21 October 2018

Small Squares

So ladylike and hardworking.
This is the time of year comes as a blatant reminder that we'd better have things ready for winter. While the grass is still green, the frost in the morning, cooler temperatures, and less light will eventually make the pastures go dormant, which will require us to start feeding hay to the horses and cows. It's part of the seasonal changes of farm life, though I will fully admit to missing free feed for the animals on pasture. Thankfully, earlier in the year we got a bulk of our hay cut and baled into round bales for the animals. That was a huge check off the list. However, we always need small square bales to keep in the hayloft, for when we bring animals in out of severe weather or have Dolly inside for a milking.
Ready to bring home some hay.
I'd set aside our back field for a second cutting of hay and it was growing nicely, tall and thick, but sadly, we ran into the same problem we did the previous cutting. People who say they're going to come cut your hay don't always follow through. So, the grass sprouted foxtail seed heads (which in large quantities isn't good for livestock) and started drying up before anyone bothered to show up. Gah! Dependability isn't a virtue that's valued as much as it should be. We had to embrace Plan B and found someone close by who was cutting and selling decent small square bales and hooked up the trailer, making it a family event.
The weather initially looked like it was going to be warm and sunny but some looming gray clouds rolled in and getting the hay on the trailer and home before the rain made it a race against time. I drove around the field, following the line of hay bales the tractor popped out, and the kids ran ahead and grabbed a bale.
Using teamwork, they'd roll it as fast as they could over to the trailer...
...where Jack did the heavy lifting.
Once we got all the bales we could put on the trailer, we drove home as fast as we dared around the narrow, windy backroads of Indiana country and got the trailer parked in the shed with the hay still on it right before a deluge of rain poured out of the crowds. Tender mercy right there because if hay gets wet, it gets moldy and if it gets moldy, animals don't like it and it can make them sick. That would have been a huge waste of money.
Then, the next morning while driving back from taking the girls to school, we were surprised by the brakes going out in the car. While not a pleasant surprise in the least, it sure was better to have it happen when it did instead of while towing a ton of hay home, trying to beat the rain. Again, tender mercy.
When the weather finally cooled off and stopped raining and Jack wasn't away on a work trip, we opened the hayloft and dropped down the hay elevator (I love that simple yet effective machine) and within 15 minutes, had all the hay put up for winter.
Henry was more than happy to help, of course.
We drove the empty trailer around the property and picked up anything that needed to be stored for winter and parked it in its usual spot in the shed, ready for the next time we need to haul something home.
Fingers crossed we've guessed and bought the correct amount of hay!

14 October 2018

Run, Run, Run

They're all smiling now...
The high school cross country club hosted an elementary school race so kids could get a taste for competitive racing. Though it's not my girls' first race (they've done everything from the Black Hat Dash to the Color Me Green Race), it's the first run they did where I didn't participate with them and therefore, couldn't prod them along when they got tired.
Watching the boys get started.
We arrived in time to watch the boys take off...and then waited. And waited. And waited for them to finish. Let's just say kindergarten boys aren't the fastest animals on the planet.
But then it was the girls' turn! They did a few warmups with the high school girls who'd volunteered at the event and when they were all ready...
...they were off!
The course was just over a mile and it was no surprise to see Claire chugging along at the front of the pack.
A lot of her athleticism comes naturally, so even though she hadn't specifically trained for it, she was able to keep up her pace all the way to the end.
Run, run, run, as fast as you can!
Kate and Evelyn take more of a tortoise and the hare approach. They chugged along at a slower pace and always stuck together for moral support.
So, while Claire was kicking it into the finish line...
...Evelyn and Kate had downgraded to a leisurely stroll, enjoying being spritzed with water by volunteers along the way, and when they were good and ready, walked across the finish line.
Everyone (of course) got a participation ribbon and a snack when they finished and while the girls completed the race using different tactics, Jack and me--and they--were incredibly proud that they toughed it out, regardless of the outcome. Yay for finishing something challenging!
Still smiling!

13 October 2018

30-Minute Crusty Baguettes


Since it's soup season (finally it's not 90F anymore, although we went straight from air conditioning to turning on the heat...where was the gentle transition to autumn?!?), that means I make a lot of rolls, biscuits, bread, and muffins as sides. These crusty baguettes are great because they can be made last minute and still have the characteristic crunchy crust and soft, warm center. The trick is baking it with steam!

Ingredients:

2 cups very warm water
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 425F and place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together water, sugar, and yeast. Set bowl atop the preheating oven for ten minutes to allow yeast to activate. Once frothy, slowly stir in the salt and flour until a soft but not sticky dough forms. Continue kneading until elastic. Cut the dough into four even pieces and either twist two together at a time to form two larger loaves or roll out four smaller loaves. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment, a baking mat, or greased with cooking spray. You can bake immediately but if you have an extra 15 to 30 minutes to let them rise, they'll be even more delicious. When ready to bake, place the dough in the oven and dump a large cupful of ice on the hot, empty baking sheet, which will create the steam needed to give the bread its characteristic chewy crust. Immediately shut the oven and bake at least fifteen minutes without opening the door. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until bread is firm and hollow when thumped. I turned on the broiler for two minutes at the end to give the bread its golden color. Serve warm aside soup, with cheese, or to dip in olive oil and cracked pepper.
Enjoy!

11 October 2018

One Last Swim

While autumn rolled in a few weeks ago, it's felt anything but fall-like. We still had sweltering temperatures, persistent mosquitos, and sweaty, irritable livestock that were ready for the weather to take a break. Seeing that Mother Nature was finally going to cool things off, we used the last hot day to take one last swim. Everyone ate dinner in record time, got in their swimsuits, and hurried outside to bicker about who's lifejacket was whose and who got to use what pool noodle and who could swim out to the giant peacock the fastest. All in good fun, though.
Hate to tell you this, Evelyn, but I don't think you're gonna win.
Henry was the first into the water and he quickly declared, "It's cold!" No doubt! While the days have been hot, we've woken to the pond steaming in the chilly morning air. That didn't stop anyone, though.
Zoey and Henry were happy to splash at the shallow end and chuck handfuls of sand at anything that moved while the older girls swam out to the enormous pool floatie Jack's parents brought for us.
They engaged in a game of King/Queen of the peacock, which they inevitably always lose against Jack. Maybe someday, when he's a geriatric old man, they might be able to out-muscle him to win. Until then, they squeal with delight every time they're tossed into the water.
Eventually, the cold water proved to be too much. The sun was going down, and everyone crawled out with blue lips and goosebumps. After drying off, they helped store away all the water toys in the shed until next season.
...and said goodnight to the horses...
 ...then pulled out the peacock and deflated it, before putting it in storage.
I would say that between evening swims on hot summer days and visiting cousins, the pond got plenty of good use this year. While I am excited for the cooler weather and accompanying bonfires, I will miss watching the kids cool off in the deep waters of our backyard pond.
 Until next year!

01 October 2018

Nut Strudel

I never met my Great Grandma Enchelmaier but knew she was my grandma's mother, was all German, and that I inherited her really delicious nut strudel recipe. I made it for my kids for the first time this past week and it was as delicious as I remember--and what a hit with everyone!
Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup milk, warmed

Bread Machine Method
Add ingredients according to bread machine instructions (usually wet ingredients on bottom, then dry ingredients on top). Set to dough setting and run.

Traditional Method
Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar to activate yeast. Meanwhile, scald and cool milk. Mix in sugar, salt, egg, and butter. Then combine activated yeast mixture. Mix in half the flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour, and knead until dough is firm and slightly sticky, but not dry. Let rise one hour or until doubled.

Nut Mixture
8 ounces chopped or ground pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Mix and heat until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. When dough is ready, roll out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle nut mixture over the top all the way to the edges. Roll tightly (like a cinnamon roll). Pinch seams tightly and place on a greased pan in the shape of a U. Let rise again until double. Bake at 350F for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
 Enjoy!

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