Parker & Dexter

A few days ago Ms. Ellie delivered her kids! Meet Parker (in the front of the photo with Ishmael) and Dexter (laying down in the back of the photo below) named after the man who first built the barn which is now coming down.

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This finally gives me an opportunity to try out the goat sweater I knit a while back.  It’s a tad big for a newborn goat and absolutely huge on Dexter, who is quite small, but it does seem to help keep their cores warm. I’m going to knit a few more in smaller sizes to have on hand for future newborn goats.

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Parker has been doing quite well from the start. Dexter was weak and unable to stand but thanks to struggling_along jumping in I believe he’s going to make it. He’s up and about now and is getting stronger everyday. In fact we’re off to check on them right now.

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Tapping is over; mud season is here.

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Tapping for this year is over. Technically it’s still the season in our neck of the woods however the barn is due for imminent removal so this year we’re cutting it short.

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The boys and I went around collecting the last of the sap to have dripped into our buckets. The color of the sap varied bucket to bucket but overall it has darkened - a sure sign the season is coming to an end. We’ve had quite a haul.While it’s hard to say for sure, due to already having doused many pancakes, waffles and sausages in syrup, but I’d say we’ve produced a gallon this year.

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End of the season sap waiting to be boiled down.

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Early season sap waiting to be collected.

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This is my “boiling it down” set up (sans snow which I normally pile up around the buckets to help keep them cold). That’s  an electric pressure cooker which I set to “saute”. That keeps the sap simmering away. Every so often I add a bit more sap and make sure the pressure cooker hasn’t automatically switched over to “keep warm”. Once the sap has cooked down quite a bit I bring the sap in, to the stove, to finish  it off.

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Once the syrup has reach the proper temperature I strain it through a jelly bag to remove any last impurities. Then I bottle it  into sterilized jars, or refrigerate or freeze.

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Jars cooling.

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A batch.

I can already tell the maple syrup won’t last us all year but it will certainly make a dent. We’ve certainly had a lot of fun throughout the process!

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Les Chèvres

A window was knocked out in the goat barn. Really it was only a matter of time; goat hooves and glass windows don’t mix well. Coincidently the rest of the windows in the goat barn were already covered over with plywood when we brought the place. Hmmm. Luckily it’s a little too high for anyone to leap out to freedom. Although it was the frequency and number of heads poking out that caught my eye.

I quickly took a few photos, taking advantage of the rare lighting, before fixing the window. If you are wondering why the title says The Goats in French that’s because, even though I don’t actually know French, I like to talk to the goats in a mixture of English and “pretend” French. It just seems fitting. The goats with the horns are our bucks -  or Monsieur Manson and Monsieur Lenin.  The girls are Ellie and Rita (mother of Lenin). Ellie should be kidding this spring.

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Clam Chowder & Peasent Bread

Being this early in spring the days still carry a chill. What better way to warm up and enjoy some comfort food than with Clam Chowder? Ironically, after 5 years on the coast of Maine, the best clam chowder I’ve had was here in Vermont. It was a special and I don’t go out to eat very often so I enjoyed it thinking “I wish I could make this a home”. Then my Mom hooked me up with this recipe- wish granted!

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This recipe is from Grit magazine. My mother made a few adaptations that I think really add to an already excellent recipe. Here’s Grit’s recipe – reproduced for your convenience:

Alida’s Clam Chowder Recipe

A thick, creamy soup, this is my mother’s recipe, and she still makes it.

1 pound bacon, diced
3 large onions, chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
3 small cans minced clams
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch thyme
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 can evaporated milk

In skillet, fry bacon until crispy. Add onions and cook until browned.

Add potatoes and water, and cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams, pepper, sugar and thyme, and let simmer.

In separate pan, over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour. Add milk a little at a time while continuing to whisk until white sauce starts to bubble around edges. Pour white sauce into clam mixture and let cool.

Just before serving, stir in evaporated milk. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Do not boil, as it will ruin the texture of the soup. Yields 3 quarts.

My mother’s suggestions: If the bacon is really fatty drain some of the grease off. Double the potatoes and cans of clams.
I think those are suggestions are spot on. I also sometimes replace the water with bone broth and I use corn starch so it’s gluten free. You can also use half and half instead of a can of evaporated milk or cook 2 1/4 cups milk down to 1 cup.

DSCN0341DSCN0492Now that you have a great chowder only some crusty bread will do it justice. I came across this recipe for a no knead bread called peasent bread, baked in a pyrex bowl. It’s super easy and adapts well to a gluten free version. I tried it with sweet white sorghum flour- delicious! I won’t reproduce the instructions here because it’s quite long with tips, photos and variations.

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DSCN0342Enjoy it with the clam chowder -or even just with jelly.

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