Culture Crunch

Firstly, check out the sidebar…WE DID IT!

The last two days of the pledge time were crazy and just…totally amazing. I had hoped and hoped, but really was not at all sure it was going to come together…what a gift, what an astonishing gift. I can’t wait to dole out the rewards to my backers, but I also want to show my appreciation to those who sent my project well wishes instead of cash, who posted to their blogs and shared the link to my project (you know who you are)…starting in March and for the rest of year, watch this space for a monthly giveaway. I want you all to feel the love, oh yes I do. Project updates and giveaways will be posted/hosted here as well as Facebook, so check the sidebar for the shop page there and give it a “like.”

I did get caught up in the anticipation of the Kickstarter campaign and my best intentions for posting a recipe “tomorrow” fell away and turned into “next weekend.” Ahem. Better late than never, I say, so onward to get a little culture on:

I used to get a fabulous cultured granola from Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley, CA. Their granola had almonds (can’t have ’em) and was far too sweet for my taste, but I loved the idea of it and since we moved back to VT have been working on perfecting my own version. I think I finally hit it on this latest batch. Crunchy, lightly sweet, and simplified. Previous batches had too many seeds, nuts and dried fruit goings-on…it was noisy and I prefer now to make a “base” that I can add whatever extras I feel like adding on a particular morning. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like raisins.

I warn that this recipe is not exact. You’ll have to play with it a bit to discover what works for you, but here are the basics for whipping up your own Culture Crunch:

Three days before: Put one cup of unhulled sesame seeds in a quart-sized mason jar, fill with water and fit with a sprouting lid. Leave to soak overnight and then rinse and drain. Rinse/drain three or four times per day, and you should have tiny sprouts by the second or third day.

Two days before: Using a mixer, blend 1 – 1 1/2 quarts yogurt (I used homemade raw-milk yogurt) with 1 stick of softened butter, preferably cultured and salted butter. Add three quarts – 1 gallon rolled oats (I used organic thick-cut rolled oats). Set aside somewhere warm-ish and leave it alone for two days.

The big day: Mix your sprouted sesame seeds into the oat mixture. Add two cups or so shredded coconut. In a saucepan, melt at least 1/2 stick of butter, 3/4 cup or more (to taste) maple syrup and about 1 cup of nut butter (I used peanut butter this time, but cashew or almond butter are also awesome). Heat gently to melt and blend the butters and syrup. You could also use coconut oil and/or honey in this step.

Add the wet mixture to the oat mixture. Now, here’s where you can add extra seeds or spices. I’ve used sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger…this time around, all I added was a pinch of salt to keep it simple, but the possibilities are endless.

To preserve all the culture-y goodness, keep your oven below 200 degrees if you can. 150 degrees is ideal. Bake for several hours, testing every so often for crunch achievement. When the granola has cooled, you can add nuts and dried fruit, or leave it as is. I store this granola in a mason jar in the fridge and freeze the extra. It’s nutrient-dense and a little goes a long way. I love to heat it gently with a little raw milk.



In other news, Gather Here opens for business TODAY! 10am – 7pm!

Penny. She’s there waiting for you.

And now to spend some time with my new best friend. And yes, that is a pie plate in the door.

Big snowflakes, hot tea and the spinning wheel round out the necessary ingredients for a perfect day.

Next time, some introductions:

Teasel and Tweed, btw, thank you for all your support!




Snow Day 101

Welcome to my new e-course, Snow Day 101.

It’s really quite simple. Here are the main points:

  • Stay in your jammies all morning.
  • When you can’t stand it anymore, hastily dress for going out and play hard in the fresh powder, preferably while it’s still falling.
  • Be sure to laugh at yourself when you sink into the snow up to your thighs and can’t get out, even though you’re wearing snowshoes.
  • Come in when you’re famished and bake cookies. This is very nearly the most important point.

  • In fact, it would be the most important point except for this: bake these cookies. Why? Because there are more chocolate chips in this recipe than flour (I used sprouted millet and they worked up perfectly fine), you don’t need to remember to soften the butter and they bake up with a satisfyingly crisp outside with a chewy middle.
  • Oh, and this one: use an ice cream scoop to drop the dough onto the parchment. I am now converted.

  • Celebrate that we are half-way there (Spring, Spring, Spring!) with a feast and don’t forget your table manners.

I’m not sure this course needs to evolve beyond the main points, so I’ll leave it at that and hope you found some valuable information.

In other news, the fabulously crafty Molly of A Foothill Home Companion is graciously holding a giveaway for new contributors to The Spun Monkey Dyeworks and Lounge on Kickstarter. Check out her post and, when you pledge, contact Molly and you will be entered to win a sweet Mini Hearts Crochet Garland!

Let me show you how sweet these garlands are (picture stolen from Molly’s Etsy shop):

Serious sweetness.


Three-Speed Post

A little splash through a creek…

…can wash it all away. For a few precious moments on a weekend, we feel like a whole family again and we imagine our dreams are not so far away. Monday comes again and it is like a fracturing. We see so little of each other that planning the next step can only occur in the tiniest captured blips of time…a quick two-minute phone conversation during the day, a scrawled note to be read over his 5am breakfast…or if we’re lucky, like tonight, we manage a walk around the block after the Boy’s bedtime. Outside is often the only place we can be alone, breathe deeply and express ourselves freely.

Since our west coast plans collapsed and left us scrambling, we have been working only towards the vague goal of ‘getting on our feet again.’ Whereas the crystal-clear dream we had been following was totally inspirational, this vaguery is utterly numbing. We get through the week and spend the weekend trying to recover enough to have a productive sharing of ideas, a sparking of hope to make it feel worth it to press on. Perhaps I sound overly dramatic, but the last year and half has been a bumpy, bruising ride and I have thought often of just giving up entirely. Why not just find a place to live in the city and try to forget about farming, forget about dark skies in the night, forget about real quiet and the sweet smell of goats and hay, the freshness of the earth waking up after the deep sleep of winter. Why not just continue to wish every week away so I can get to the weekend while my son grows up and his recollections of our rural life get fuzzy and fade. Well, I can’t. I just really can’t let it all go. Maybe things didn’t work out the way we thought they would when we got to Vermont the first time, but the dream has not changed. C and I agree on this point. We have now a common goal in mind, a project to pursue…for now I will leave it at that, but it is comforting to know we are once again on the same page instead of each blindly flailing about.

I’m a little envious of Pete…always serene and just goin’ along for the ride:


Shifting gears, my mom brought by a violin cookie cutter for the Boy and so we had to make another batch of cream biscuits.

Ridiculous. She’s pretty darn good at finding the perfect little giftie.

And because this is a three-speed post, I will address one more topic. What the hell happened to the fiber on my blog? Where are all the yarn pictures?

I’ve been spinning. I have. It’s just all been for shows and what-not with deadlines and so no time for photographing. I have seen pics around of some goodies that I neglected to photograph before sending to MDSW, which is awesome. My little shop is a bit sad at the moment, but I will be sure to inundate you all with updates after Maker Faire. New products and improved versions of the old. And and and, a whole slew of spinning workshops coming to Urban Fauna Studio starting in June.

C is taking three whole days off in two weeks…I will be a felting machine.

Happy Tuesday.

Making and Baking

C was home today…

So there was a lot of this:

And a little of this:

I came upon this recipe when I was looking for something else, of course, and whipped it up with the following adaptations: coconut amazake, cherries instead of peaches, flax instead of chia seeds. Test kitchen ratings are as follows:

Me: 3 out of 5 stars (gritty, crumbly, unremarkable flavor) eta: The texture was very much improved after sitting out until afternoon tea…no more crumbling…am going to try again without substituting flax…yes, I am obsessed with finding the perfect G-F baked good texture.

C: 4 out of 5 stars

Little Guy: 8 a million out of 5 stars (he really liked them)

Later in the day, however, they were much tastier and less gritty-feeling in texture. So, I guess I kinda sorta recommend them, but not fresh out of the oven. Oh, and if I ever make these again, I’m adding xanthan gum.

Tomorrow, I bake the cake for the LG’s birthday (Friday)…we are gluten and dairy free right now, as you may know, and he has requested a heart-shaped ICE CREAM CAKE. So, since the little bugger is going to be FIVE and he’ll only get to become FIVE once, I am attempting a gluten-free dairy-free version of a freaking ice cream cake. Like he’s ever had one before. For crying out loud, I was just thumbing through a Julia Child cookbook one day and he happened to see the page with the ice cream cake recipe. Moments before that, we had agreed on a simple carrot cake. Sigh. Anyway, I’m using this coconut cake recipe (sans frosting), cutting it into three layers (she says hopefully) and filling/icing it with Coconut Bliss ice cream (chocolate and coconut) with copious amounts of toasted coconut on top. Theoretically, it should be killer, and convincingly like a ‘real’ ice cream cake.

And since this has become a food post, I will finally provide the pizza crust recipe that seems to be working for us…it is a heavily modified version of one I found on the Bob’s Red Mill site…I won’t even link to the original recipe because it doesn’t resemble it in the least.


I have my favorite G-F flour mix that I make myself (including brown rice flour, white rice flour, potato and tapioca starches)…use whatever works for you.

Combine 1 1/2 cups G-F flour mix, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup ground flaxseed, 2 tsp. xanthan gum (scratch that if it’s in your mix already) 1 tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp sea salt, 4 (or 8, if you’re me) minced garlic cloves, some oregano and basil. Add 4 tbsp. chilled butter (or vegan shortening or lard…whatever works for you) and work it in with your fingers like you’re making biscuit dough. Add about 1 cup water (or goat’s milk, if you’re me) and mix with a fork…you’ll have to use wet fingers to spread the dough onto the cookie sheet or baking stone or whathaveyou…the dough is sticky. I pre-bake at 450 degrees for 10 or 15 minutes before topping it and putting it back in the oven.

Next up…something ridiculously cute. But now…to bed.

The Results Are In!

It worked! Check out the raw silk fabric on the right…a true black!

The fiber on the left is suri alpaca…I did not soak it in the vinegar/rust mordanting bath as it would likely have damaged the fiber. I am going to keep my eyes out for an iron pot or cauldron so as not to need the vinegar in future.

The silk, however…I’m just thrilled with the results. Before we boil it down for writing ink, I’m going to try to find some raw cotton and linen fabrics to put in before the bath gets funky…

…not that it will be difficult to find more galls:

We weren’t feeling very inspired for Baking Tuesday this week…the sourdough starter is getting goooooood (C harnessed some wild yeast, so has grown his starter without store-bought. It’s very exciting), but oftentimes it’s nice to make something together that we can all of us eat. C and the Boy will bake their bread, but the other day we imagined up a Lunch Pie. Kale, potatoes, onions, eggs (I can tolerate pastured eggs every once in a while now…healing is occuring!), raw goat’s milk and cheese, pastured locally-raised bacon and a gluten-free crust. Of course, the fun was in that crust…lions and bears and stars and birds, oh my!…cookie cutters must be made of pure joy. While the pie was baking and then cooling, an entire hour was filled with pushing flour around the rolling board with the cookie cutter “graders.”

A new yarn style in the shop you will be seeing a lot more of:

Charlotte – a little bit of everything, carded up and spun using the long-draw technique. Light and fine, for your lace-y knitting pleasure.


Logs Consumed. Two Ways.

I welcome Solstice as the beginning of a New Year.

Celebrations = Baking, and holy cow, I made this:

Gingerbread cake with chestnut buttercream, topped with chocolate buttercream and merengue mushrooms. This was my first foray into baking a very traditional holiday dessert in a very traditional way. Apparently, I’d never made REAL buttercream before, as that was the most intensive (and delicious) part of the whole process…

Of course, this Log of Love was made gluten-free:

With some help from my batter-licking sous chef, Miss M:

Actually, I think that’s buttercream, and now she’s a fiend for the stuff.

So, we started with the cake…it wasn’t hard to alter the recipe, as there was only a 1/2 cup of flour and three tbsp. almond flour. As I’m sensitive to both gluten AND almonds, I used a gluten-free pastry mix for the flour and ground up pecans instead of almonds. Perfect.

For cooling, she was rolled up in a towel, so she wouldn’t crack when we rolled her up again later (yes, a cake is a she, just like a boat or a car).

She was happy in the quiet house, basking in the glow of festive tree lights. She knew she had purpose. And while she sat, contentedly reducing in temperature, it was time for us to make the buttercream.

It started with a simple syrup, boiled until it reached the hard-ball stage. We used soft, peach-colored palm sugar for this and worked out wonderfully. Then we drizzled the syrup into the eight egg whites we had whipped up:

Then we added butter, one tablespoon at a time until we’d been through the entire pound and a half. Some was scooped out and blended with chestnut puree and vanilla and the rest received a treatment of melted bittersweet chocolate.

The cake was happily cool to the touch, and so she was carefully unrolled and spread thickly with the chestnut cream…

…and rolled up again.

Then came the chocolate…

…and a dusting of cocoa powder for good measure. She felt very sophisticated then.

Little did she know, there were friends coming to play on her bark…

…mmmmmmmmerengue + a little buttercream glue and voila! Mushies!

And then,…


The real yule log the children had decorated was outfitted with a candle for each. When they were lit, the log was placed atop a burning piece of last year’s log…a continuous line of yule logs in this family for the past sixteen years. It is a treasure to be part of this tradition, and it was joyous to contribute something new. And it almost made me swoon to be celebrating seven years with C. We seem to have lived many lifetimes since then and here we are at another crossroads, ready to set forth on a new leg of our journey together.

Winter is beautiful everywhere…

…but after loving several Vermont winters, I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to be on the west coast this time of year. The parks are all lush and green. The temperatures are cold enough for sweaters, but my eyelashes aren’t freezing to my face.

And so, we have been getting our hike on. Every day that isn’t raining, we at least take a walk to the open space around the corner. Yesterday we followed squirrel roads, bothered a camel cricket and took off in an oak tree airplane. We found mushies that we hoped were Candy Caps, but they turned out to be a lookalike. Boo. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying a candy cap mushroom, you need to make it happen. I cook four or five of the tiny candy caps in butter (you need to cook them in fat to bring out the flavor) and the whole house smells like maple syrup for days. But, I digress.

A few days ago, we actually piled into the truck and spent a few hours at Briones Regional Park. It was the perfect day to be out in the woods…misty and cool, only a few other souls about…an opportunity to practice being quiet like a fox.

The sun would burn a hole in the clouds for a moment, and then retreat.

Conditions were perfect for mushie-hunting, but no edibles that we knew.

There were slippery, leafy hills to navigate…

…and mellow paths to tromp along.

We came upon a gorgeous, well-tended Medieval-style labyrinth. I have not been successful in finding much information about it, except that it was recently restored. It is artful and serene, surrounded by a branch fence. We walked it in silence…the Boy seemed to understand and only broke in for a few questions, mainly on specifics about construction (of course). We made an offering, and the adults made a secret plan to come back early some morning, alone. I tend not to photograph sacred spaces, so you’ll have to see it for yourself if you’re in the area.

In holiday news, it is the eve of Yule, an important celebration around these parts.

Yesterday, the kids in the house collected herbs, berries and greenery to decorate the Yule log we will burn tomorrow night, and today, M (my li’l sis-in-law) and I are going to attempt the baking of a traditional Buche de Noel to add to the celebratory feast. This will, of course, be gluten-free. I can’t get around the dairy, as it’s absolutely loaded with buttercream, but I seem to be almost okay with pastured butter. I anticipate a few days discomfort after any family event these days, anyway, so whatever. It’s going to be beautiful. I might even be content to just look at it.


Anyway, should be messy…will document!

Where, oh where…

…do we go from here?

We find ourselves, once again, a family with a Mission but without a Place to manifest it.

We find ourselves, once again, relying on the kindness of our parents, their open hearts and home.

We find ourselves, once again, in the Bay Area for an As-Yet-Undetermined length of time.

I am heartbroken. I feel desperate to find the place where we belong. Our desires are simple, but this world is complicated.

And so we bake cookies:

Yes, that dough is the color of charcoal. I took a basic sesame tahini shortbread ala Mollie Katzen (the Sesame Stars from Vegetable Heaven), and used black sesame tahini and my new favorite gluten-free flour mix and YUM happened.

Many are in the freezer, waiting for relatives we will see around Christmastime. A few are on reserve to leave out for the gnomes. It was Joy, it was Delicious, and at times it was Serious Business, this cookie-making.

The hardest part was waiting for the cookie sheet to be free for the next round of cutting shapes…

I am working hard to breathe in Hope and breathe out Anxiety so that I might enjoy this holiday season. It is the first in four years that we have not been 3000 miles away from all the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, etc. I need to celebrate this, but my mind is consumed with where where where are we going to go next and how are we going to get there…

We have arrived…

…at the farm.

Although it is not as I had imagined, and I have had to compromise much this past week as we try to find our place here, I think it will be a valuable year of experience and learning for all three of us. It will see us better prepared to take on the challenge of our own farm again and I intend to glean as much practical knowledge as I can, build my confidence with small livestock and my own intuition. It all sounds great in my head, but I’ll admit it’s rough in practice. It’s all so new and I need to allow myself some time to settle into this new life, but I can’t help feeling like I’m just bungling around, completely out of my element.

Today, my shoulders are sore from wielding large, heavy, sharp tools. I chopped wood, I did. It took me the better part of the day, but many pointers later and I finally achieved that nice, satisfying split, even with this knotty fir, something I never quite got the hang of in Vermont. I hope to bring this skill back there with me someday (yes, I am saying that out loud).

I met a dog and cat.

I met Spot.

I hoed some rows of cabbage.

And the Boy (no longer the LG because he says he’s not little anymore) was given a saw…

…with which he made many tiny pieces of wood out of one large piece.

I am giving myself the challenge of posting every day about our adventures here, and undoubtedly about my dreams of where this will take us (or bring us back to). Perhaps it will help relieve the feeling of isolation that is already creeping in even though I am trying my best to will it away.

Nearly all of our worldly possessions are in storage right now, but I managed to bring enough of my studio to continue with The Spun Monkey…in fact, I may end up being more productive since the Boy is happiest following Papa around the farm and busying himself with the gravel pile and a wheelbarrow. Yesterday saw two yarns off the bobbin and another I am about to finish…I won’t have quite what I had hoped ready for Craftland, but the shop will be well-stocked over the next week or two with new felt, new yarn, and entirely new spinning and crafting supplies.

In G-F news, I am addicted to this bakery:, and am thankful they deliver. I have yet to bake my own G-F bread tolerable for everyday toast/sandwich/etc. Desserts I can do, but loaves are just not happenin’. I am thrilled, though, absolutely thrilled with this G-F pastry flour recipe from Urban Organica. The biscuits were great, but then I used the flour for tahini shortbread cookies and they were amazing.

The sun is out. Time to get dirty.

Oh, but not until I show you where we dropped off the U-Haul:

…amidst forklifts and a beautiful view.

Because I Said I Would…

Okay, so I mentioned some plans for kuri squash:

Well, I followed through and it rocked.

I started a day or two ahead by baking up a double recipe of the Ginger Snaps from Nourishing Traditions, substituting coconut oil for the butter (to make it non-dairy) and pecans for the almonds (yes, I’m allergic to those, too). Well, the coconut oil substitution causes them to flatten out and the texture is a bit crumbly, but this is perfectly fine if you’re going to use them for a crust.

The filling goes like this: Cook up and mash a kuri squash (this yielded about 3 cups squash mush), toss in a couple of eggs (I seem to be okay with the eggs from one particular farm, but no other…so I sneak them in about once a week and my body doesn’t seem to notice) and a can of coconut milk. Spice to your heart’s delight…I use generous amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and clove…and a little palm sugar. Not much, though, because I like my squash pie to actually taste like squash. Don’t forget a pinch of salt, and then pour it into a pie pan lined with the crunched up cookies.

I might have lined the bottom with chocolate chips before I poured in the batter. Just maybe.

That’s the best I can do for a recipe…I tend to make things up as I go when dealing with any type of baking that doesn’t involve precise chemistry.

We also had a successful round of Ube pancakes made from leftover mashed Ube (purple yam):

This is the true color, but a very strange thing happened when we mixed it into a batter…GREEN! I did not photograph the pancakes because they looked incredibly unappetizing. But, they tasted wonderful and I think Ube is my new favorite vegetable. Hard to find, but definitely worth trying if you happen upon them. Before becoming pancakes, I had served them simply with a little goat milk and ghee…just like I would with regular mashed potatoes, but these are naturally sweet.

Trying to get back into the swing. More later.