*tap, tap*


Hum, well, there has been radio silence here while much moves through behind the scenes. This has come up before, several times, but I’ve never quite let go. It’s well past time to move on from The Spun Monkey. This home has served me well, but in order to be more true to what is happening in my life on the daily, a new home needed to be found.


I haven’t quite moved in yet, but piece-by-piece, I’m getting there. It already feels like a place I can move about in more freely, and you’ll find more there on the topics of homesteading, honoring the seasons in food and feasting, recipes, tutorials, VT life, and more. Fiber and crafting is still a huge part of my life, but my focus now is on building the Woodland Kitchen and the Lettered Rabbit (more on those projects soon, if you want to follow me over to the new digs).

I appreciate you all so very much, and hope you’ll join me over at Woodland Temple!


Come Into My Garden: 3.1

I say it every year:

This time, I’ll keep a notebook all the way through the last harvest.

I’m not going to say that right now. I’ll just begin, because even though it’s snowing today, the work has begun.


For several Springs, we’ve hesitated on a tree order. It’s a big commitment. It means that we expect to stay here a while, or that we’ll do grand things to transform this land, and may not be around when the fruits of our labor one day appear. But, we’re in this for more than just our personal rewards. Every year, we have made the tiniest of baby steps in transforming the eroding, muddy hillsides of our wee plot into what we hope will be a flourishing food forest someday. This year, it feels already as though we’ve taken a great leap.

We transplanted berries that had been suffering, and gave them more sun and some new friends to hang out with. We planted cranberries (!!!!!!) and willows in the wettest of the wetlands, and a pie cherry tree in the most perfect place ever (in ten years). Lavender, tarragon, oh and dahlias into the place where the Jerusalem artichokes were literally choking out everything else. Now, the latter have their own bed.

All this on a gorgeous sunny weekend, and tonight it will be 25 degrees.


It still felt safe to sow peas, though, if not any other seeds, and when I started to prepare the bed, the scuffle hoe caught on something. It turned out the entire bed was filled with forgotten parsnips! Our first harvest of the year! If you’re wondering how I could forget about an entire bed of parsnips, I have this to say in my defense: we had a tremendous deer problem last summer. They came through and ate all the tops from the parsnips when they were young, down to the ground, along with almost everything else in that section of the garden. I gave them up because I figured they wouldn’t be much bigger than fingers, if they had a chance to grow at all, since the tops had only barely begun to re-sprout when winter came. And now, I have a five-gallon bucket’s worth of root candy.


Oh, the sweetness of over-wintered roots! Unbelievable.

It gives me such hope for the growing season to come.

Here’s a quick and lovely thing to do with parsnips:

  1. Peel and slice whatever quantity suits your needs, and put the sliced parsnips in a wide skillet
  2. Add about a tablespoon of butter per cup of sliced parsnips, and water to cover
  3. Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, some minced swiss chard and parsley, and simmer another 5 minutes, or until your greens are wilted. If your parsnips aren’t candy-sweet, you can add a bit of honey with the water and butter, and it will caramelize to fantastic effect.
  5. Enjoy!

Oh, and there’s this:


And, when the mist departs mid-morning, the forest is aglow with red budding maples.


Mind Games

It’s hanging on by a mere thread, at this point, but my world is pretty well stuck in a drab color palette until Winter finally lets go.


Color is my work, but I’m feeling the need to push the issue. I’m going for full mind/body injection of rich color. Waking Up kind of color. I play with dye all day, but it’s not enough. I want to taste color. I want it to stain my skin and brighten my cold-dampened spirit. I want it to help me see past the icy muck, the bare trees, and the grey sky.

Oh, turmeric, you dreamboat.


Also, the annual, most precious care package of golden, California sunshine in the shape of meyer lemons arrived from the homeland, and after performing my usual First Ferment of the Year, this happened:


If you love lemon curd, I have to tell you that David Lebovitz’s recipe is absolute perfection. The lemons are the stars, rather than sugar; just tart enough to create a happy buzz on your tongue. We used our duck eggs and, yes, 12 tablespoons of butter, and a delicious dessert of some sort will become of most of it this weekend for the extended celebration of my son’s 10th birthday. There, I just wrote that out loud. TEN.


He requested salmon for his birthday dinner, and it was the perfect dish in which to stick 10 candles!


Did I mention there were TEN candles?


Anyway, there were blood oranges in the salad because: COLOR. So far, it’s a pretty decent trick I’m playing on myself. I feel rather sunshine-y from the inside out.


Deciding that flowers are in the grocery budget even though they’re not is a pretty good one to keep up my sleeve, as well.

What do you do to keep yourself from going insane when Spring is reluctant??!?

ps: Maybe finally changing my header will help, too. Bah!


Oh, so quiet…

…because this winter there was some pretty hefty, serious reevaluating going on around here. Ultimately, it results in a shift from this space into a new one, and I think you’ll like it. I’ll keep this home open for Spun Monkey-specific news, but I became less and less sure that this is the space I want to live and grow in. I’ll never stop loving fiber arts. It’s a huge part of me and is more than just a way to stop fidgeting; it’s a spiritual practice. I resolve to remain true to the main idea of my Kickstarter campaign from years ago, and continue to teach here and there throughout the year. I will offer special pieces for sale, on occasion, on a new site (goodbye Etsy). But, trying to make it into a reliable source of income made me a thousand kinds of unhappy, and there is no One Reason why. It’s just the way it is. Also, I don’t think it’s why many of you are here, anyway.


I’m hoping you want more goat pictures, and more about managing a subsistence garden and livestock while we juggle jobs outside the home, and how we create space and time for whole foods and body/soul nourishment with limited resources and a construction zone for a kitchen. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. In the new space, guests will come talk about their not-pretty realness, too. Sometimes, it is pretty, and we’ll talk about that, too.

Knitting and spinning will not disappear. It’s part of who I am. It’s also part of my day job, and somehow, I can still come home at the end of the day and let it take me relaxed places.


The new space isn’t open yet, and I’ll surely point you in that direction sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ll continue to post here until then, and will be archiving and organizing pages for recipes, tutorials, and garden posts for reference.

I’m hoping that, by the time it goes live, you’ll be seeing a picture of this thing with an actual sink in the hole:


In garden news, we’ve rearranged our sort-of kitchen so we could start some seeds. Last year, we started too early and many of our plants got too leggy before it was warm enough to put them out. It’s hard to tell what-all will happen this time around, so we’re hoping setting it back about two weeks will make for happier transplants. Until we can re-build our collapsed greenhouse, we aren’t starting our own tomatoes anymore. This leaves us brassicas and flowers, mostly, that we need to start early. Squash, corn, legumes – those will all be direct seeded asap, and onion sets will be ordered.


Are you getting started early? What’s happening in your garden?

And March, it came in…

…with bird song, duck eggs (for the first time in months), and tiny, glittering snowflakes. I didn’t even mind that last bit, because they were backlit by a rising sun.

I’ll be honest; I was starting to feel a bit like this knitting project:


Tired. Broken. And with only the potential to be a warm thing.

It’s still not warm, by any stretch, but there’s something about the way the word March sounds coming out of my mouth, and the way it feels like hope. It stokes an inner fire I thought I’d let go out.


We lost too many of our girls to bitter cold temps this winter, and will be collecting some eggs to hatch. Looking out at this thick blanket of snow, I can hardly imagine duckling feet padding around, but the thought makes me smile. With ducklings will be soil and seeds and digging and barn-raising and all the goodness of warm, bright days ahead. Bring it.

In the meantime, audio books and neon knitting are keeping me sane.


Happy March!

When life hands you clementines…


…make pulled pork.

Also, if you have a very busy week ahead, a crock pot, and a few minutes in the morning…

…make pulled pork.

It has suddenly become serious deep winter here, with an 18″ dumping of snow the other day, and lows in the double-digit negatives regularly peppering the forecast. As much as I’d like to curl up under blankets, life must go on, and it feels busier than ever lately. Dinner needs to come together quickly at the end of the day, and it needs to be warming for body and soul.

We are lucky, in southern Vermont, to have a bounty of locally raised Everything. During the years we don’t raise our own pigs, there is plenty of pasture-raised pork from small farms to choose from. The cost is not insignificant, however. A four-pound hunk of shoulder can put you out $30+, so when we don’t have a freezer full of homegrown, we tend to go much lighter in our meat consumption, and stretch it as far as we can.

I’m working on ways to cut our food budget and still eat whole, local foods, so perhaps buying a $30 piece of meat seems ludicrous, but it was the only meat I purchased for the week.

Since the last few days were insane and full of other extracurricular photo projects, I didn’t shoot pics of gorgeously plated up dinner. We were lucky to all come together at a decent hour to eat together every night. It’s a point we make, unless C is going to be particularly late (which the goats don’t really allow him to be, anyway), to be present at the evening meal. So, you know, it’s annoying when I take pictures. I’ll be refining the recipe and shooting it for an ebook soon, but here’s the rough version in the meantime, and how we stretched it for several meals for three people:

Citrus-Garlic Pulled Pork

4-pound pork shoulder
2 onions, chunked
2 carrots, chunked
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 heads garlic, crushed and chopped
rind and juice from 2 oranges (or a few clementines, if that’s what you have!)
2 1/2 tsp cumin
a sprig or two fresh rosemary if you have it, or 1 tablespoon dried
other Italian herbs, if you feel so inclined (I like a little thyme and oregano)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup broth (whatever you’ve got. Water will work here, also)

If you’re feeling fancy, and have the time, you can rub the spices, salt, pepper, and garlic all over the pork, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, and then brown the meat in fat (like bacon fat, lard, or oil), before placing into the crock pot.

I just don’t have time for that, so I throw all the ingredients except for the meat into the crock pot, swirl it around to mix it up, and then place the pork shoulder on top, and it know that it will be fabulous.

Set to low and go about your day.

Alternatively, you could put this all in a dutch oven and cook in a low-heat oven for several hours, but if you’re a busy family, I promise you that a crock pot is one of the best kitchen tool investments you can make.

Important tip! Don’t give in to the temptation to add more liquid to the pot. More juice than you can imagine will be released from the beast as it cooks, and adding extra liquid will put you at risk for boiling your pork, instead of slowly braising. Boiled pork = tough pork, and you want this to be tender and falling apart.

So, what did we do with it?

Day one: Pulled Pork Dosas

Dosa batter is a brilliant and beautiful thing. It’s an easy to make, fermented food delivery system. It’s basically a sourdough crepe made from lentils and rice, and takes about 5 minutes of active time to make a half gallon of batter that will last a couple of months in the fridge (not that we ever keep it that long). Leda Scheintaub has the perfect recipe in her book Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen. We love this book in its entirety, and if you come to the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market, she’ll sign a copy for you! She’s my local food hero.

Anyway, dosas cook quickly, and our meal came together in about 15 minutes. Pulled pork, leftover garlic-y beans from the night before, and sauerkraut went into the dosas, plus a salad, and we were pretty blissed out.

Day Two: Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Here’s what happened:
I chopped up an onion and a couple of Japanese sweet potatoes (purple skin, pale flesh…less cloyingly sweet than the orange variety, which my son won’t eat). If you’re so inclined, add a head of garlic, crushed and chopped. In my opinion, nearly every dish could use a head of garlic.

Saute this for 10 minutes or so in lard or coconut oil. Then, add the leftover pulled pork and all it’s broth-y juices. Add more broth or water, if necessary, bring to a boil, skim, and then cover and let simmer until the sweet potato is soft. Here’s where I like to add a chopped up leafy green, turn off the heat, and let it all rest for five minutes while I ask O to set the table for about the fortieth time.

Day Three: Quiche, Frittata, Shepherd’s Pie, or Pot Pie

These are my favorite ways to stretch leftover stew into a meal that doesn’t feel as much like leftovers as simply eating stew again. There wasn’t quite enough leftover for that to be an option, anyway. Frittata is the easiest option. I just spread the leftovers in the bottom of a well-buttered or oiled cast iron pan (unless there’s too much liquid, in which case, I cook off some of the liquid first, or thicken with starch), pour my usual herbed egg mixture on top, and bake the thing. Quiche is the same, but with a crust. Crusts tend to be a weekend thing for me, so during the week, the other option would be Shepherd’s Pie with whipped sweet potato for the topping and corn added to the filling.

In the case of the stew and frittata, we bring leftovers for lunches the next day. So, the $30+ hunk of meat, seeming extravagant at the time of purchase, fed three people for several meals, stretching through more than half the week.

My apologies for lack of photographic evidence.

I did say ebook, though. More on that later.