Monday, May 27, 2013

So Proud!

Our younger daughter Mary graduated from college one week ago. In her honor, Ed, Jack and I headed to Baltimore to partake in all the festivities.

Mary graduated (summa cum laude) from the Maryland Institute College of Arts, better known as MICA, with a degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Art History. While every school's graduation is different from every other, I must say that this art school's graduation was quite special. For one thing, all the graduates wore artist's bérets instead of your standard square mortarboards.

For another, every single graduate was given gallery space in which to show his or her senior thesis. Which means that every single graduate was hard at work their last semester producing display-worthy art and that art stretched almost two miles in total, across campus, in every building. Much to my delight, Mary chose to brand Farm Dover as her senior project. I knew she was hard at work on it, but the design was unveiled to us for the first time as we participated in the Art Walk.

I cried when I saw it. She captured everything I love about this farm and our life here. In a Farmer's Almanac that she produced as part of her project she calls Farm Dover a special place of retreat. A refuge where life is slower, more intentional, and healthier for all the creatures that come – be they friends, family, birds, bees or mice."

The graduation took place on Monday afternoon, but we celebrated all weekend. We made sure we hit all our favorite spots as we don't know when we will be back in Baltimore: Artifact Coffee, Lexington Market, the fabulous Thai Restaurant, the Sunday morning Farmers' Market, Sip and Bite cafe, and of course, Woodberry Kitchen, our all-time favorite restaurant. We also enjoyed just walking the streets of Baltimore, taking in all the sites, sounds and smells.

Meeting at the Farmers' Market
Dad and Grad

Mary and her boyfriend John, who also graduated from MICA

A kiss from brother

Mary and her fellow graphic designers

Waiting in line for graduation to start

Mary's roommate Hanna (on right)
Mary's boyfriend John and friend Tom addressed the class of 2103 in whimsical rhyme
The big moment

Once graduation and the reception were over, we loaded up the car and headed home. Mary and John came along the next day. (I think they had some more celebrating to do.)

To Mary, we say: well done. And to Ed I say: we're done!

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Found in my In-Box

Life has been busy around here lately, but before I catch you up, I wanted to share some photos that showed up in my in-box this week.

Do you remember when I wrote about our terrifiying bear adventure while hiking in Glacier National Park last fall? In that blog post I mentioned that a couple lugging huge cameras were just up trail from us. We caught up with the photographer couple, Norma and Roger, on the hike back to the civilization and exchanged email addresses. Low and behold, this week I received four photos from Norma.

Looking at these adorable photos, I'm embarrassed to recall how terrified I was of being eaten alive. Thank you Norma for sending them to us -- a wonderful souvenir  of our Wild West trip.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happiness Is...A Planted Garden

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero

The weather finally cooperated and my garden dried out enough for neighbor John to bring over his tiller and work up the big garden as well as a smaller flower garden. Ed and John worked most of the morning, slowly moving up and down the rows, avoiding the already-planted asparagus, garlic and potatoes.

Just as they were finishing, Maggie showed up to help me plant it. We planted tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, chard, pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes in the big garden and some parsley, cilantro, kale and cabbage in my raised beds. Tomorrow morning, I'll plant some okra seeds.

Into the flower garden, I planted seeds of sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, poppies, and a wildflower mix.

Tonight, my muscles ache, but it feels really good to get the garden to this point. Thank you Ed, John and Maggie. Let's hope that soft rains come this weekend and good things sprout.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lucky Mom

Maggie and Mary were far away this mother's day – Maggie at a Texas wedding and Mary finishing her last week of college. But Jack came out his afternoon and invited me to go on a hike with him. We headed to the back woods and he helped me climb a barbed-wire fence and hop over to our neighbor's farm (who had told us we were welcome to walk his fields). I felt like I had entered Oz. Here is what I saw stretching out in front of us.

As we walked through the field, Jack picked me a bouquet.

Lucky me. A very lucky mom.

We Went Walking, later

Remember this morning I posted a photo of a red-winged blackbird nest with three little eggs in it? Well, if you look closely at it, you'll see a little beak hole in one and a small crack in another. We went back later today to see if we could find the nest again and this is what we found:

Three baby birds that were really nothing more than bits of fluff. What a nice mother's day gift for that mama bird!

We Went Walking

Ed and I went walking this morning. As we cut through fields, we are particularly careful where we step. Good thing. Here's what I found this morning.

Red-winged Blackbird nest, nestled among wildflowers.


I love you Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Home Away from Home

I have come to the conclusion that I am basically a homebody. I like to stay home. I like to cook. I like to walk around our property. I like to sit in a comfy chair and read. I like to spread my "stuff" out. As much as I love to explore the world with Ed, I miss the creature comforts of home.

I think we've hit on a solution – a way for me to feel at home, away from home. On our recent trip to France/Spain we rented an apartment in Paris and a farmhouse near Toulouse. Both were fabulous. Both were far larger than a hotel room and more reasonably priced as well.

I'll tell you about each. Maybe you'll be inclined to try this way of traveling. I know we will again.

In Paris, we stayed in the heart of the Marais district at this apartment, which we rented from airbnb.  From the airport, we took the RER train into Paris, changed trains once, and then walked two blocks to our very own apartment. Here's a photo taken from our living room window, overlooking a private courtyard.

For the next four days, we attempted to live more like Parisians than tourists. Our apartment had a bedroom, living room, small kitchen and bath. It was beautifully (and sparsely) decorated. It was perfect for the two of us.

From Paris, we took a train south to Toulous, where we rented a car and drove about an hour to La Ferme De Boyer, a farmhouse we rented through VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). The owners, Robert and Harriet, live in the converted garage next door to the farmhouse and they couldn't have been more charming and helpful. Since we were arriving late in the afternoon, we dined the first night with the owners, who prepared a wonderful meal that began with Roquefort Soufflés (see recipe below).

The next day we drove into Mirepoix (about 10 minutes away) to shop at the weekly market. We purchased some olives, fresh trout, local asparagus and fava beans as well as a bottle of wine and an apple tart. I cooked our meal in the farmhouse kitchen – something I've always wanted to do.

The next few days we spent driving around the region, hiking in the Pyrénées (in the snow), and enjoying sitting in the garden of our farmhouse.

Once we left our farmhouse, we headed to San Sebastian, Spain. For the rest of the trip, we stayed in hotels – which were just fine, but not as fine as having your own space. I'll save our adventures in Spain for another time.


Harriet at La Ferme de Boyer prepared a lovely dinner for us. We began our meal with a cheese souffle, hot out of the oven. I begged her for the recipe, which she graciously provided.

Our hosts: Harriet and Robert with Dilby, the dog.
I made them this week and was immediately transported back to our time in France. Here's the recipe.

Little Roquefort Soufflés

50g butter (4T)
50g flour (1/3 cup)
300 ml milk (10 oz)
125g Roquefort, crumbled (10T)
4 eggs
300 ml cream or creme fraiche (10 oz)
grated parmesan

Butter 6/8 ramekin dishes. Boil a kettle full of water. Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat and cook gently for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the egg yolks and salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir a heaped tablespoon into the cheese mixture, then gently fold in the rest.

Spoon the mixture into the ramekins. Place in a roasting pan and pour boilding water into the pan to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until well risen and set. Remove from the pan and leave to cool. Turn the soufflés into a buttered ovenproof dish. Chill until required.

To Serve: Pour cream over the soufflés, sprinkle with parmesan, and place in a preheaded 400F oven for approximately 10 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Serve with salad leaves and crusty bread.

Bon appetit!

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Happening

This afternoon the sun came out (briefly) and with that bit of encouragement, the baby killdeer started to hatch from the eggs on our driveway. So far, three baby killdeer have been born -- and are they ever cute, assuming you can find them. They blend in almost as well as their spotted eggs.

As soon as their feathers dry they will be up and scurrying about. Killdeer are precocial which means "ripened beforehand." Other precocial birds besides killdeer are chickens, ducks, and quail. None of these babies lies in the nest and gets waited on. Can't wait to see these little ones running alongside their mama.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

And You Thought the Derby Was Exciting...

Just as the horses broke out of their post positions for the running of the 139th Kentucky Derby, things were getting pretty exciting here at Farm Dover.

We found a swarm of bees in a tree by our back fence (not sure if they were from one of Maggie's hives, from a nearby hive, or a natural swarm). In any event, we called Maggie, who immediately left a Derby party and drove out to Shelby County to try to capture the swarm.

Here's what the swarm looked like:

What you are seeing is tens of thousands of worker bees who have left the original hive, following their old queen. They left behind about 40% of the original-hive bees and a new queen.

Just as the Derby got underway, Maggie and Ed suited up in their bee-keeper costumes and set out to cut down the swarm. Despite what you've heard to the contrary, this was definitely the most exciting two minutes in sports. We didn't know if the bees would just take off, attack, or drop nicely into the hive box.

The bees cooperated, dropping without trouble into the box. Maggie and Ed then took the captured bees out to the very front of Farm Dover to get them disoriented. They will leave them there for a day or two before installing them along side Maggie's other hives.

Maggie left to go back to her Derby party and I greeted Ed with a mint julep. So much excitement in one afternoon!