart and pour myself a cup that was brewed just for me.

That used to be our alarm.  The sweet sound of a coffee grinder.  We set out to find one of these old coffee pot models but only found a regular coffee pot or a one pod, one cup variety that seemed like it was aiding in killing Mother Earth each sweet cup at a time (and I drink three cups each morning!).  A box sat on the counter and Doug had me open it.  It was my anniversary present.  He had found it on the internet.  The sweet sound of the grinder wakes us and the smell of fresh coffee brewing alerts our senses to a new glorious day.

Life is made up of the small things.

 

Sunrises, Gratitude, and Magic Coffee

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Today I unpack our books and photos, writings and my aprons.  I will make this downstairs area emanate life and our love for each other and home.  Tomorrow we will pick up all my plants from the greenhouse at Margie’s and will be officially moved out of her home.

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I owe Margie and Pat a great amount of gratitude for taking us in while in the depths of despair holding nine cats.  We made such beautiful memories over there this summer, flying in Pat’s airplane, feeding the raccoon on the porch while watching bats, enjoying drinks together as the moon rose over the horizon of trees.  Their graciousness held no bounds and I am truly thankful.

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The shop continues to change and form each day.  Each day it looks more and more like how I envisioned it.  And in mad rushes it will be done and ready to open Tuesday with cups of tea and glowing medicines ready to pour.

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But now I sit here as the dawn stretches and rises quietly over the earth illuminating all the autumn splendor and old trees as the cool breeze awakes the upper branches.  My spirit is tired and my back is sore but I sit in peace with my cup of coffee.  These things we hold onto to bring us joy.  A sip of this coffee brings me back to years of holidays, and years of happiness.  Each sip holds magic.  We call it Christmas coffee but I start it in October.  A sweet reminder of all the fun to come, of trick-or-treating, sharing Thanksgiving meals, of the childlike wonder of Christmas and Hanukkah, and the new beginnings of the New Year.

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This year (and last) may have been a wild ride, but all I feel at this moment is peace and intense gratitude.  For the memories with my children and family and friends that are family, for sunrises so beautiful they erase the previous day, and for sips of magic coffee.

In a coffee pot, or preferably a French press, add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil to regular scoops of coffee ( I do like a nice strong roast myself, 7 heaping scoops to an 8 cup press) and brew as you would.

Magic.

Homesteader’s Espresso (off grid ready and fuel for chores)

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We are trying to purchase any desired or needed items to be off-grid ready, non-electric, and well made.  Doug works at a coffee shop in the winter, we enjoy really good coffee, and I do like an occasional espresso in the afternoons.  I researched non-electric espresso makers.  They were pricey and the concept was the same as our non-electric French Press.  Just pour boiling water over coffee grounds!  The containers were smaller and made a more compact, stronger cup, but essentially it was the same.  I poured roughly one cup of water over 4 Tablespoons of good coffee grounds and let it sit for four minutes or so.  Perfect espresso!

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My friend, Nancy (dang, I miss that woman!), taught me to use lemon peel.  She learned it in Italy.  She rubbed the lemon peel on the lip of the cup before taking a sip of the dark, rich drink.  It didn’t sound like it would be a good pairing but it was. A burst of sweet and tart and rich and earthy in one small, timeless sip.  This is best enjoyed on a patio, or under a tree, or with friends.  A little pick-me-up before the second round of farm chores.

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I have been enjoying it on rainy afternoons since the rain just won’t let up, but the past two days it has been sunny during the day and rainy at night, a perfect combination!  Look at how beautiful everything is turning in its electric green and soils filled with life.

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Perhaps summer is coming after all!

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Of Coffee and Memories

The other day we went to the Aurora mall, one of the last indoor malls on the front range, to kill a few hours before heading to Monte and Erik’s for the Superbowl.  We hadn’t been there in some time and it always brings back such memories.  It prompted me to republish this article that I wrote some three years ago for a local newspaper before I became their food writer.  Three years later, Doug works at the coffee shop mentioned and Bret is now a part of our family along with Emily and Bret’s daughter.  So, here’s to that sweet cup of coffee and memories…

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Smells and tastes can evoke such vivid, sometimes forgotten, memories.  All the colors, and voices, and laughter emerging forth as one takes in a heady sip.

Grandma and Grandpa’s house was on South Pennsylvania in Denver while I was growing up.  Rose bushes, climbing vines, the bay window, and porch swing wait for me in memory.  The smell of Folgers and cigarettes takes me directly to their round kitchen table where Grandpa amuses me with stories.  Grandpa’s tales of being a real cowboy still enthrall me.  Grandma stands at the stove cooking our breakfast.  I can smell the eggs frying in the skillet, filling the kitchen with salivating aromas.  She taught me how to fix the perfect egg.  I sip Folgers coffee from my own wee cup, a two ounce white porcelain mug that just fits in my hand.

At the hint of raspberry chocolate flavored coffee the laughter grows deafening as my best friend, Susan, and I dance around the living room in boxer shorts and t-shirts singing along to our new favorite performer, Harry Connick Jr; our teenaged hearts just wild over our new celebrity crush.

It is New Year’s Eve and it is going to be a blue moon.  We make pot after pot of raspberry chocolate coffee while very seriously and demurely watch foreign films until the clock strikes twelve.  We run outdoors, mugs in hand, to greet the New Year under the enormous full moon.

Last week Emily’s boyfriend gave us a pound of coffee his father had roasted. Jamaican Me Crazy is the name.  I was unsure of what flavor that would be!  I poured the boiling water over the earthy grounds in the French Press and poured myself a cup.

I am surprised to find myself with my young children some dozen years ago laughing and walking around the Aurora Mall.  We go there a lot to keep busy and take in the sights.  We play on the magnificent merry-go-round that holds court in the center of the mall.  The childhood, seemingly hand cranked, music fills the air.

Near the merry-go-round is my favorite shop with walls lined with unique and daring coffee blends such as Coconut macadamia, Hazelnut with real pieces of nuts, Irish Cream, and my favorite Chocolate Pecan.

Grandpa has just bought me a new coffee maker.  He jokes that it does everything but bring you a cup of coffee!  It grinds and brews at any designated time (new at that time!).  At home, as the rich liquid brews we turn on the Martha Stewart Show and see what creativity she has in store for us.  This was a tradition we carried on until just a few years ago; Martha and Coffee.

Even now, Doug and I sit in Grumpy’s Coffee sipping our respective brews, soy peppermint mocha for him, black dark roast for me, sharing the paper, greeting all the familiar faces, and making new coffee memories.

Farmacy: The Medicinal Benefits of Coffee

I am always surprised when clients tell me that they gave up coffee when expressing their intent to get healthier.  I always reply, “Why?”  Now, I am not speaking to you as a farm girl with my second cup of steaming, strong coffee beside me, but rather as a Master Herbalist, which is my job.  Coffee has a myriad of medicinal traits and not a one bad.  Let’s set the record straight, shall we?

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Now despite all of the research and articles coming out about the positive benefits of coffee (and indeed caffeine), for some reason the old myth dies hard.  Hold onto your coffee cup folks, coffee is good for you!

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Here are just a few of the benefits and things we use it for in our apothecary:

Cognitive support.  Studies show (and any student before a test) that coffee improves thinking and memory.  Drinking coffee slows dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Circulatory system support.  Coffee is a blood thinner.  Don’t fall into that, if you are taking Coumadin, you can’t take herbal blood thinners, not so.  You see, herbs balance and heal.  They don’t overdo it.  So you will not bleed to death taking an herbal blood thinner.  Because the blood is thinner, it is flowing more freely, increasing energy, helping toxins escape the blood stream, and decreasing clots and blockages. Because it is a blood thinner, it also acts as a pain reliever, particularly with headaches.

Endocrine and Lymphatic support.  Coffee is a mild diuretic and mild laxative which helps cleanse toxins from the organs.  It also helps repair the adrenals.  Shocked?  Don’t be!  It is a common myth that coffee damages the adrenals.  Artificial stimulants like artificial sweeteners and energy drinks burn out the adrenals.  Do you know what the number one reason is for adrenal fatigue is?  Stress.  That fight or flight response is only supposed to be used to get you out of imminent danger, not through traffic.

Anti-cancer.  Coffee is a plant therefore it is full of anti-oxidants.  Coffee contains powerful disease fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants.  By increasing plant intake, including coffee, tea, wine, juice, etc., the body becomes more oxygenated.  Cancer and other diseases cannot survive in an oxygenated environment.

Respiratory system support.  A cup of coffee can help ward off an asthma attack.  Children can drink it too.  It opens the airways and allows more oxygen in.  (Coffee is good for children too!  It does not stunt their growth.  If it does stunt one’s growth then I am thankful as I am already almost six feet tall and don’t need to get any taller!  I have been drinking coffee since I was very young.)

Coffee is in the category of healthy stimulants that we use as herbalists to help with various issues from chronic fatigue to memory loss.  Other stimulants that are good for the system are ginseng, gingko, ephedra, and green tea.  Unlike their lab created counterparts in pharmaceutical and health store supplements, the straight herbs are extremely healing and extremely safe.

I hope this helps you enjoy your cup of java in the mornings before chores that much more.  To your health.  I think I’ll pour another cup.

Indoor Farm and Houseplant Maintenance

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The indoor farm is doing pretty good.  The tomato and pepper plants are a bit leggy and the basil looks like it misses summer.  It is time for some indoor plant R&R.

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First bring a trash can around with you.  For each plant, take off dead leaves, branches, and debris that have settled in the pot.  Then give each plant a nice shower in the bathtub with lukewarm water.  It’ll think it is in the tropics and instantly begin to relax.  Spray the leaves, give it lots of good water, and let it drain well.

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When putting the plants back, put them in a different spot or turn the plant so that everyone gets their fair share of sun.

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Four days or so later when the pots are dry again, give a little organic fertilizer to each plant.  I like Age Old products (Age Old Grow, Age Old Bloom, etc.), they won’t harm my kitties who are not supposed to be in the plants….but are.

Ideally, we would give this treatment to the plants once a month.  Since I have a million things to do, maybe I’ll do it…once.  But, every little bit helps to keep the houseplants alive until summer comes around again!

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Did you know that your leftover coffee is a nitrogen rich drink for plants?  I know plenty of folks that collect coffee grounds from coffee shops to put in their compost piles, but my Grandma taught me to use leftover coffee at the end of the pot to feed plants.  I take the leftover coffee in the pot, fill it to the top with water to dilute a bit, and water whoever needs it that day.

It looked like we were going to have an aphid problem again this year.  The lady bugs that I had placed in the pots seem to have hitched a ride to Florida.  But so did the aphids.  I gently placed a few spiders that fell out during the shower back into the pots.  Perhaps they have something to do with the insect free indoor gardens.  They can stay.

The aloe is busting out of its new pot, the chives are becoming casualties of the cats, and everything wishes for summer heat, but it is all alive.  Five more months until they (and I) can head back out to the porch!

The Off Grid Coffee Warmer

Coffee.  The fuel that runs this farm.  We do love coffee.  Emily’s boyfriend’s family owns a coffee roasting business.  Doug works at the coffee shop now.  And I drink enough to keep everyone in business!  I do not like coffee pots though,  kind of plasticky.  I told you all about this when I wrote about coffee presses and homestead coffee (click here to read about it).  The hands down best way to make coffee is in a coffee press.  But, it doesn’t stay warm long enough.  Doug tends to sleep later than I do and we like to pour a cup over the span of a few hours.  I tried a tea candle under a metal holder specific to keeping tea pots warm.  That works but since Doug uses quite a lot of milk in his coffee, the coffee just wasn’t hot enough.

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Then I saw this in the back of my cupboard.  A simple carafe.  I pour the coffee into the carafe and it stays hot for hours.  So simple.  So off-grid friendly!  And so accessible.

Last night, we blocked off the porch to keep the alpacas off, secured the gate to keep the goats in their pasture, and went to bed.  This is what I woke up to.  I think I will pour another cup!

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Homesteader’s Coffee

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As most farmgirls, I am generally the first one awake and the thought of rich, dark coffee fuels me through the herd of hungry cats, antsy, barking dogs, and the mental check list for the day.  Oh coffee, my love, my sweet, black and aroma-rich, I will take another sip and organize my thoughts.

Little House on the Prairie fueled the homesteader in me, my mother and a menagerie of farming books introduced me to the joy of fresh soil in my hands, but about three years ago Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich sparked another passion.  She mentioned in her book the sweet moment when she was standing in her kitchen with her pups on the floor, candles burning, hand cranking a coffee grinder to prepare the percolator, while listening to a hand cranked radio.  She says the whole world could stop and they would just go on cranking, listening, sighing and she wasn’t using any outside power to perform those tasks.  I do want to use less petroleum, less electricity, less destructive forces.  I know that these days there is an environmental cost to everything I do, but some things have less costs than others.

So, I decided to start using non-electric items.  I already wear aprons everywhere, how cute would I be holding an egg beater or a whisk while standing at the counter?  Wooden spoons and whisks replaced the blender.  My arms got stronger.  I picked up a sieve, a hand cranked food processor (which really in the time it takes, I could have chopped everything!), and a Dutch oven.

But the first thing I tried to replace was the coffee maker.  It is large, takes up the whole counter, and makes the brew have the essence of plastic in it.  I tried the percolator. I ground the beans, placed them in the proper compartment, placed it on the stove.  In the morning I turned it on.  If coffee can be a thousand degrees, then that is what it was.  It was weak, freakin’ hot coffee and my family revolted.  They don’t like much change.  I have to be sneaky about it.

I was discouraged.  How can I ever go off grid (yes folks, someday I will) if I don’t have coffee?  Well, two things happened: one the coffee maker broke. Two, I was in bed reading a French cookbook (not recommended before bed, it makes you quite hungry!) and there was a lovely French press on their quaint breakfast table.  It’s so easy, why didn’t I think of it?  It makes tea, the richest, freshest coffee, and is ready in a pinch for company.  Best of all, when I go off grid, all I need is a teapot on the wood stove to make it!  Yeah sustainability and coffee!

Since then, as things break, I replace them with the non-electric version (the kind my great-grandma might ask, “What the heck are you thinking?” or be very pleased, I have no idea).  I can’t wait to tell you about my “washer” and (hehe) “dryer”, but in the meantime, I need to pour another cup.

Flavored Coffee: place any of the below in the French press (or coffee filter if you must) to make wonderful coffee concoctions.

  • Add a 1/8 t of cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and if desired an 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger
  • Grind any nut and place in pot with a little spice
  • Add cocoa powder and sugar
  • Add a few candy canes
  • A teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Mix and match!