What’s Happening on Earl’s Acres

Winter Lingers at Earl's AcresSpring is on it’s way, we know… Yet winter lingers on here at Earl’s Acres.  However, we haven’t let the remaining snow slow us down!  We’ve been busy getting this place ready for warmer weather, and having fun getting things done!

Living out here is continuously wonderful, and it seems to just get better by the minute.  We have only been here since May, but it’s amazing to me how much we can do living on such a small plot of land.  We’re lucky to have almost only sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) lining our entire property, so as soon as the time was right, we got to work tapping maple trees and boiling down sap.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup (that’s a LOT of sap!!) but we’ve produced about 1/2 gallon with much more to come! (And it’s so, so, so good!!)

Maple Sugaring

We’ve also decided to majorly expand our garden this year, and getting a head start on seedlings is crucial.  We’ve had our onions going since the beginning of March, and we’ve planted tomatoes and peppers each weekend to ensure that we have a running stock throughout the summer.  We decided to make our own plant pots out of newspaper, making it simple to transplant all these little guys into the soil when the time comes!  There’s about 1 million different ways to do this, but we did something like this.  We did various sizes using anything cylindrical we could find around the house.  Then we put everything into the small, standing greenhouse to let them take off for spring!

Garden Preparation

Woah…. Did I say that we’ve been really busy out here!  We ordered a nucleus of bees, too!  And, of course, the bees will need a home when they arrive!  Thus, we’ve been super busy building bee boxes and frames in the barn.  The day we built them, it was about 30F outside and ice raining… This was probably the least fun project that we’ve had yet.  But now they just need to be painted and they’re ready to go!

Bee Boxes

And what would compliment bees any more than chickens?!  Bees have a super interesting life cycle, and when it is time for them to die, they will intentionally leave the hive rather than dying inside the hive. Chickens love to eat these dead bees. They also eat live bugs and small hive beetles that can cause harm to the honeybees. This is great for the bee hive, and it also provides wonderful nutrition for the chickens.  We plan to place our bee hives inside of the chicken fence to provide the chickens with a delicious source of supplemental food.  The chicks have been a delight to have around the house.  They’re chirps and coos are absolutely wonderful!  Names: Buttercup, Pickle, Shakuntala, Xerces, Ruth, and Scáthach.

Chick BroodingAnd now you can see why I haven’t had much time to post  new recipes lately!!  I’d love to say that I’ll try to get some new recipes up soon, but we’re having way too much fun getting ready for spring… it might be a while!

Next up… Building the chicken coop!

Happy Spring!

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Day of the Century: Pi(e) Day

One of us loves math:

Ev on Pi dayWhile the other one loves cooking:

Blueberry Pi(e)In a typical year,  Pi (π) Day is celebrated around the world on March 14, and the celebration officially kicks off at 1:59 PM (3.14159, the approximate numerical value of π ).  This year, the party started early on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 AM (3.141592653).  Only 39 digits past the decimal are needed to accurately calculate the spherical volume of our entire universe, yet π has been calculated to over one trillion digits past its decimal in the modern age of computing.

Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference (distance around the circle) to its diameter (width of the circle). π is a constant, meaning that for all circles of any size, π will be the same. π appears in formulas for areas and volumes of geometrical shapes based on circles.  For example, the area of a circle:

A = πr2

where ‘r’ is the radius (distance from the center to the edge of the circle).

And, the circumference of a circle:

C = 2πr

In one of my favorite books, Contact , it is suggested that the creator of the universe buried a message deep within the digits of π…And while I love the book Contact, and I do appreciate math, P-I-E is also my favorite dessert!  In which case, we had many excuses to nerd-out this weekend…

Hands down, pie is always better with a homemade crust.  So here’s a crust recipe for you to savor!

Perfect Pie CrustIngredients (Makes 2 Crusts)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional)
2 sticks cold butter
ice water

Directions
1) Mix flour, salt, and sugar together in large bowl.  Chop butter into small pads, and add to the flour mixture.  Use a fork to crumble the bits of butter into 1/4 inch flakes (don’t over mix!).
2) Add 2 tbsp ice water.  Start mixing the dough by hand.  As the water is absorbed, add one tbsp water at a time until the dough ball holds together firmly.  The dough should not crumble when worked, nor should it be sticky to the touch.  Overall, about 4 tbsp of water will probably do the trick.
3) Split dough into two equal parts, one for the top crust and one for the bottom crust.  Wrap dough in plastic bags and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
4) Roll dough out onto floured work surface and place in pie plate or flat onto cookie sheet.  Put back into refrigerator while preheating the oven and mixing the filling.

I often leave out the sugar, even if I’m making a sweet pie.  I like to use leftover pie crust and leftover soup to make little pot pies in muffin tins for a completely new meal!  If you do use the sugar and you have leftover crust, roll it out, sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar, roll it up into a tube, and cut it into little pinwheels.  Bake on 350F for 10-15 minutes for a few little cinnamon treats!

Learn more about Pi (π ) Day here!

Spicy Crock Pot Chili

Spicy Crock Pot Chili

There’s something about the process of standing over a skillet or stock pot and smelling the aromatic herbs and spices that makes me incredibly happy.  However, for all of us with 1 million things to do, the crock pot can be a super useful way of making a lot of food without much fuss or time spent in the kitchen.  On Sunday, we had some serious cleaning to do around the house, and the crock pot was a great chance to still have a delicious dinner and accomplish everything else that we had been putting off for weeks!  This chili is kind of a “throw anything in the pot” type of dish, so go crazy by adding or omitting any of the ingredients and make it your own!

Ingredients
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 can corn
1 cup 13-bean soup mix (or any dried beans)
1 package vegetarian chorizo (or 1/2 cup TVP)
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 large (28 oz) can tomato puree
1 large bay leaf
2-3 tsp cumin powder
2-3 tsp chili powder powder
2-3 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
shredded smoked gouda (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
homemade yogurt (optional)

Directions
1) Put everything into the crock pot and give it a good stir.  Cook on high for 6-8 hours to ensure the beans are thoroughly cooked.  Stir occasionally.

And you’re done!

We served this with homemade cornbread, smoked gouda, fresh cilantro, and a dollop of yogurt… at 10:00 pm!