Carson & Bees

If you’re still reading this… thanks for sticking with me. Now that I’m working a “real” job plus a few contract jobs, I haven’t found much time to write any personal blogs. The good news is, as Carson’s semi-official business and marketing manager, I have been writing over on his site: carsonandbees.com.

I’m not shutting My Ukiah down, but it has definitely taken a back seat for the time being. If you want to feel connected to what’s going on down here, please follow me over there!

Normally I would insert a cute picture of Carson and me here, but the last one we had taken together was months ago! I also didn’t write anything sweet to commemorate our second anniversary like I did on the first (though I think this qualifies). I’m making a mental note to have a picture taken of us, and also to remind Carson that I love the crap out of him.

Yogurt cookies and house plants

It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe – or anything, really! – and I found myself with a drizzly afternoon, a sick boyfriend on the couch, and a carton of Greek yogurt that needed to be used before I hit the road for a work trip this Sunday. I took to the internet and searched for “Greek yogurt cookies.” I whipped up a batch of both of these recipes, more or less faithfully:

I made the chocolate chip cookies without any modifications, except I only used 1 cup of chocolate chips because that’s what I had. Interestingly, this recipe doesn’t call for any fat other than the yogurt. I wondered if I would regret not greasing the (nonstick) sheet, but they came off pretty easily. The dough is very elastic and the cookies puff up into a spongy, quick bread texture. For the second round I put a tiny pat of butter under each cookie and also added some cinnamon. The butter created a slightly crispy, salty bottom but it wasn’t necessary.
With more Greek yogurt to use, I next made the brown sugar cookies. I used 1/2 cup butter and an extra 1/2 cup yogurt because 1) I wasn’t feeling up to putting two sticks of butter in a single cookie recipe and 2) I had a lot of Greek yogurt to use. These cookies were essentially the same as the first recipe; a little more biscuity and without chocolate of course (so a little on the boring side), but I’m sure they would have flattened out and crisped up (like the sugar cookie I was hoping for) if I’d used the full amount of butter.
yogurt cookies

Chocolate chip on the left, brown sugar on the right.

With more daylight and, remarkably, more energy (it’s been a long week!) I tackled another project: repotting two of my plants. One is a marble queen that Susan gave me for Christmas – which needed to be repotted way back then – and the other is a precious spider plant I’ve had since the fourth grade that hasn’t gotten a new home in years.

plant repot

Meeting for the first time for a nice, cool shower.

I bought two new big pots for them so now I have two medium-sized pots to upgrade some other plants, sort of like snails swapping shells. I also cut about 25 babies off the mama, so if anyone wants a spider plant, let me know!

Musings over a bowl of rooster chili

This time last year I started this blog with a post about rooster chili. Last night I had some serious déjà vu – Carson brought home a rooster that had started getting frisky, and I ended up following the chili recipe I used last March to a T. It’s rainy and wintry just like it was last year (a very welcome week of rain!) and it left me reflecting on what’s changed – and what’ stayed the same – in the last year.

Carson moved into our house last March, and it’s somewhat surreal to think that we’ll have been together two years in June. This time last year, I was head over heels in love with him. Today I love him even more, in deeper and more complex ways. We’ve definitely settled in; I trust him with my dirty laundry and I don’t feel like he’s going to break up with me if I throw a tantrum. I’ve finally learned what people mean when they say relationships take “work.” I always imagined it was a structured, scheduled kind of work, like having a discussion after a fight. Naive, right? Now I know it’s more of a moving target, a vague series of lessons about trust and patience and compromise. Luckily Carson doesn’t need the patience lesson as much as I do; one impatient person is enough.

This time last year I worked from home; now I go into an office 30 hours a week. It has definitely taken a toll on our domestic bliss, since last year I was cooking 90% of our meals from scratch (plus canning like crazy) and the floors were so clean we could eat off them. But I’m not working until 2 am like I was during my self-employed days, and when I get home, I’m home. I also have a reliable income, which can’t be beat, and it means we can afford to eat out when I don’t feel like cooking. I know some people will scoff at 30 hours like it’s nothing, but I came to Ukiah for a different kind of life. I have grown to hate the word “busy” – we have too much on our plates, but it’s because as a society we are so obsessed with our busy-ness. I’m trying to avoid a frenetic lifestyle, and for me 30 hours a week offers a reasonable balance between work and home. I wish more people would get on that bandwagon.

This time last year we were a two-person family; now we have our adorable dog Bee. Bee has become quite popular; sometimes people pick her up for a run, a trip to the park, or just to hang out. (It takes a village to raise a dog?) I’m working on a collage of pictures of her snuggling with all of our friends; Lauren says  she should be a therapy dog because she makes everyone feel loved.

Carson and Bee  Lauren and BeephotoSteph and Bee

There have been lots of changes, but in many ways things are the same – and I love it. Ukiah is the same quaint country town, we have great friends, the weather is idyllic (albeit drought-y), and we drink a lot of local, affordable, delectable wine. There’s part of a local cow and some chickens in our freezer, and the bees are abuzz with all the spring blossoms. And Carson and I are the same, too – in fact, we’re better. We’ve seen what’s behind our picture-perfect smiles, and we like each other even more.

Tahoe

2nd Annual Farmers Convergence

I’ve been off the grid for some time, and I have to say – it’s been nice. I let myself off the hook for writing blog posts the past few months, and although I really liked removing a layer from my complex mental stream, there were a lot of things I wish I had written about. So today I break the sabbatical to write about a special day that is also one of the anchoring events for me in this area.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to get on board as a volunteer with North Coast Opportunities – specifically, The Gardens Project – just in time to help plan a new event that was a seed in a few people’s minds: a convergence of farmers from around the North Coast. After two months of planning, the First Annual North Coast Farmers Convergence was held at Barra Winery on March 2, 2013. It was a very special day and will remain a strong early Mendocino memory for many years. Here’s an article I wrote about it.

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Last year at Barra – such a beautiful place (and the only place I buy whole cases of wine).

Our bold decision to call it a “first annual” paid off, and yesterday was the Second Annual North Coast Farmers Convergence, this time held at Ridgewood Ranch (home of Seabiscuit). This year, I was on board as a paid employee – some big news since I last posted is that I got what you might call a  “legitimate” job! After over a year of volunteering and contracting, I was hired in the first week of January to work with the Community Action team. Not being at home all day has been an interesting transition and I’m enjoying life from this altered perspective. Although my domestic and cooking projects have waned, I work with inspired people on interesting and important projects.

Back to this year’s Convergence: it was a smash. The location was perfect and turnout was exactly what we were hoping for. Everyone is so happy that it’s been raining that we called it a benediction on the day (rather than a destroyer of hair and printed materials). I was in charge of administrating the event, so for the past month I’ve been sending invites and e-mails, dealing with registration, and taking lots of calls – farmers really like to talk on the phone (vs. registering on a computer, for instance).  I had lists upon lists of variations on information – paid registrants vs invited guests vs volunteers and staff; food donors and people wanting a homestay and others needing childcare. It was a big job but as a Type A/OCD Capricorn, I was in  my element. I didn’t even have a meltdown the night before when a co-worker and I had to hand-crank 26 sheets of nametags through the industrial printer (a solution we found after an hour of fumbling with paper jams). It’s fun to reflect on how differently you respond to things at age 32 than, say, 22. Is this maturity?

In all, we were about 200 strong. The event is special because it’s ” not just another meeting” as we like to say. Everyone gets up and talks to each other, and they like it – how different from most impersonal conferences when an ice breaker is a sure way to clear people out of the room. The whole day revolves around connections and conversation, and is punctuated by really excellent food. The organizing team was a well-oiled machine, and the staff/volunteers at Ridgewood were dynamite – they were responsible for a huge part of why the day was so smooth. After the event a few of us had a drink back at our house and read the reviews, which were heart-warming and enthusiastic (with the notable exception of one tragic yet amusing outlier). “Please do it again next year!” was a common refrain, and so I’m already looking ahead to the 3rd Annual Event.

It’s so encouraging to see a group of diverse individuals across all interests and ages (though admittedly not cultures – we’re in a pretty white part of the world) come together to find out how similar we are and how much we can do for each other. I really feel blessed to have stumbled upon Mendocino, and days like yesterday remind me of that.

I didn’t take a single picture, but once they’re posted online I’ll share the link – we had a professional photographer so they should be really good this year!

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A rainbow that my friend Brook captured in Hopland (just down the road from Ukiah) a few days ago.

A new Bee in our hive

Waaay back in June, Carson and I decided to get a dog. After months of going to the pound and the Humane Society, we finally found the perfect pooch. Meet Beatrice, aka “Bee”:

Meeting Bee

She’s about 10 months old but close to fully grown at 40 lbs. She’s definitely black lab but beyond that is anyone’s guess; possibly boxer? She has short, soft hair, great teeth, and a happy-go-lucky attitude that is beyond endearing. She’s smart and eager to please. She sleeps in her kennel all night long without barking or even whining. She loves the car, and everyone is a friend (humans and dogs alike).

She also loves:

Bee persimmon

Persimmons (luckily we have the seedless kind because apparently the seeds make dogs sick)

Bee staredown

Playing (and only stares at you sadly for a few moments if you aren’t in a playful mood)

Bee lounging

Being on the couch (but she has to be invited)

nap time

Being on the couch with a friend (she will contort into any position if it means more snuggle time)

I promise I won’t be one of those people who is constantly writing about and posting pictures and videos of our dog, but she is pretty darn cute so it might slip in occasionally. If you are interested in seeing her in action, check out two of her “firsts,” both at Lake Mendocino: first time off-leash and first time in the water. (So glad she is a water dog!) The video doesn’t really show how funny she was in the water – she ran laps back and forth, back and forth in the shallow end, and didn’t want to leave when I finally pulled her out, dripping wet and grinning.

Many thanks to the Ukiah Animal Shelter for connecting us with our ideal dog, who was found “wandering on the streets.” Also thanks to whoever loved her for the first 10 months of her life (the pound guessed she was a “travelling dog” aka the pet of a homeless person). She shows no signs of trauma so we don’t think she was abused, and she also wasn’t significantly underfed or in bad shape in any way, truly a blessing for her and for us.

If you’re in the area and you haven’t already, come and meet Bee – she’ll be your best friend!

Bee-utiful

A romantic gesture

In the long list of things I never blogged about, I realized that I didn’t tell the story of the best thing Carson has ever brought home.

A few weeks ago he pulled into the driveway. I was sitting at the kitchen table looking out, but I couldn’t see the back of his truck. His face appeared in the window with the biggest, goofiest grin I’d ever seen. I smiled back and kept working. He looked disappointed. I got up to greet him as he walked in the back door. “Did you see??” he asked expectantly. “See what?” I asked. “Come look.”

I rounded the corner to the driveway and stopped dead in my tracks.  There, in the back of his truck, was something I had been seeking for MONTHS.

photo 1photo 2

It was perfect: a used upright (most of what I’d found were chest freezers),  great brand (Kenmore), and looked and smelled BRAND NEW. Even better, he got a great deal on it.

Swoon.

I was able to undo the 3D puzzle that was our existing freezer and spread out in this roomy new addition to our home. We immediately bought 25 lbs of beef from Mendocino Organics to celebrate, and since then I’ve been freezing with abandon.

I have asked for a vacuum sealer for Christmas. If 2013 was the year of canning, then 2014 will be the year of freezing.

It was the most romantic thing Carson has ever done.

The squash season (pumpkin coconut curry soup)

I’m not sad at all that the fall/winter season is upon us, not only because it’s still in the high 60s/low 70s here in Ukiah, but because we’re flooded with squash. I’ve been buying it in bulk at the farmer’s market to store in our chilly back room, where it should keep for several months. I also harvested the seven “zebra” pumpkins we managed to grow from one plant at our community plot (which was somewhat neglected this summer).

I. love. squash. It’s so simple to cut one up and throw in the roasting pan with whatever protein we’re having, especially thin-skinned varieties like Delicata, whose skin is edible and tasty. Squash is sweet and filling and healthy. It tastes good with every single spice combination I’ve ever tried. Also, it’s relatively cheap.

Yesterday I processed four 5-lb pumpkins by roasting and blending them. I also separated out all the seeds which can be time-consuming because of the pesky flesh that clings to them, but totally worth it when you’re popping the crispy end-result in your mouth.

I froze about 2 quarts of plain pumpkin to be used for pies and probably a soup down the line, and I also made 2 quarts of a truly fantastic soup, one of which we ate for dinner and the other we put in the freezer for an easy dinner down the line.

Chicken Pumpkin Curry Coconut Soup

I adapted it roughly from this recipe, but instead of chicken broth I  used the drippings and leftover gravy from a chicken I roasted on Sunday night. I also added shredded chicken from the same bird, and left out the maple syrup since I  had blended in some roasted apples as well.

If you make this, do not skip the fish sauce! I also used lemon instead of lime (our Meyer lemon tree is finally producing beautiful yellow fruit!) but honestly, you could skip it entirely. I LOVE citrus but there are enough complex flavors in this soup without it.

 

pumpkin processing

The many stages of processing: compost; raw cubed pumpkin; whole pumpkin; seeds; and the end-result cooling in a colander.

A note on roasting 

I have no idea if this is a thing that other people do because I didn’t learn it from a recipe, but pretty much any time I roast something I add water to the bottom of the pan. Here’s why:

  1. It creates a sort of “steam” effect and cooks food faster
  2. It prevents the food from sticking
  3. It prevents the food from drying out
  4. It creates more drippings or a syrup
  5. It makes clean-up a lot easier

Does anyone else do this?