Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quest for Crackers

My latest fascination in baking is to make a great cracker.  Not just any cracker, but the cracker.  Once that is gluten free, not too hard or soft, doesn't break under the pressure of spreading cheese, tastes great, pairs nicely with chevre and other cheese, and it also has to keep well.  There are many crackers on the market that come close, but they all have their shortcomings.  Some are too thick, others too much flavor detracting excessively from the cheese they are paired with, some break to easily, others just taste like cardboard.  So since I couldn't find a cracker I was completely satisfied with I thought, heck, I can make crackers.  Why not?

The first recipe was an almond cracker.  It was easy to make, containing only almond flour, egg white, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt.  The recipe suggested adding touches to your own liking, such as poppy seeds, cracked pepper, etc.  This cracker was actually pretty good.  Fast and easy to make they baked in only 12 minutes, and once cooled were crisp (but not too crisp) and flavorful and paired well with the plain chevre I tested them out with.  But not quite satisfied with the texture once chewed.  My cracker quest continued.

The second recipe was from another blog.  Daring to Thrive is a blog that contains (among other things I'm sure) information on living gluten free.  Since I can't eat wheat, and I know many others who enjoy our cheese also can't eat wheat, it's important to me to keep our crackers gluten free.  This cracker was great.  I made a few modifications which made the cracker more my own :) but all in all a great recipe.  Could this be the cracker I've been looking for?  We'll try this one out at our next farmer's market and see.  Come visit us at the St. Johnsbury farmers market, Willow Moon Farm - Farmstead Goat Cheese, and taste it for yourself!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crab and Corn Chowder

I had a taste for chowder today so decided to make one of my favorites.  The recipe is a corn chowder recipe I've been making for a while (not sure where I found it), which I adapted to include crabmeat after having crab and corn chowder in a restaurant once.

Here's what you'll need:

a few slices of really good, thick cut bacon (seasoning bacon works great here)
1 small to medium sized onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
4-6 ears of corn (fresh, on the cob)
2 medium sized red potatoes, diced
4 cups half N half or light cream
6 oz. of lump crab meat
fresh thyme (dried is okay if that's all you have)

I start by chopping the bacon into smaller pieces and sauteing it in the bottom of a stock pot.  When the bacon is almost cooked I add 1 small onion, chopped, and chopped celery to the bacon and bacon drippings.  If your bacon produced a lot of drippings you'll want to remove some so that you're left with no more than 2-3 tablespoons of drippings along with the bacon, before you add the onion and celery. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent and the celery is tender, and all are lightly browned.

Meanwhile, cut the corn off of the cobs and set aside.  Keep the cobs too, you're going to use them to help flavor the stock of the soup.  Dice the potatoes.

When the bacon, onions and celery are done, add 4 cups of half N half to the bacon mixture along with 4 of the corn cobs, potatoes, the crabmeat and fresh thyme.  Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the cobs from the soup base and set aside about 2 cups of the soup base.  Using a blender or food processor puree the 2 cups of the soup base and then return pureed soup base to the stock pot.

Add the fresh corn you cut off the cobs earlier to the soup and continue to simmer over a low heat until the corn is tender, stirring frequently, adding salt and pepper to taste.   


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Farm Life Cometh

This is my last week of "real" full time work at Goddard College.  There is so much to do here still, and I'll stick around part time thru June, but I am really looking forward to a job that doesn't require me to sit on my butt for 7-8 hrs. a day.  Granted I currently begin every day hauling water, hay, etc.  However I'm looking forward to cleaning pens, milking goats, making cheese, weeding the garden, sheep herding, and all that other farm stuff - with some agility training mixed in of course - none of these things require that I sit on my butt. 

Construction on the farm is coming along.  All the new rooms are constructed, next we'll complete the finish work (painting trim, additional lighting, built in shelving, etc.) and then comes the installation of the vacuum system for the milking parlor and then the cheese making equipment.   My mom's friend, Jim, did an amazing job in such a short amount of time.  It looks fantastic!  Now though our attention is turned toward the new goat housing.  We're changing a ramp housing off the back of the barn to just an overhang and plan to abut a clear span building to that for goat housing.  I ordered the new clear span building yesterday and construction on the ramp and excavation for the new shelter site starts next week.

Sometime this month we'll also install new pasture fencing, about 1600 feet of fencing.  Rob, my mom and I are going to be doing most of the work by ourselves.  The new fencing will consist of a perimeter fence and two large interior fences that will be just wide enough to be divided into smaller grazing areas with our existing electric net fencing.

Perhaps it is my impending changeover to life as a farm girl, but I've become more interested in eating locally and seasonally over the last year or so.  I find my thoughts turning to this year's garden, what to plant, what I will want to preserve by canning and freezing as well as what we'll raise for meat this year.  I always think that places like our local co-op are focused on local, seasonal food as well.  However, I was really surprised to find ice cream recently at our local co-op that was from the west coast?  What is the carbon footprint of a half gallon of ice cream that has to travel from coast to coast and retails for less than $5?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Farm Update

By day I work at a remarkable institution of higher education.   While many of you may have never heard of Goddard College, I would venture that someone in your life has been touched by contributions made by a Goddard alum or an alumni of a program from another College tailored after Goddard's educational model.  One of my favorite descriptions of Goddard learning is this.  While most institutions tell you what you need to learn to be someone, Goddard asks you what you want to be.

I recently read the blog of a Goddard Alum about how a book by the late J.D. Salinger impacted her life while here at Goddard.  In particular, a quote she referenced from Salinger's book " Franny and Zoey" caught my eye in particular and it has been on my mind ever since.  “An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”  That quote really defines a lot for me.   I see it in my everyday life and also in my approach to training my own dogs as well as helping my students with their own.  You set your own standards.  Sure we may strive to meet a level that someone else has decided upon but it is your choice to pursue that and do what is necessary to get there.  You get what you train!

So begins another blog post from the farm.  We currently have 23 new kids, with another 25 does due to kid between now and the end of May.   Amidst all of the new arrivals, the barn itself is getting a little new life as well.   Construction is about to begin on our new milking parlor, cheese make room, etc.  It's all very exciting and overwhelming.  Some of the changes are small but will make a big impact - like a convenient place to fill water buckets (goats love their warm cider vinegar tea).  Other changes will bring new adventures for both Mom and me in cheese making.   We'll start experimenting with our cheese making process in March and have already begun brainstorming new flavors for the soft chevre we'll be making.  Chocolate chevre anyone?

On the agility front, entries open today (by postmark) for our May 8-9 CPE trial here on the farm.  While it doesn't look like much now, in a couple months the agility field will be crowded with spruced up contacts, new jumps, and even a new rubberized table.   I almost forgot, as part of the spring construction going on at the barn we'll be running some additional wiring to the agility field and by the end of May - LIGHTS!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It has been a while since I blogged but figured what better time to start into it again then while hanging around the airport waiting for a flight home.

I have been in Portland, OR, since Wednesday, judging a 4-day AKC Agility trial. This trial, part of the Rose City Classic, featured ISC classes which served as a qualifier for the World Team Tryouts. For those non-agility (or non-AKC) folks out there, ISC classes are international style agility classes with rules and course design a little different from what we would normally see here in the States. And the World Team is the team of agility competitors that the AKC sends to an international competition (often in Europe - next one is in Reiden, Germany) where teams from around the world represent their countries in individual and team competition, within 3 different jump heights. Very exciting to watch, even if you can't be there in person. Here is my course for small and medium dogs:

...and the large dog course:

I have judged ISC Standard previously but this was my first opportunity to design and judge ISC Jumpers with Weaves - which as a judge, was great fun. Watching some of the teams run these courses (especially the large dogs) was like watching a dance, skillfully choreographed and performed by dog and handler.

My enthusiasm for judging is renewed with every assignment and this one should last for a while. The Rose City Classic is a well run set of agility trials held as part of a larger cluster of shows spanning 5 days (1/20 thru 1/24 this year) - including Conformation, Rally, Obedience, Agility, and even an art show! I believe they were expecting over 4,000 dogs. Agility Trial Secretary, Robin Cohen, and her husband Robin are awesome! I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I shared this assignment with fellow AKC Agility Judge Scott Stock. I've known Scott for a few years and he is great fun - Go Michigan! Andy Hartman was also there - for those that don't know, he is the Director of Agility at AKC and a really great guy in his own right!

Beyond agility there is a lot going on at home right now. Okay I realize that to most people it always seems like there is a lot going on in my life. I like to be busy (sorry Rob). This little factoid is true to a fault. I am getting better at saying "no."

Kidding season has officially begun on the farm. The first 2 kids (twins) were born days before I left for Oregon, quickly followed (within hours) by the second set of twins. While I was in Oregon Rob discovered the unexpected (well unannounced at least) arrival of a couple more kids! And many more kids are expected. Hopefully we'll have the "Kid" cam up and running soon with a live stream. Kids are so much fun to watch as they practice their moves. Visit the farm for updates at

So besides kidding season, which falls primarily on my mother's shoulders, we are also continuing plans for cheese making. Construction will really begin next month, as does our training. Mom and I are headed to our first artisan cheese making class in February as well.

Then of course there is hundreds of feet of new fencing to plan for in the spring, selecting and purchasing our new sheep (yup we're adding sheep to the farm this year!), agility trials to plan, courses to be designed for judging, new lighting for the agility yard, agility league, lesson plans/schedules, and the list goes on. For now though I am focusing on equipment building and winter training (for me and the dogs!). After making it through the bronchitis which was followed by walking pneumonia, I feel like I'm finally through the worst. While sick I also missed out on some beautiful snowshoeing weather too, something I hope to change soon!

Still a few hours to my red eye flight, time enough to file my judging report and work on some work work.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My bad

Wow, what a bad blogger I have become!

Guess I'd better get working on a new post! Look for something soon :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just Another Rainy Day...

Again with the rain...

It's been a while since I posted, spring got very busy all of a sudden. I feel like I went to bed in March and woke up in July!

We are finally settling into life on the new farm. With just a few boxes left to unpack, new chicks and kids in the barn, and the flower/vegetable beds planted summer is well underway.