Monday, May 28, 2012

Silly Goats, Fudge Failure, a Fawn, and a Favorite Recipe

Most weeks there's at least one thing unique, funny, or (rarely) scary on the ranch.  This week was no exception.

I often take a look at the goats from the front porch of the house, to check that they're okay, and to see what they're up to.  One of the things I really enjoy is watching them romp and play together.  Most of the time they're walking around or lying in a dust bowl they've created in the sun.  Earlier in the week when I went to get the goats out of their pen, I noticed that Luna had gotten her head stuck in the fencing.  The battery has died and I haven't taken the time to put the new one in yet, because they typically leave the fence alone.  I guess they figured it out.  This is the goat who recently lost her horn, so she has this sharp little tip protruding that's weak and sensitive.  I discovered that she had actually put her head through one square, and then another, and another, so she was pretty well tied up in there.

I found the outermost strand and started to work it slowly over her head.  She was calm to begin with, but as soon as she felt that she was being released, she suddenly started tugging and tossing her head, pulling backward.  She was so frantic to get out that the taunt cord skimmed over that horn hard, and she started to bleed.  I couldn't remember if flour was the go-to styptic when one didn't have styptic powder to stop a bleed, so I ran in to check in with Jessica (who was tutoring Becca on algebra) and see if she remembered.  She didn't.  I'd remembered cayenne, too, but Jessi was worried it would sting.  I did a quick internet search on my phone (thank goodness for smart phones!) and decided to use baking soda (cayenne and flour were also mentioned).  Luna wasn't bleeding badly, but I wanted to stop it so it didn't get worse.  I put some baking soda on the bleeding, and amazingly it really did stop!  I thought that perhaps she'd learned her lesson and wouldn't mess with the fencing again.

I was wrong.

On Saturday, I knew something was wrong when I saw her lying down facing the fence, all alone.  Typically she is with her brother or mom, but they were lying together on the other side of the pen.


When I got closer, I saw that she'd done it again.  At least this time it was only two squares and not three.



The goofy goat again went through her yank-hard-and-freak-out routine, but luckily didn't hurt herself.

We've been putting the four youngest chicks outside in a small pen next to the Americaunas, who are two weeks older and yet still much larger.  For a week now we've let them get to know each other slowly, and now that it's time to try putting them together, it's hard to do, because I know there will be pecking as they establish order and I don't want anyone to get hurt.  It will probably all go smoothly, but you never know.  Saturday night, Becca and I were taking the chicks out to put them into their box to go indoors, and Becca put Chilly (because she's so "chill" aka calm) on her shoulder.  I asked Bex if she was going to put Chilly in the box and she said no, she wanted to hang out with her for a little bit.  It's amazing how trusting this chicken is of Becca and how she seems to enjoy her company.


(Bex is not always thrilled when I take her picture.)

While I was getting the box set up inside, I asked Becca to fill their water tower.  While she was walking back with it, I heard her talking to Chilly, who had started chirping loudly, saying, "Well, if you would stay on my shoulder, you wouldn't have a problem, would you?"  When she walked in the room, I was surprised to see Chilly sitting on her head!






Now, I've seen parakeets and cockatiels on shoulders and heads, but this was a first for me.  I couldn't stop laughing!

After we cleaned up and finished the rest of the chores, it was time to make dinner.  We'd decided earlier to make the farfelle (bow-tie) pasta with grilled chicken and herbs, and most of it was prepared.  All I had to do was put all the ingredients into one bowl and add the lemon vinaigrette dressing.  This is one of my all-time favorite meals during the summer.  What made it really special this weekend is that all of the herbs are growing at my house, so I walked out to the garden for parsley, cilantro and basil, then to the back for tiny baby arugula and some mint leaves.  I "wing it" with the amount of herbs in this recipe.  I used to pack them into measuring cups and do exactly what the recipe called for, but found that there were really too many herbs in it, so I grab some handfuls and put in what I have or what I feel like.  The recipe is simple and is at the bottom of this post.  Enjoy!!

When we were at the country fair Thursday night, there was a booth there selling homemade fudge.  I decided that I wanted to make fudge.  Sunday morning was the time that I set to do that.  Everything went well until the end, when I realized that I had to beat the candy mixture with a wooden spoon "vigorously and constantly" for 5 to 10 minutes.  Huh?  I did my best.  Becca helped.  It wasn't forming properly, so I put it under the mixing stand, and still couldn't get it to the right consistency.  I finally gave up and put it in the pan, hoping it would set a little.  It tasted good, but pretty much needed to be eaten with a spoon.  Until I start lifting weights and become proficient with beating things with a wooden spoon, I'll search for a recipe I can handle and will let you know when I find it.

Later that day, we needed to make a trip to town.  I always keep an eye out on our long driveway for wildlife that might find its way in front of my car.  We've driven behind coyotes, a bobcat, quail, a fox, and narrowly avoided being run into by a large wild pig.  (The quail are especially funny.  They jump out in front of the car and run madly, quickly turning their little heads left, then right.  I don't know if they're looking back at me or if they're looking for an escape route.)  As I drove around a bend I saw a small animal bouncing in front of us.  At first I thought it was a long-legged hare, and we were excited because we haven't seen those often.  Then the creature paused briefly to turn and look at us.  It was a tiny fawn!  We could see the little white dots on his backside and it's long ears, held straight out to the sides like airplane wings.  Then it turned and started hopping quickly again.  We lost sight of it around another bend and it must have taken off into the brush because we couldn't find it.  We'd really hoped to get a picture, but it wasn't meant to be this time.


It was only Sunday night of a three-day weekend, but already it was feeling like summer had been here for a long time.  I'm sure that at the end of it we'll wonder where the time went.  We're enjoying the days together and are trying to plan at least one project a day. 

Grilled Chicken With Fresh Herbs and Farfelle
From Cooking Fresh magazine - Spring 2008

Kosher salt
12 oz dried farfelle pasta
10 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Black pepper
7 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn
1 cup packed fresh arugula (tough stems removed)

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil.  Add the farfelle and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.  Drain the pasta and toss it immediately with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Let the pasta cool completely in the refrigerator.

Heat a cast iron ridged grill pan or an outdoor grill.  Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Grill chicken until golden on one side, 4-5 minutes.  Turn the breasts, season with salt and pepper, and continue to grill until golden and cooked through, another 6-8 minutes.  Let the chicken cool and cut it on the diagonal into 1 inch strips.  Set aside.  (I use a George Foreman grill and skip the olive oil, seasoning before grilling.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and check if it's cooked all the way, and it usually is.  Fatter breasts might take a couple more minutes.)

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 8 tablespoons olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic and cumin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the farfelle, sliced chicken, parsley, cilantro, basil, mint and arugula and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (I deviate from this, too.  I mix the dressing in a smaller bowl, and add the chicken and herbs to the pasta, which was already cooling in the large serving bowl, then pour the dressing on top.  Easier to toss that way.)

Put the salad into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This is Mostly About the Parade

This was a bit of an "off" week for me.  Not a lot happening, and not a lot of energy, so no adventures in the kitchen or much else happening.  It was Becca's last week of school, so she had a lot of projects to finish and studying to do for finals.  It looks as if we have made it through her Freshman year.  Now to figure out what to do with the summer.  We are looking forward to it!

We had a real treat on Thursday evening.  Bette told us about the upcoming Healdsburg country fair and parade.  I didn't even know there was one!  We met up a little after 4pm and the three of us headed into town to watch the parade.  We had hoped to avoid the street closures, but ran into them, so took some back streets to get to as close to the midpoint as possible between the parade route and the location of the little country fair.  We pulled out folding chairs and walked downtown, finding a spot saved for Bette by friends just across the street from Flying Goat Coffee.  Bette treated us to burritos from El Farolito - a great little Mexican restaurant near the square - and we sat down to eat dinner and watch the people as they gathered for the event.

I had expected the parade to last maybe a half hour.  I was surprised when I looked at the time afterward and realized it'd been nearly 1 1/2 hours!  So many fun floats, and such a sweet small-town atmosphere, with families gathered together, kids riding their bikes and skateboards down the open streets before the parade started. All the little organizations that make up a small town, from the Shriners with their gong ...



... to lots of antique cars ...




We were disappointed that the high school band wasn't marching, but we were happy to see and hear them...


Many of the floats had someone either handing out or tossing candies.  This was the most interesting, from I believe the FFA float ...



What's a small town parade without tractors?



And cute cowboys with their sons on their laps driving them?


Then there was this classic beauty on a body shop truck.  I would hate to crash this! 




You just cannot have a parade in Sonoma County without Snoopy...



Even a fire engine got into the spirit of the western theme.


Just to dispel any rumors that Ford stands for Found On Road Dead - they stand the test of time!  (My Taurus is nearing 242,000, on our way to the quarter million mark.)



A small town parade has to have the mounted color guard!


This display of Old Glory preceded a large collection of antique military vehicles.




EVERYONE likes to be in a parade...


Beautiful gowns, beautiful horses...





And finally a video of the much-anticipated "dancing horses."  You'll hear the crowd shouting at them to not walk in the center of the road, onto a metal plate that had given other riders scary problems as their horses' metal-shod hooves slid on it like ice.  One man ignored the warnings and showed off.



video

After the parade was over, we walked back to the car to drop off the chairs and then over to a small field where booths and "jumpys" and inflated slides encircled a crowd there to enjoy some more festivities.  We walked through the animal exhibits, looking at the pigs, sheep, goats and cows who would be shown in the coming days.  Then it was back home to care for all of our own little critters before getting some sleep.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY

I typically post about the entire weekend together, but it became clear on Saturday that this Sunday deserved its very own spotlight.  Soooo much was planned, which meant that much more would occur that was unexpected.  It always seems to be that way.

Our friend, Kyla, is a REACH helicopter crew member.  (Their website does not explain the acronym, but other sources indicate Redwood Empire Air Care Helicopter.) As a nurse and emergency medical provider, she rides in that copter on life-saving missions.  I found out on Saturday that Kyla's REACH team was going to provide a demonstration at the Graton Fire Department's annual pancake breakfast.  As a child whose father was a volunteer firefighter in rural Colorado, I have fond memories of these breakfasts.  As a child of a military family with an uncle who was career Air Force, AND my dad also working for the space program, I have fond memories of air shows.  When I have an opportunity to support a small fire department, especially this 100% volunteer department, AND see the REACH land, you betcha I'll be there.  I made plans Saturday night to meet up with daughter Amanda and her friend Ashleigh bright and early the next morning.

Bright and early is a normal weekday routine, but since Becca had risen early on Saturday, too, I wasn't sure how this would play.  She was eager to go, and although we hit a couple of snags and were behind schedule, we still arrived at the fire station at just after 7:30 am.  I was surprised to see how busy it was, and that we'd need to go to the old station and catch a shuttle.  That wasn't a problem, parking was easy, and the volunteer who drove the full-sized yellow school bus shuttle was friendly.  I got to tell stories to Becca about riding the school bus when we lived in Franktown.  Everyone was in a good mood, and the quiet of Graton on a Sunday morning really struck me.  I liked the peaceful feeling.

I'll be honest about the breakfast.  I've had lots of pancake breakfasts and know what to expect.  I'm not sure what they did to the eggs, but they tasted a bit odd.  I ate a little, but hated that I tossed most of it.  The rest was what I expected, good hearty fare, eaten at long tables with folding chairs, set up in the bay where they keep the fire engines.  There were lots of people talking and laughing, a large group of Boy Scouts and other volunteers to help keep things going smoothly, and the line grew longer throughout the morning.  Amanda and Ashleigh arrived not much later, and we ate and filled out our raffle tickets.  Yes, we each put an entry in for the chain saw, in addition to the "adult box" for the wine and over-21 prizes.  Wouldn't it be funny if one of us won the saw?

Checking the time, we knew Kyla was in the air, and went outside to get a good spot to watch the landing.  A figure was spray-painted on the ground in orange, and firefighters were hosing down the area around it.  I wasn't sure why until the copter landed, and then it became VERY clear.

We got excited, seeing the red helicopter coming in, and then watched it circle around.  The pilot was observing the area to make sure that it was safe to land, and he radioed down to ask the firefighters to ask some people across the road to move.


Then he began his descent to land ...


As the copter descended, wood chips and bits of grass started flying out from the spray-painted target.  THAT was why they'd hosed down the area - to help keep a serious debris storm from happening.  As the copter was circling, we had noticed that the doors were open, and they stayed open as they landed...


We remembered Kyla telling us that one of her jobs was to look back and let the pilot know when the wheel was on the ground.  We didn't realize until this moment that that meant she had the DOOR open to do so!  No wonder it was such a challenge!

Finally, it was on the ground, and we had a chance to go say hi and take a closer look at the copter.


Mandi has the up close and personal shots.  I was too busy looking and talking to take pictures.

We visited for a while and looked at some of the equipment, then, after determining that the Boot Barn was closed until 11:00 am, Becca and I headed over to Windsor to meet daughter Jessica and her friend Erica at the farmers market.  We always have such a good time there.  Though I only bought a few onions, it was just as fun, if not more so, to see what Jessica was finding.  She came prepared for her weekly grocery shopping, and also found some great plants and bulbs.  Erica's bouquet of sweet peas smelled as sweet as their name, and we had a great time visiting and walking through the market.

After we'd made the circuit, Becca and I headed down to Santa Rosa's Boot Barn to find me some new cowgirl boots.  Remember that Breezy ate half of one of my boots about a month ago?  My girls are the best, and they gave me a gift certificate to Boot Barn to find a replacement pair for Mother's Day.  This was the day to go take a look.  I think I tried on 10 pairs trying to find the right one, and finally saw one that fit the budget AND my tastes AND my feet.  Even though this means breaking in another pair of boots (my old ones had been as comfy as house slippers), I am tickled to have these.  It is so worth it!


I was going to re-post the picture of the half-eaten boot, but it's just too heartbreaking to see again.  I'll focus on these pretty and durable things.  Notice that I photographed them over Breezy's outdoor crate.  NO TOUCHY!

I was really tired at the end of this running and walking around.  I took a little bit of time to rest and then got busy again.  We put the chicks outside again next to the Americaunas to continue their get-to-know-you routine.  It was nice to have Becca's help.  I had hoped they would be able to integrate after just one more day, but it was pretty clear that Persephone and Chilly, of all birds, (named because she's so "chill" when you hold her) were not getting along through the wire.  We'll have to see how this plays out.

We had used the Sonoma Chicken Salad all up by now, and I really wanted MORE, so I decided to make another batch that afternoon.  That meant turning on the oven to cook the chicken and toast the pecans.  The house got a LOT hotter than it would have, but it was really worth it.  I increased the pecans to one cup from the 3/4 in the recipe and ... yeah, yum, just right.  I thought about adding some freshly chopped onions, but I really like the flavors in this as is, so I'm gonna leave it alone.

I stepped outside later and I noticed that the light looked ... funny.  I can't even describe it, but you can just tell when something is off.  I looked at the time and realized it was 5:40, and the eclipse was beginning!  We gathered cameras and tripod and headed out back to take a look at the show.  I was really disappointed that my camera didn't have enough freedom to really set it to get some good pictures of the eclipse itself.  I guess that's what happens when you leave your eclipse photography research to the time of the eclipse.

I did get some pretty cool pictures of the crescent light filtering through the leaves ...


 And a few fun shots.  These weren't what I was looking for, but turned out pretty.





After the eclipse excitement was over, it was time to feed, move and milk the goats.  Becca went in to the pen with the dwarf goats while I was tending to the adult chickens, and asked me if I knew Luna had lost her horn.  I said, "NO!  Is she okay?"  She was.  Even though all the goats were disbudded so they wouldn't grow horns, Luna had a partial horn that had grown out and curved over her right eye.  It was close to the skin but not pressing into her face, so I had let it be until I had a chance to consult with a vet about whether it would be okay to leave or if we should remove it.  Apparently she had done something - rubbed, fought with her brother - to knock it off.  The scary thing about goats losing horns is that there is an artery that runs through them and they can bleed out if they break.  Thankfully, the blood supply to Luna's horn was as deformed as the horn itself, and although there appeared to have been some minor bleeding, it was nothing serious.  Becca located the horn in the pen...


And Luna looks much prettier without it!


Luna is going to have to learn to live without her little weapon.  It used to be that if we would lead her by holding onto her collar, she would tip her head back to dig the horn into your fingers in an effort to get you to let go.  It was funny how she kept trying to do that to Becca last night, and it just didn't work ...

Here's to a great week ahead.  Finals week for Bex,and then summer vacation.  Hurrah!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odds and Ends and Escape Attempts - Both Caprine and Fowl

Thursday flew by, mostly consumed with doing work on a typing job I have at home. (Hurrah!)  I don't think that anything really unique happened at all, except I was happy to learn that Phillip Phillips will be in the American Idol finale.  I know, I live a really exciting life, eh?

The last time I made cucumber melon soap, the imprint stamp in the bottom slipped, so the pattern was off and they were unsuitable for sale.  I melted and remolded the soaps on Friday morning and plan to get some good photos taken (now that I have a tripod) and get those listed at etsy.com.  Typing again Friday morning.  I really enjoy this job and wish I had more of this type of work.  I have some plans to see if I can expand it over the summer.

We got home late on Friday, so feeding the animals and moving the goats to the barn, milking, was all done after dark.  On a warm summer night it's not too bad, and definitely better than rain.  I am grateful to have a good cover over us for milking, and the time was spent pleasantly ... until just about the time Imbri was done eating her grain.  I started to hear the yipping and squeals of coyote pups.  There's something that's really indescribable about the sound of them.  They sound cute, because it's obvious they are trying to be "big," and are learning a craft, but some of the sounds they make are spine-tingling.  Then, the adults joined in.  Typically I can hear one or two groups, but that night I was surrounded.  The coyotes were far away, probably not even on our land, but there were at least five distinguishable areas, and they were all around me.  Their voices soared and the pups went silent, and then after a couple of verses, joined in the chorus.  It's magical and frightening at the same time.  There's a primal instinct that tells you to get the critters and yourself indoors.  My friend, Tammy, described her reaction at hearing these at her old home - and my reaction - perfectly.  "Smiling with goosebumps."

Saturday morning was bright and sunny, with no trace of the fog that had haunted the last few days.  It was still cool as I started the morning routine, but nice and clear, and I smiled really big when I saw the barn door.  Salsa was ready to get out, and had turned the handle open.  There is a lock on the door, but I don't lock animals into a building, in case someone needs to get them out in an emergency.  This is why my dad built a bar to go across the outside of the door.  Often as I move it into place at night, I hear in my mind, "Katie, bar the door," and feel like a pioneer woman.  I decided to see if I could record Salsa playing her game with the door, and it worked.  I had Becca look at this video later in the day, and she laughed out loud, saying that it was funny and kinda creepy at the same time.  Maybe you'll enjoy it, too.


video


She's a smart goat!  While I was turning off the recording on my phone, she opened the handle again and suddenly slammed into the door.  She's done this before, and the screws on one side of the piece securing the bar come slightly loose and I have to slam it back in. 

Zeus and Persephone have been outside for a couple of weeks now and are settling into their little chicken area nicely.  Although Imbri used to answer Zeus when he crowed, I never noticed Foghorn taking any notice of him, until Saturday morning.  I was working at the computer when I realized that they were answering each other, Zeus crowing, and then Foggy.  That was fun to hear.  Zeus is getting more confident in himself and is really starting to sound like a rooster, instead of a frog trying to croak out a crow.

The plan was to bring the four youngest chicks outside and introduce them to Americaunas.  Becca went on a hike with her sisters and their husbands, so it was me all alone when it came time to make that decision.  I kept putting off doing it, because I knew it was going to be a challenge, moving the box out to the run and physically getting four chickens into a new area.  Suddenly, I heard a huge commotion coming from the room they are in, and - as always - I was afraid one of the many predators in our house had found a way in.  It was Traz doing her normal routine, trying to escape, and getting close.  She has learned that if she flies up really hard and fast, she can dislodge the clothespins holding a section of the netting, and get out.  I decided that it was time to go ahead and put them outdoors, NOW.

It's a large, square box they are in, difficult to handle.  I dragged it at first, and then decided to go ahead and pick it up.  I was afraid of them trying the escape routine into my face while I carried the box, but the movement had them staying close to the bottom and cautious.  Picking them up and putting them into the small run was easier than transferring the food and water.  I got everyone in and secured the bird netting over the top opening, confident they'd be happy enough outside to not try to escape.

I underestimated Traz.  More on that later.

Zeus and Persephone were fascinated by their new neighbors.  They might recognized their chirps, because though they never saw each other, they probably talked like prison inmates through the walls.  Zeus paced back and forth, looking up and down, trying to find a way to get in to see these new chicks in the neighborhood. 



They seemed to all be doing fine, so I went back into the house to work, leaving a door open so I could hear any problems, and doing an occasional head count.  I heard a commotion outside and again leaped up to see what was going on.  I stepped outside and saw ... Traz, out of the pen and perched happily on a bar on the top.  She was comfy, just sitting there, looking at the other chickens as if to say, "Hey, what's taking you so long?  It's nice up here!"  I slowly approached, hoping she wouldn't move, and she didn't.  She stayed still and I picked her up and gently placed her back inside.  Then I put a piece of plywood over the opening.  They stayed put the rest of the day.

I would have taken a picture if I hadn't been so concerned about getting her back in quickly.

The rest of the day was uneventful.  I was able to move the chicks back indoors for the night (they need to be introduced slowly so there's no crazy chicken gang fighting when the new kids move in) and the only sound that night was the beautiful voices of people singing at the retreat center next door.  What a great way to end a great day.

A note on the Sonoma Chicken Salad.  I forgot to mention that I didn't use the poppy seeds in the recipe, and it was just fine.  In fact, I think better, because I'm not a big fan of poppy seeds. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Unicorn on the Ranch

Monday this week was a pretty routine day.  I made more hot chocolate mix for the morning mochas, and started another batch of vanilla extract.

I haven't mentioned vanilla extract yet, have I?  It is ridiculously easy, though it takes a long time.  As in three months.  I started the first batch in April and it should be ready on the 4th of July.  Monday's batch will be ready on my birthday.  Happy coincidences!  I decided that the hot chocolate and extract combo would be good gifts.

To make vanilla extract, you take 9 plump vanilla beans, split them and scrape the seeds out.  Put the seeds and pods into a jar and add 1 1/2 cups of vodka.  The cheap kind is fine.  After three months, strain through a fine metal sieve and put into dark-colored jars.  I discovered that vanilla beans can be found ridiculously cheap online.  Spicy World sells 1/2 pound for just under $25.  That's about 30 beans for what it would cost me at Safeway currently to buy four, FOUR beans.  These mail ordered beans came vacuum sealed and were fat and so fragrant I could smell them through the packaging.  I didn't know that vanilla beans didn't normally come shriveled up, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Monday evening, Becca shooed the Americaunas into their coop for the night, and then asked me to hold the lid open so that she could hold Persephone.  She hesitated to pick Percy up, because Becca was concerned about Zeus going after her.  What is funny is that Bex used to hold Zeus all the time (when he was Athena), because Percy was more active and - in the beginning - aggressive.  She hesitated for so long that Percy decided she didn't want to wait any longer.  Before we could react, she jumped out of the coop and flew into Becca's face, then landed on the ground.  She then started walking away as we started to panic.  The last thing we needed was to have a loose chicken at night time!  After just two attempts, Becca was able to pick her up, and I was thankful that she didn't panic and start running away from us.  I would hate to have to chase a chicken at dusk.  After a little bit of cuddling, Becca put Percy back into the coop for the night.  Silly chickens.

We found out on Tuesday that Becca received an A+ on her art final, which she had been stressing over and had stayed up until 1am last week to finish.  Hurrah!

I decided to try making granola bars on Tuesday.  It was another cold, foggy and chilly morning, and the sun didn't break through until 11:00 am.  That makes a perfect morning for cranking up the oven.  I love the granola in the recipe I'd found in Make the Bread, Not the Butter but wanted to make it into bars.  I found a recipe for granola bars that differed slightly in ingredients, so I decided to try combining the two of them.  After toasting the dry ingredients, I heated and then mixed in the "glue", then laid the mixture into a baking dish lined with greased wax paper, pressing it down hard.  It took a few hours to cool enough to cut.  I learned that the recipe (as I modified it) is a bit too sweet for me, and I need to press the granola mixture in HARDer, but they taste good and mostly stick together.  I substituted maple syrup for the honey and think that was a mistake (I just love maple syrup, though!).  When I have a trial run that makes this recipe work well, I'll post it to the blog so you can try it.  The kids (and teachers) love the granola, but unless you're using it as cereal or in yogurt, it's easiest in a brick for snacking.

As I was walking with the dwarf goats to the barn that evening, I was admiring Moonshine's (we call him Mooney) little cowlick in the center of his forehead.  It curves forward like the flag on a quail's head, and I sometimes call him "Alfalfa," after the character in Little Rascals.  As I was looking at him, I noticed a grey area behind the cowlick, and wondered if he'd gotten something on his head.  I reached down to move his fur and discovered that he was growing a horn!  In the center of his head!  As a kid, he had been disbudded (meaning the growth areas for horns were cauterized to prevent them from growing for his safety as a pet animal), and this horn was growing right in between those two areas.  I have a unicorn goat.


The horn is curving back a little, so I doubt it will grow straight forward like the mythological beast, but it is still fascinating.  I don't know yet how or why this could have happened.

Wednesday morning was again sooooo cold and overcast!  The sun is lazy these days and didn't show up until 11:00 am again.  I like to wait until it's sunny to go out and start the sprinklers and do some weeding.  Early in the morning, I kept busy by making some cajeta and starting a new chicken salad recipe.

If any of you have had Pacific Market's Sonoma Chicken Salad, you know that it's something special.  I had a craving for it the night before, and decided to look and see if there was a recipe available that was anywhere close.  I could probably have asked my friend, Tammy, who used to work at Fiesta Market in Sebastopol (before they were bought by Pacific), but I figured I'd try online for something that wouldn't generate 20 pounds or so of salad.

Of all places, Whole Foods Market has a recipe for what I call - and they do, too - Sonoma Chicken Salad.  As I made the dressing, I thought that it tasted just a little different, somewhat sweeter, than Fiesta and Pacific Markets' version. The steps to create this recipe were super easy, and I'd never cooked chicken this way before.  It was easy, quick clean-up, and left the chicken moist, tender and tasty.  I really like this salad (I hate to admit better than Pacific or Fiesta's versions!), so it's definitely going to go into my family cookbook!  The recipe says it makes six servings, but I'm finding it is going a lot further than that.


Sonoma Chicken Salad
Whole Foods Recipe
Serves 6

Ingredients

Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
5 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 cups red seedless grapes
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

Method

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to dress the salad. This can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the chicken breasts in one layer in a baking dish with 1/2 cup water. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes until completely cooked through. Remove cooked chicken breasts from pan, cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate.

When the chicken is cold, dice into bite-size chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in pecans, grapes, celery and dressing.

Nutrition

Per serving: 610 calories (390 from fat), 43g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 100mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium, 17g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 13g sugar), 33g protein

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend

Woo-hoo!  I woke up excited Saturday morning for our venture out to Sebastopol.  This isn't going to sound like a big deal to some, but I don't really get out for fun often, and this trip is right up my alley.

Redwood Hills Farm is a local goat dairy that produces amazing cheese.  Our LaMancha goat, Lily, is out of one of their sires, and they have a well-deserved reputation for excellent animals.  In addition, they were the first dairy in California to be certified humane - not something they even had to work at; it comes naturally.  I had heard earlier this year that they have added a camel and are experimenting with kefir and what other things can be made from camel's milk.  They were having an open house this weekend, and I was super excited to be able to go to the farm for the first time!  We invited Sophie to join us, and left early to pick her up and head out into the Sebastopol countryside, taking back roads through Forestville.

As the road narrowed to one lane, I was beginning to wonder if we were in the right place.  There were also no other vehicles on the road.  Had we stumbled onto a private drive?  Then, rounding a corner we saw cars coming from the other direction turning at signs directing us to parking at the farm.  Hurrah!  We'd made it.

We got out among the chickens wandering about and headed over to the barnyard.  The first thing we saw were the kids.  I immediately regretted not having bred Lily this year, because there's just something so RIGHT about having goat kids around in the springtime.






We had a great time hanging out in the kid pens, where the babies wanted lots of attention and petting - which we were happy to provide!




We also saw the nests of what I think might be barn swallows.  Whatever they are, I'd much prefer to have these under my eaves than the yellowjackets!



We sampled cheese, and bought some, along with some delicious kefir.  After wandering through the milk barns and looking at packets of a lotion-making kit, I finally asked someone about the ... camel.  Much to my chagrin, she said that she hadn't seen one, except on Facebook.  Suddenly I realized that it might have been posted on April 1st.  I checked when I got home, and sure enough, I got duped!  Boy, do I feel foolish!  I am usually very aware of the potential for these things on that day, but I guess it made sense (milk/dairy products) AND I didn't expect it from Redwood Hills Farm!  They fooled me; so sorry, no camel pictures today!

Sophie surprised me with a rose plant as a Mother's Day gift, and we picked up a begonia seedling from Redwood Hills, so I have a couple more enjoyable things to plant.  Becca and I relaxed for the rest of the day, and fell asleep on the couches while watching television,.  Lots of fun, sun and fresh air makes us tired!

Mother's day dawned cold and overcast, surprising me with its chill.  After chores, I was working in the kitchen when I heard Zeus start crowing.  Then I heard Imbri reply.  They were doing it again!  I went out to video the goats in the hope that I could catch the conversation.

video

You'll hear Zeus crow twice within the first 30 seconds of this short video, with Imbri, the mama goat, responding.  The rest of the video was waiting in vain for them to do it again, but you can see Imbri moving in Zeus' direction, waiting for him.  It's so fun to watch and hear this interaction.

When we left the house, we surprised a mama turkey and her babies on the driveway.  We stopped and I allowed Becca to see if she could catch one.  I should know better.  I told her once that if she could catch a lizard she could keep it, not believing she'd be able to do so, but she did.  Here's a picture of the cute little turkey chick (are they called chicks?).


Isn't it just adorable?!  She quickly returned it, and then ran because Mama Turkey came running at her with wings spread and flapping!

Bex and I met up with her older sisters for some coffee and a walk through the farmers market.  We had a great time "window" shopping and wishing we had more cash with us.  It's always such a great way to start a Sunday.  We then car pooled down to my parents' home to spend more time with family and honor my mom.  We had a wonderful visit and headed home so we were back just before dark.  Perfect timing. 

Overall, it was a great weekend and a special Mother's Day.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful children in my life.  They teach me so much, and help me lighten up and laugh in the process.  What great human beings they are.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Little Time in the Kitchen and, Of Course, the Garden

I am so pleased with the way the garden is going.  And growing.  I love walking out early in the morning to start the sprinklers, pluck a couple weeds, and see the progress - often overnight - of these green things growing to nourish us.  I finally planted seeds for the arugula and romaine lettuce, as well as some more radishes, in the small bed behind the house.


After our visit to Maricella's where I renewed a craving for horchata, I have wanted to make tomatillo salsa again, because Maricella had a fabulous salsa verde at her party that I had a hard time staying away from.  Friday morning, I pulled out my trusty personal cookbook and decided to make tomatillo salsa.  I'd remembered the day before to pick up some tomatillos from they store.  We grew these in Sebastopol, and had some here in Healdsburg last year and the year before, but they are all volunteer plants and I am not sure if or where they will show up.  I really should get some planted instead of looking for the volunteers, because I love these little green gems.

The recipe is ridiculously easy.  Husk the tomatillos and put them in a pot with water to cover.  Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.  The tomatillos smell so sweet as you put them into the blender with some onion, cilantro and serrano chiles and a bit of salt.  I added black pepper and garlic to my version today.  I neglected to remove the seeds from the chiles, so it's a bit warmer than I'd like, but it isn't bad.  You might want to seed your chiles the first time you make this and see what the heat is like.  I love the flavor of serranos, but they are hotter than jalapenos.

The recipe is below.  I don't remember the source and didn't write it down in my cookbook.  We started making this at the Sebastopol house between 2001 and 2003.  It's not Maricella's salsa so I need to keep hunting for a similar recipe, but it's fresh and spicy.  A great way to celebrate any time of year that you can find tomatillos.

As an update on the homemade BBQ sauce experiment, I discovered that the sauce tasted fabulous in the chicken recipe, but it did require more time to cook down so it wasn't so thin.  It looks like there are more experiments in BBQ sauce in my future.  I am looking forward to trying my mom's recipe.

I dozed off while still unknitting the shawl, and after dinner fell asleep on the couch again for a couple hours.  Becca and I had been up until 1am the previous night which she finished her art final project.  It felt good to get caught up on sleep a little bit. The downside to that was that I was wide awake until almost midnight!

Tomatillo Salsa

8 oz. tomatillos, husked
2 serrano chiles, quartered lengthwise and roughly chopped
1/2 white (or yellow or red - whatever you like) onion, chopped
5 cilantro sprigs (or more!)
Salt

Put the tomatillos in a saucepan with water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.  Drain.

Puree in a blender with the chiles, onion, cilantro and approximately 1/4 teaspoon salt.  If desired, add garlic or other spices.

This recipe can easily be doubled and still be accommodated by most standard blenders.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Something a Little More Personal

I blog about what's on my mind, what's going on in my life, projects, ideas, information that comes my way.  It's not often that I get introspective and want to write about it, but when I do, I think that's my favorite part of blogging.  There's more to me than children, a milk pail, garden dirt, animals, soap, and various projects..  My mind is constantly moving, thinking, planning, worrying, contemplating, and rarely meditating.

There are people in my life that come to mind more often than they might think.  Sometimes it's because something comes up that reminds me of them.  Sometimes it's because there's a mystery surrounding them that I've never quite figured out.  There's one person who is close to my heart in memory, and who also holds a bit of a mystery.  Even though we've come back into each others' lives on and off, here and there, I've never found the courage or the right time to ask.  Is there ever a right time for this discussion?  Would it totally screw things up?  One of the things I worry most about is that asking the question will change or hurt the friendship, and I don't want to lose it.  (He might not even remember!)

My memories are bits and pieces.  The smell of a cool floral shop on a hot summer's day.  Music.  His mom.  A party.  Then there are those that are more tangible, because little do we know the questions that we might leave behind in writing.

You remember writing in your friends' yearbooks at the end of the school year, right?  Do you remember any of what you wrote?  Do you ever think about how those words might be read, and perhaps re-read many years later?  How they are treasured or puzzled over? 

It was an odd friendship in a way.  I thought him dear and sweet, cute, talented, intelligent, and fun to be with.  I was shy in interpersonal relationships, and truth be told I was a bit intimidated.  I wasn't one to "rock the boat."  Two songs seemed to be a soundtrack that wove between us, just adding to the puzzle.  Teenagers let things go unsaid and don't learn to have their voice until much later in life.  We probably thought we were talking to each other, but we didn't know the difference between talking and communicating.

He wrote something really sweet in two yearbooks, and in "real life" I wouldn't have known.  I never asked him about it.  I've worried that I wrote something stupid in his yearbook.  That I didn't follow my instincts the way that he followed his.  We were both just figuring things out as we went along during those high school days.  Did I hurt him with what I might have written, or not?  Did I ever hurt him, unintentionally?  That would be horrible if I had.

One thing I've learned as I've grown older, and hopefully wiser, is that we leave footprints on hearts as we make our way through life.  I try to tread lightly.  Every interaction we have with another human being, no matter how insignificant it might seem to us, can reverberate for a lifetime for them.  Most of the time, we never know.  I want to strew fairy dust and rainbows, warm hugs and kindness along my path, not fear, pain or destruction.  I've "put up my dukes" rarely, but still too often in my life.  I wish I'd known then what I know now.

All I know is that I've been blessed to be reconnected with my friend from time to time over the years.  I am inspired by him, and encouraged.  Maybe by some chance he might stumble across this blog and recognize himself.  If he does and wanted to know what those words were, I could easily put my hands on them.

I honestly love you, my friend.  You know who you are.  Keep on living your dream, no matter how far away, and know that because of you, I can easily conjure a smile, a memory, a warm heart.  Bless you.

Busy Yet Blah Week and an Experiment in the Kitchen

At about 9:30 am Monday, I started thinking that if only the temperature outside stayed the same all day as it is in the morning, it would be a perfect day.  The day started cool and clear and comfortable, so at 8:00 am I was out in the small garden patch behind the house to do some weeding.  I had expected to plant herbs, but by 9:30, it was already uncomfortably hot.  I had gotten the weeds cleared, so Tuesday morning I can begin planting.  I am close to the finish line on the shawl, so the cool indoors was a good place to be and sit for a while so I could cool off.  I'd sent the remaining horchata with Becca to school, so iced tea would have to do.  It was too hot to finish the morning coffee.

After working on the knitted shawl for a time, I noticed something wrong.  Looking closer, I could see that about 15 rows down, somehow I'd dropped about eight stitches.  All I can think is that one of the dogs must have moved the needles when I set it down, and I hadn't noticed the missing stitches when I picked it up.  What a pain.  I secured the loose stitches, and now am going through the tedious and disheartening process of "un-knitting" so I can pick them up and finish it properly.  There are approximately 1,000 stitches in each row, so this is going to take A Long Time.  After being so excited to be in the home stretch of this pattern, this is a tough lesson to learn.

Tuesday morning, I was able to get some added soil into the small garden plot, and planted aloe, culinary sage, and chives.  Again, by 9:15 or so, it was too hot to continue to work, so I'll sow lettuce and arugula when it's cooler.

I did some more in-depth research on planting the loofah starts and realized that I need to think about plants before deciding to grow them.  These will grow in vines that need a strong trellis to hold the gourds.  This will take more planning before I can transplant them.

Did you know that you can grow loofah sponges?  I'd always assumed that they were something from the sea until last year, when I read an article in a magazine about growing them.  The sponges are actually from the inside of a dried gourd.  Since I am making soap, this is a perfect accompaniment to that endeavor.

Tuesday evening was Becca's night to meet with her sister for some algebra tutoring.  She still has a lot of projects to complete before the end of the school year, and Tuesday night was a rough one for her.  I was really happy that she was able to take a break and get a breather by going on an evening hike with her sister and brother-in-law.  It was still a late night, after 11:00 pm, before we could get some sleep.

Wednesday morning was another bright, beautiful start to the day.  The cows were resting in the field across the drive from our garden.  I don't know why, but I really enjoy seeing the cows from the neighboring dairy when they come over to graze down our tall grass.  There's something peaceful and relaxing about being around dairy cattle.  I guess that would be different if I had to milk and feed and move all 50 of those...  I'm content just to hang out near them.  What's funny is that of it's so quiet at night that I can hear them chewing from across the driveway.

The small garden plot is coming along, and the wild ginger is growing rapidly.  I love it when plants show me that they're enthusiastic about growing!  I spent most of Wednesday morning painfully pulling images and maps from the internet using dial-up, so Becca could hit the ground running when she came home after school.  There is a huge art project (the final) due this week, and the poor girl cries every day from the stress of all that she has to do.

Thursday was barn cleaning, and though I admit that I slacked off on the daily cleaning after the crazy three-day clearing of a huge mess, it wasn't too bad and did renew my desire to do a quick sweep every day.  Now that I'm heading out to the nearby garden each morning, that's easier to do.

If you have made it this far in this blog post, congratulations.  I have been adding on to what would normally be a daily post and stretching this through the week, because there's really not been much to "write home about."  I've felt blah, and have been focused on recovering from the knitting mistake I made (a tough thing for me to do) and supporting Bex in her end-of-year struggle while things ramp up for her finals and final projects at school.  I've got a little something new to talk about now, instead of what I planted in the garden.  Maybe you'll find this more interesting.

I'd worked my way through the previous batch of Amazing Pulled BBQ Chicken and wanted to make some more.  This stuff makes a good and quick lunch sandwich, even cold.

I'd gotten the chicken seasoned and in the pot and realized that I didn't have enough BBQ sauce for the recipe.  Determined to forge ahead, I remembered that I'd recently seen an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network (I'll discuss why I absolutely love this show later) where she'd made a sauce to top her meat loaf.  It looked easy.  I looked it up, and I had all the ingredients, which are pretty basic. 

I stirred the ingredients together and tasted ... and was immediately disappointed.  Why hadn't I realized that this was meat loaf sauce, therefore, it's a glorified ketchup.  It tasted like ketchup, and to my taste buds wasn't even slightly glorified.  (I also decided to learn how to make my own tomato ketchup when the garden starts churning out tomatoes.)  I took a tour through the fridge and cupboards, looking to find something that would kick this up a notch.  I thought about Worchestershire sauce, but I guess I haven't needed that in so long I forgot there wasn't any in there.  (I later discovered a bottle in what is now the "dairy fridge" that had never been moved.)  Hunting, hunting, and ... What's this?  It's a bottle of Terra Verde Farms Peach Tomato Hot Sauce that I picked up at last year's last farmers market.  I hadn't opened it yet.

I figured it was worth a try and put two tablespoons into the mixture, then tasted.  Wow, I could taste just a hint of the peachy hot sauce and wanted more, so I doubled that and ended up with a pretty decent BBQ sauce for the chicken recipe.  I'm pretty darn excited about this and wanted to share, so here's my take on Ree's meat loaf sauce, transformed into something to use with the BBQ chicken recipe.

1 1/2 cups tomato ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup Terra Verde Farms Peach Tomato Hot Sauce (from Petaluma!)
If that's not hot enough for you, add tabasco to taste

Mix, and done.

I'll let you know if it sucks or is terrific when the chicken's done cooking.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

Saturday morning, bright and sunny.  The forecast is for sunny days and temperatures in the 80s this weekend.  The first thing I needed to do, as soon as the critters were cared for, was to take a look at the carnage at the greenhouse.  There was a breeze the night before, but not strong enough or from the direction it would have taken to push the greenhouse over the way it went.  With the gate being slightly nudged open, it appeared to me that a creature had been after prey, and that prey had run into the small space between the greenhouse and solid portion of the fence.  If the predator dove in back there, it would have knocked the small, top heavy structure over.

I lifted it up and secured the bottom with stakes again, this time adding a piece of wood at the front to stabilize and level it.  Then I looked at the trays and plants dumped onto the ground.  The good news was that the three varieties of corn had stayed inside their separate containers, with their markers intact.  I can still tell the difference between blue corn, painted corn, and popcorn.  The peaches and cream variety was the only type still in the trays, and corn is easy to differentiate from the other plants for me.

The tray that had dropped previously was the worst, and the sorting I'd done previously was undone completely.  Luckily, I remembered what some of the plants looked like and was able to get some grouped into their proper categories.

Then I looked at the next tray, which had not been previously tipped over.  Amazingly, most of the plants were still securely in the tray, and I was able to carefully turn it over and insert orderly rows back inside.  It still took an incredible amount of time to get everything in place.  I had the sprinklers going while I was working in the greenhouse, and then after watering everything inside I was able to get some of the weeds down that are always growing around the raised beds.  I may see if we can just truck in the old straw from the barn as a mulch to keep down that area.  I know some farmers use barn mulch on pathways and around gardens to prevent weed growth.

On a happy note, here's a picture of the Aussie Tea Tree I planted yesterday.



And beautiful Zeus, happy to be outside:



This was opening day for the Healdsburg Farmers Market.  We got a late start, and then were later still because there was a bicycling event scheduled.  We made it 15 minutes before the market closed, and they were out of what we wanted.  There's always Windsor's market tomorrow.

And now a moment to discuss bicycling on Westside and other narrow county roads.  I understand the attraction, believe me.  If I were a bicyclist, I'd want to ride these roads.  I love living out here for a reason.  I also have a father who is an avid bicyclist and many friends who are, as well.  All of the people that I know personally are rational, safe, reasonable, and follow the rules of the road.  They truly know how to share the road.

Today I reached a boiling point.  I am on the verge of calling for a moratorium on these huge events on Westside and the other well-traveled back roads.  This road is home to hundreds of people, and about a dozen busy wineries.  It is not a back country road that has little traffic.  Today was an especially harrowing experience.



Not only was the pack mentality in full force (the photos are small packs - we didn't pull out the camera until we'd passed three groups of 10-15 riders covering the roadway) as huge groups of cyclists took over the lanes - often in both directions - but I was also behind an ambulance, who was behind a big rig with a long trailer meant to haul huge tractors.  Not long after I got onto the road and into this line, there were seven cars lined up behind me with more added all the time, all of us traveling at about 5 mph at times, and never more than 15, on a road that posts a 45 mph speed limit except for turns.  Some cyclists wisely got off the road and took a 15 second breather when they saw the big rig behind them.  Others didn't give a damn.  The guy in the huge SUV directly behind me dealt with this for about 15 minutes and then started crazily honking his horn, then sped past me and the two other vehicles (remember that one was a very long tractor/trailer), crossing the double yellow to do so, approaching a blind turn.  The big rig took massive risks going around the bikes with little visibility, as did the ambulance.  It was an insane trip into town that had me gripping the steering wheel, white-knuckled, and gritting my teeth.  There were two CHP cars at an intersection to stop traffic and allow the bikes to make a turn across the road, but no patrols of the insanity in between.



Changes need to be made before someone gets killed or seriously injured.  At the least, residents along the routes should be notified prior to events, so we can plan ahead.  Otherwise, we need a moratorium on events on this road and others like it, or start developing real bike paths alongside (have a portion of the fees for the races go to paying for them), or have CHP patrolling the route to ensure that both cyclists and motorists are being safe and obeying the laws.  We passed one guy (number 1070 - his rear-end was in front of me for a long time, off and on), who later proceeded to pass the entire line on the right again, including the big rig and other cyclists, with inches to spare on an extremely narrow stretch of road.  We ended up passing him again.  I kept hoping that the ambulance wouldn't be needed!

That's my rant on bicycling for the day.  I don't know what it will take to get people - motorists, motorcyclists, and bicyclists - to get sane and truly SHARE THE ROAD, but this annual insanity has to stop.

On a lighter note...  One of the things that we found at the market was a stand selling horchata.  For those of you who don't know what this is, it's an icy cold Mexican beverage made from rice and sweetened milk with cinnamon.  It sounds strange, but until you've tasted good horchata, you don't know what you're missing.  I'm not a big fan of the stuff.  At least I wasn't until I tried some made by Maricella, who is Becca's friend Saul's mom.  Whenever I am at their house, I consume massive amounts of horchata.  Becca got some today at the farmers market (it was close, but not nearly as good as Maricella's), and I decided to finally look up an authentic recipe and give it a try.  Horchata takes time, I discovered, so I put the rice in the blender then into a bowl, covered it with warm water, added a stick of cinnamon, and put it in the fridge.  We will be able to finish it Sunday morning and see if I've been able to duplicate Maricella's magic.

Since it was Cinco de Mayo, Bex and I broke out a simple dinner of bean burritos with homemade pico de gallo (I am so looking forward to when our garden is producing tomatoes again!)  A glass of sangria for me, and we were set.  Cheers!

Sunday morning, I waited until Becca was awake to finish making the horchata, as it required using our loud blender.  I whirled the rice and water mixture until it was as smooth as possible, then strained it through cheesecloth, then added sugar and milk.  It was done!  We tasted it, and though it is very close to Maricella's, something is slightly different.  We were really happy with it, though, and I think I'll have to figure out how to make a larger recipe to keep it on hand for the summer.  Though it won't be traditional, I may add a little vanilla to see if that brings it closer to Maricella's.  It might just be the warm and relaxing environment at her house that gives it that special flavor.  Who knows?  If you want to try making horchata yourself, the recipe can be found here, and at the bottom of this post.

The day got hot quickly, so I did what had to be done early, and then we enjoyed the afternoon with my other two daughters and their husbands at a great barbecue just south of us.  It was the perfect end to a good weekend.

Horchata
Makes about 6 cups
 Adapted from Paletas (Ten Speed) by Fany Gerson

Start off with the smaller amount of sugar and add more if you wish.  This is very sweet, even with the smaller amount.

2/3 cup white rice (long grain if you have it)
3 cups warm water
One 2-inch cinnamon stick
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
2 cups milk

Ground cinnamon, for serving (optional)

Ina blender, grind the rice so it is in fine pieces, roughly the consistency of very coarse polenta.  (If your blender won't go that fine, that's okay, and just break up the rice as much as possible.)

Transfer the rice to a bowl and pour warm water over it, and add the cinnamon stick.  Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, but preferably overnight.

Pluck out the cinnamon stick, then puree the rice and water until it is as smooth as possible.  Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth, squeezing it relatively firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Stir in the sugar and milk, mixing until the sugar is dissolved.  Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary.  Refrigerate until completely chilled.

Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

Store the horchata in the refrigerator for up to four days (if it lasts that long!).