Sometimes…

…Things don’t work out exactly as you’ve planned.
Remember this cute perky tent?  The one we were just days away from calling home?

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With a little strong wind and heavy rain, the tent now looks like this:
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Yes, we are all safe.  No, we were not in the tent.  We had just climbed into our car to safely wait out the storm, and minutes later watched the tent crumble to the ground in a swirl of wind and rain.

Which means that our move to the land is postponed for a wee bit while we figure out the best solution.  Buy a new tent?  Quickly build a roofed tent platform?  Purchase an old RV or bus in which to sleep?

One thing is for sure about building a homestead.  It is anything but boring!

Have a wonderful weekend,
Teri

A Sneak Peek

Well, here we are, back from cake land, and once again firmly rooted in the reality of building a homestead.  Unfortunately, we have been rained out of our big moving day, which was supposed to be today. We will wait at the cozy town house until things dry up enough to move heavy furniture across wet ground.  While I’ve been sharing endless photos of cakes and decadent icing, we’ve actually been hard at work creating a rustic camping situation that will be comfortable enough to live with for three or four more months, or until we finish the house.

So here is a little sneak peek of our soon-to-be home!

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The garden is really coming along.  I still have peppers, basil, and some okra and onions to plant, but the main push to build a sheet mulch garden is over, and now I’m enjoying planting, sowing, and watering. OutdoorKitchen1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian has been shaping and building a beautiful outdoor kitchen, creating level spaces with urbanite and earth moving, and using some lovely black walnut wood that we had milled up in Oregon to create counters and cook tops.OutdoorKitchen2

 

This photo is a week or two old, and shelving and running water has since been added, but you can see the sink, counter space to the left, and the cookspace to the right.  The lower level will be the “pantry.”NewSofa

Moving slightly east to the living room!  That orange sofa was a total college move-out day score!  Free on the side of the road for the taking.  At first I gave Brian a “what are you, crazy?” sort of look, but I have to admit that it is comfortable and so useful for chilling out under the blue roof of the future house.

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The Sun Oven at work!  We will have a two burner Coleman white gas stove, a rocket stove, and this Sun Oven to cook with.  I hope for lots of sunny days, as the Sun Oven is SO cool.

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Tent, sweet Tent.  Our neighbors lent us this enormous tent in which to sleep and play.  The kids have loved spending time in there with their dolls and trucks; it’s relatively tick-free, cool, and spacious.

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And maybe the most important element of our camping situation: Water.  With this rain, we now have five 50 gallon barrels of water full to the tip top (and overflowing).  The barrels we purchased from Pepsi for $10 each.  They smell like Mountain Dew.  To filter, we will be using a Berkey Water Filter.

I look forward to sharing more in-depth information about each of these elements as we move to the land and get more intimate with these systems.  I know it will be a huge adjustment, but I’m really growing more and more excited to finally live on our land.

 

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Four – The Big Day

Saturday was the Big Day.  We made our lists and checked them twice, gathered our supplies, took the cake out of the fridge Friday night, and the icing out on Saturday morning.  We loaded the cake layers, lemon curd, and icing into large coolers and headed over to the wedding site.

Despite pounding rain and thunder, everyone involved in wedding preparation was in great spirits, and we busily got to work with more than one interested onlooker.  Our first task was whipping the cold icing back into warm fluffiness with our hand mixer.  I had read that this would be no problem – just give it a little beating to restore the texture.  I readied the first layer while Brian beat, until he stopped, gave me a panicked look and said, “Something is wrong!” Our gorgeous, creamy Swiss Buttercream icing was weeping liquid. Oozing, really, and it was the texture that of runny scrambled eggs.  Not good. And of course, the radiant bride walked in at that very moment to check how things were going.  Brian literally hid the bowl and muttered, “Great!” We smiled, continued beating and hoped for the best.  After a tense five minutes, the icing returned to a smooth creamy texture, thank goodness. (A more experienced baker friend told us today that we probably broke our meringue!)

The rest of the cake assembly seemed like, well, like cake!  Layer after layer of cake was edged with icing, and the center was filled with alternating layers of jam or lemon curd.

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And stacked very, very high…

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Our two naked cakes, ready for decoration!

After the ceremony (for which the rain stopped and the sun shone!), I gathered lemon balm, lavender, violet leaves, chamomile blossoms, and roses, which were arranged on the cake like so…

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And like so…

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It’s funny how this cake almost took on a life of its own. Part of that is probably my doing. I have to admit that I got a bit obsessive about making this cake.  It just seemed so important to make the most delicious, most beautiful cake we possibly could.  And, not to brag too much, but it really was one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever tasted.  So moist, flavorful, tangy, and sweet.

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The kids agreed!

As we were preparing to leave, I went into the dining room to check if I left anything behind.  There sat the remainder of the cake – just a quarter of a tier, really – calling out to me.  I found myself a Ziploc bag, cut off a small chunk, and took it home to eat for breakfast today.  Just perfect.

If you feel inspired to make your very own Lemon Wedding Cake, here are links to the recipes we used:

Lemon Cake: From Martha Stewart Weddings  We multiplied the recipe by six for enough batter for two of the following: 8, 10, 12 and 11 inch rounds. We sifted almond meal and used it in place of 1/4 of the flour called for in the recipe.

Lemon Curd: Another Martha Stewart recipe. We made seven batches and still had plenty left over.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Martha again!  We doubled the recipe to make 10 cups.  Read the tutorial on this site if you’re planning on trying this recipe for the first time!

Simple Syrup: We brushed this on the cake sides to keep them moist.  Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil.  When the liquid cools, add 1 tsp vanilla or lemon juice.

Jam: Take your pick!  We used Blueberry, Apricot and a Blueberry-Strawberry mixture.  Divine!

 

Making a Wedding Cake: Part One – Planning

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Two – Tasting

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Three – Baking

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Three – Baking

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Three batches, 16 cups of sugar, 4 dozen eggs, and 8 lbs of butter later, the cake is baked, the icing is whipped, and the curd is in the fridge!  Perhaps the highlight of the baking experience for me was the drama of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. Quite frankly, making this icing was a bit daunting – so much whipping, so much butter at stake. But the oh-so-friendly and helpful world of cake blogging made everything work out just fine.

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Starting out with 8 sticks of butter, cold and ready to be added to the egg whites and sugar.

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First you get this lovely, marshmallow fluff consistency,

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Next, you add the pats of butter, bit by bit,

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Until the icing looks like scrambled eggs!

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And clumpier still!  But never fear. Just keep on whipping and whipping until…Icing5

Ta da! The most perfect, smooth, creamy, buttery, lightly sweet, melt in your mouth icing you will ever experience.

If, after reading this post, you have a hankering for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I highly recommend this tutorial. 

Next time: We decorate and eat!

 

Making a Wedding Cake: Part One – Planning

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Two – Tasting

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Four – The Big Day

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Two – Tasting

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Thursday night we prepared our first test cake, a Lemon Wedding Cake courtesy of Martha Stewart.  It baked up beautifully golden brown and slid right out of the 8″ round pan. Friday, I carefully sliced the cake horizontally in half, and then in a semi-circle so we could experiment with a four layer cake. On each cake layer, I edged the cake with a thin circle of swiss buttercream icing, and then filled with alternating layers of jam or lemon curd.

We asked our friends Mike and Julia to join us for a sunset cake tasting Friday night. Part of the goal of this tasting was to experiment with jam-curd flavor combinations. An informal Facebook poll hinted that lemon-blueberry might be the favored combination, but what about strawberry?  Or apricot-lavender?  So I decided to divide the cake into thirds, and spread each jam flavor on a section.  Here’s how it looked from the side:CakeTasting2

And believe me, it tasted as good as it looks.  Of course there were slight modifications necessary: for one, in our quest to accurately follow the recipe, we completely forgot the almond meal that we had decided to add for a more moist, dense cake.  I was also less than thrilled with the icing, so I’ve decided to try a different recipe.  But overall, the cake had a nice light lemony flavor that was accented by the sweet jam and the tart-sweet curd.  And as for the jam?  We’re going with a tier of each, so everyone wins!

Our plan is to bake the cake layers on Wednesday, cool, slice, and then wrap them in layers of Saran Wrap, and freeze them.  We’ll tackle an enormous batch of lemon curd on Thursday, and probably put the icing off until Friday.  Saturday, we’ll bring the cake and ingredients to the wedding, assemble on-site, and decorate with edible flowers from the bride’s garden. It will be so lovely.

Also in the works this week are the final touches on our summer accommodations.  Our tent is up and waiting for a bed, our outdoor kitchen has shelves and running water, and we are slowly moving our belongings out of this house and scrubbing it clean.  In a few short days, we’ll be living on the land, and the next stage of our adventure will begin.

I’ll leave you with a sunset view overlooking the garden.  Wishing you a wonderful week,Teri

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Making a Wedding Cake: Part One – Planning

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Three – Baking

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Four – The Big Day

Making a Wedding Cake: Part One – Planning

For the coming week, this blog’s posts may seem a bit out of the ordinary.  The tales of building, gardening, and wild-haired children are going to have to wait a week while I recount my adventures in cake baking. Not just any cake, but a three tiered wedding cake for 200 guests.
When a local friend asked us to bake her wedding cake, I’m sure our first response was utter surprise.  Brian is a maker of sourdough bread and rustic pies, while I am much more of a muffin and granola kind of gal.  But the seasoned community wedding cake bakers were otherwise engaged in wedding participation, and really, how could we say no?  Besides, wedding cakes are just big cakes plopped on top of one another, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Did you know there are entire online forums dedicated to wedding cake perfection?  I do.  Until last night, I felt pretty confident about our ability to whip up a yummy batter, bake it the night before, ice it the day of the wedding and call it done.  Oh, how utterly naive of me!  A few trips down the blog rabbit hole and I’m now planning Excel spreadsheets with proper ingredient proportions, and have a four-day cake baking schedule, and pages of notes.

Fortunately, the bride is kind, generous, and relaxed.  Her request was to have neither a plain Jane vanilla white cake, nor chocolate.  So we are going with lemon. Lemon cake filled with lemon curd, and layers of jam (made last summer by the bride), I think it will be a nice blend of sweet and tangy.

Here’s what we have planned so far:

  • A “naked” cake, topped with seasonal, edible herbs and flowers (violets and  lemonbalm are a few thoughts).  Naked cakes are not iced on the top and sides, so you see the layers of cake and filling from the side. Check out some images here.
  • Cake recipe: Martha Stewart Weddings Lemon Cake.
  • Three tiers: 8, 10, and 12 inches, plus a sheet cake.
  • Fillings: Lemon Curd (recipe from the bride) and homemade jam – Choices available to us are Apricot, Blueberry, Strawberry.
  • Icing still being debated. I tried a Swiss Buttercream recipe by Smitten Kitchen this evening, but wasn’t too thrilled by it.  I think I might go with your basic powdered sugar/butter combo.

Tonight we did our first test bake with a single 8″ round.  The cake came out perfectly golden and slid right out of the pan. The lemon curd is delicious, and only a bit clumpy – we’ll strain the yolks next time. Tomorrow, we’ll assemble the layers and sample a few flavor combos.

If you have a favorite lemon-jam flavor combo, let me know. And also, if you have a to-die-for icing recipe that is simple and will hold up to heat, PLEASE share it with me!

With cake love,
Teri

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Two – Tasting

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Three – Baking

Making a Wedding Cake: Part Four – The Big Day

My Yummiest Granola Recipe

Granola

For the past 15 years I have been on a quest to make the perfect granola.  Admittedly, some years that pursuit has looked more like roaming the shelves of the natural food store, searching for the perfect blend of nutty crunch – a granola that could stand up to milk without getting soggy.  A radical shift in my granola making occurred when I was introduced to the idea of using raw buckwheat groats in place of rolled oats. For those that have only experienced the very distinctive flavor of toasted buckwheat, raw buckwheat groats are totally different – subtle, yet hearty, substantial, but not overpowering.  Plus, buckwheat is gluten-free, low glycemic, and packed with essential amino acids and minerals.  What’s not to love about that?

This recipe has been my go-to for about two years now, and I never tire of it.  I am most definitely a protein-in-the-morning gal, so I like my granola packed with nuts and seeds.  If you prefer a less hearty granola, simply reduce the amounts of nuts and seeds.  In fact, change it up as much as you want – that’s what recipes are for!  Add dried fruit.  Replace part of the oil with some orange juice. Add different combinations of nuts or seeds.  Try it as a hot porridge. It’s all tasty.

RAW BUCKWHEAT GRANOLA  (makes approximately 4 quarts)
4 cups raw buckwheat groats

1/2 cup each:  cashews, almonds, and walnuts (or your nuts of choice), chopped
1 1/3 cup of a mix of your favorite seeds (try sesame, flax, pumpkin, sunflower)
1 cup coconut flakes
1 tbsp cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 – 1 cup honey

1) Soak buckwheat groats in water overnight.  Rinse and drain well.

2) Place buckwheat in a large bowl. Add chopped nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

3) On very low heat, melt coconut oil, almond butter, and honey, stirring until smooth, creamy and evenly mixed.  Add to the buckwheat mixture and stir well.

4) Spread granola evenly onto 2-3 cookie sheets.  Bake on the lowest possible temperature setting in your oven (mine is 170 degrees F) for a few hours, until lightly toasted. Some people prefer to use a food dehydrator to bake on an even lower temperature. Stir occasionally to ensure even baking, and remove from the oven BEFORE the buckwheat groats have hardened.  Cool completely before transferring to storage containers.

Enjoy this hearty morning treat!

*This recipe was shared on The Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, Natural Living Monday, The Backyard Farming Connection, From the Farm Blog Hop, and The Homestead Resource Guide.

Out the Front Door

There is just so much going on outside our front door right now. Red bud and apple trees bursting into bloom, outdoor kitchen areas taking shape, gardens growing bit by bit, native trees planted.  It’s almost too much to even try to capture in words, but sometimes a photo captures a moment in time so precious…

So, following in the footsteps of the many other bloggers who have pioneered the “wordless post,” I’m going to periodically share what is going on right outside my door.  Join me if you’d like: post a link to a moment you’d like to share in the comments below, or share it on my Facebook page.  Let’s all celebrate the beautiful, crazy, messy life that happens right outside our doors.

BigDat

Preparing

Making the best of a very cold, rainy day last week, Brian traveled with truck and trailer across the state line to Illinois to a large building supply warehouse.  He went with lists, measurements, and a vision, and came back with ten windows and two doors for our small cottage.

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In the building process, as in all areas of life, nothing seems to go as expected.  In our case, the building we had originally planned to be a non-insulated “Summer Shanty,” is now shaping up to be an 18 x 20 foot insulated house. This decision was born of our desire to avoid moving out of a non-insulated structure next winter to find a warm place to live. As we fell more in love with the land, we realized we just did not want to have to leave! So all four of us will live VERY cozily in this tiny house for the next few years as we build our dream timber-framed strawbale home.

As a result of this change in direction, this summer we will be camping on our land.  Brian has been busy as ever creating systems that will facilitate our comfort as we live in a tent.  A water catchment system is in place, and three 50 gallon barrels await the next heavy rain.

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A tent platform is in progress…HomesteadLife3

…and our neighbors have generously loaned us their enormous nine person tent, which we will erect tomorrow.

And so we prepare for the not-so-faraway day that we will leave this cozy, well appointed home in the “city,” and move to our rustic tent in the country.  And while I’m so excited to finally live on our land, a part of me is slightly terrified, wondering how in the world I will live with no electricity, no washing machine, no running water, no refrigerator, no internet service, and only a sporadically working cell phone.  I guess this is what chasing our dreams will look like for a few months.

* This post was shared on The Backyard Farming Connection
and The Homestead Barn Hop.

A Walk in the Woods

Spring has finally come to Northeast Missouri, and boy is it beautiful.  Excuse me if I once again wax poetic about plants, but the Redbud, Wild Plum, and the myriad forest wildflowers in bloom have me swooning on a daily basis.

The kids and I have taken to frequent forest explorations as a break from the full sun of the garden.  We bushwhack our way down steep hills with no real agenda – just discovery.  This ecosystem is so brand new to me that every day brings so many delightful surprises – just today I saw my first bluebird, and I still get all twitterpated over the bright red of the cardinal!  Our walk the other day led us into fantastic patches of bluebells and May apples…

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…Past vernal pools, and our sandy bottomed creek…

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(Everett has been on a skirt-wearing kick lately!)

…and back again through the oak-hickory forest, past trout lilies, just starting to bloom.

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