Monthly Archives: January 2010

Rain, rain, go away (at least for a couple of days)

Has it ever been rainy around here! The past two days the sun has peeked out just a bit, just to tease me, but the overcast skies always come back. Looking in the paper this morning the future only calls for more rain.
Normally I don’t complain much about rain, I really do love it. But I admit after weeks of rain, I’m ready a break of sunny days now! How about you locals? Are you ready for sun too?


Filed under Life in Sonoma

We Too, Made Homemade Butter

I know, I think I’m about the 400th blogger you’ve seen writing about making butter, but it is such a simple and amazing process, you really do have to try it. At least once. For me, attempting to make butter was not an economical decision (it’s hardly cheaper to make it yourself if you have to buy store bought cream) but it was just something I wanted to try. I wanted to watch the magical transformation of cream into butter because I’d never seen it before. How does a liquid turn into a solid, just by mixing? My dad grew up on a farm in southern Fremont and he remembers not only drinking raw milk, but joining in with his three other siblings to churn butter.

Being that I don’t have an old fashioned butter churn, but I do have my beloved KitchenAid, I gave it a shot. The key here, I think, is to let your cream come up to room temperature before you start mixing. Otherwise your poor mixer might blow a fuse from mixing SO long (as I worried mine might have done). But basically that is it. Just put on your whisk attachment, pour in the cream, turn it on and watch. I like a little salt in my butter so I did add an unmeasured amount of salt.
We’ve made whipped cream countless times, but we’ve never ventured further than that before, so I was curious. It stayed in a whipped cream like state for a good while, but soon I noticed that it was getting slightly clumpier and yellow looking.
Then I noticed a small amount of milky liquid in the bowl at which point almost immediately the whole thing separated out, yellow butter and liquid. It was quite fascinating to watch! The butter clung to the whisk, so I stopped it. Took it off and put the butter into a strainer and rinsed it with water while smooshing it around. Then I placed it into a plastic wrapped lined tupperware that was approximately the length of a standard stick of butter and refrigerated it.
I sliced it in half, lengthwise and put it into our regular butter dish. We did a taste test, my butter against Danish Creamery butter. Danish Creamery is much saltier and less creamy than my homemade version. Despite it’s good taste, I don’t know if butter making will become a regular event in our house. I suppose if I had a good source of fresh, inexpensive, raw milk here it would. But it is a great fun thing to try from time to time. And of course goes even better with marmalade.

Have you tried making butter yet? How did it go? Do you have a source for local raw milk?


Filed under In the Kitchen, Recipes

There really are things growing out there!

Although we’ve spent much of our winter so far out of the garden, believe it or not there are still things growing out there. Even I am surprised to see it all when I walk outside. But there they are growing away, slowly, but growing all the same.
This is our first year growing turnips. They are as easy to grow as beets, which they sit right next too, and are a great addition to soups and other roasted delights we make. Plus the leaves, which have a spicy mustard like taste, are great stir fried with garlic.
(beets with carrots and bok choy behind)
Celery root, or celeriac, is also new to our garden. We bought this plant from the Sonoma Garden Park plant sale back in…oh, I think September….
We have more romanesco broccoli growing too.
Earlier in fall, the chard and the chervil were sharing this raised bed in a nice neighborly way. But now it seems like despite it’s delicate looking nature the chervil is taking over and leaving no victims.

What’s growing in your winter garden?


Filed under State of the Garden

Rain & Marmalade Making

When you wake up on a Saturday morning and the outdoors look like this then you know it’s time to settle into house projects. It’s not that overcast days don’t make for good gardening days, sometimes they are the best, but we seem to be more into quiet indoor time this winter. Garlic and onions can wait for another weekend. Rainy day weekend mornings at our house are pretty slow and typically involve lots of coffee, newspaper reading, a fire, maybe some knitting, reading out-louds, and many block buildings.
While the boys and I went about our morning in the family room, Scott was busy in the kitchen making marmalade. I love marmalade. It’s my very favorite toast topper. While this is only the second time he’s made it, I have to say that this time was the best. It came out so delicious. And that is saying a lot because I’ve tried a lot of different brands out there. Homemade is obviously the winner. It’s easy too!
He peeled the zest off of about 5 or 6 oranges from our orange tree with a potato peeler and then cut them into thin strips. He cut off the rest of the pith and threw that away and cubed up the rest of the oranges, put them all into a pan with a healthy amount of sugar (varies depending on how sweet/bitter you like your marmalade). He added a cup of water and brought it to a boil.
The great thing about oranges is that, like cherry plums, they have natural pectin in them so it will thicken up by itself. After the orange/sugar/water mixture had come to a boil, he brought it down to a simmer and just let it bubble way. During this time, he noticed that the skin of the orange segments probably wouldn’t be very tasty if left in, so he pulled them all out with a spoon. In about 15 minutes, Scott put a few spoonfuls into a cup and refrigerated it to see if it had thickened up to a consistency we liked. Luckily it was, but if not he would have simmered it for longer. He tasted it to make sure it met his sweetness level (we like ours a little bitter) and then he canned three jars and left a little dish out for our morning and afternoon (and who am I kidding, late night, too) toast.
Not a half bad way to spend a rainy/overcast weekend. How was your weekend?

p.s. I left out some very important (to me at least!) gardening blogs on my list, so I’ve updated it. I’m sure I’ll think of more along the way too. Thank you so much for all of your comments and suggestions of other blogs!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Recipes

A List of the Best Gardening Blogs

It has been gray and cold and all around dreary in this Sonoma Garden lately. While I usually don’t complain about cold or overcast, after a full week or more of it, I will admit defeat and say that I wish we could have a sunny day. Something to get me inspired and geared up for the upcoming growing season. Luckily the seed catalogs have started to pour in and along with those and this list of inspiring gardening blogs, I have been feeling the gardening bug again. Below is a great list of garden/natural living blogs, some I have been reading for a long while, others are brand new to me. Some I learn tons from, others I wish the authors were my next door neighbors so we could be friends. But all are inspiring.

I encourage you to check them all out and if I’ve left out your favorite garden blog, please add it in the comments below!



Bella Madris

(not so) Urban Hennery

Kale for Sale

Down to Earth

Daphne’s Dandelions


Throwback at Trapper Creek

The Family Garden

One Green Generation

Skippy’s Vegetable Garden


Limes & Lycopene

Suburban Sharecroppers

Viggies Veggies

Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food


Flower Hill Farm

Maybelline’s Garden

Unfortunately Riana at These Days in French Life has closed her blog, but luckily you can keep up with her inspirational writing and photography on her flickr page.


Filed under what we've learned