• wanna place bets?

    Soon after Charlotte arrived, I began to wonder if she might be pregnant with twins. I mean, she was due after Emma, and yet she looked so much bigger.

    Charlotte’s third pregnancy was twins (she miscarried them when she was about six months along), and when some quick Googling revealed that about five percent of dairy cows give birth to twins (which is about three times more often than beef cows), and that cows are more likely to have twins if they’ve had twins before, I reasoned there was a decent chance she might, in fact, be carrying twins again.

    So I set up an appointment for the vet to come out to check her. I wanted to get a more exact due date, find out how many calves we might be dealing with, and stock up on any emergency birthing supplies we might need. But when I told my husband, he said, “What’s the vet gonna tell us? Either Charlotte’s carrying twins or she isn’t.”

    I texted Charlotte’s former owner. “She’s a wider cow than Emma,” he texted back. “She looks pregnant even when she isn’t.”

    So I canceled the vet appointment and dropped the issue. But then just a couple days ago, Charlotte’s former owner swung by. “Oh,” he said, when he saw her. “Um, yeah, she’s huge. She might be carrying twins.”

    The earliest Charlotte’s due is (was) September 20, but since that date came and went and she’s still showing no signs of bagging up, I’m thinking her due date is more like October 15-20. That’s a few weeks yet, but even so, I’m edgy. How much bigger can she get?

    My husband lays eyes on her every morning and evening, but is he really looking at her, I wonder? So this morning when I noticed she was parked like a tank on stilts in the pasture up by the chicken coop, I ran down to check on her. She looks healthy and acts normal — she’s eating well, she’s alert, she’s curious — but I just can’t get over how big she is! I doubt she could squeeze through the door of the milking shed, and I’m almost positive there’s no way she could fit in the milking stall.

    I snapped a whole bunch of photos, trying to capture the enormity of her, but it was only later when I was back in the house going through the photos that I realized how lopsided she is.

    Her left hip is lower and more apple shaped while the right side is higher and dramatically pear-shaped. What does this mean? Any experts out there who know how to interpret a cow’s pregnancy just by looking at her?

    Anyway, we’re all making guesses as to how many calves are inside her. I think two. Wanna place bets?

    This same time, years previous: wedding buns, church, the quotidian (9.28.20), for my birthday, hey-hey, look who’s here!, you’re invited…, welcome home to the circus, the myth of the hungry teen, the quotidian (9.29.14), chocolate birthday cake.

  • how many times do you pee at night?

    The other day at kickboxing, we got on the subject of nighttime peeing and I learned that some people sleep the whole night without getting up once. I was flabbergasted. A whole night without a single trip to the bathroom? I can’t even begin to imagine!

    I get up to pee at least two times a night, but some nights it’s three or four. (Last night I only made a bathroom run at 1:30, but that was because I was dehydrated and had taken a tylenol pm that knocked me out. The night before, I got up three times: 11:30pm, 1:00am, and 4:45am.) 

    Is this a perimenopause thing? I wonder. A female-who-gave-birth thing? An age thing? A strictly Jennifer thing? Why is it that some people can go all night and others can’t?

    My brother says nighttime bathroom trips are a sign of sleep apnea, but I rarely snore and I’m not sleepy during the day so I don’t think that’s the problem. I simply wake up and then, because it’s hard for me to fall back asleep when I have even the slightest bladder twinge, I always run to the bathroom. If I don’t go pee when I wake up, then I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep only to be awakened shortly with a pressing need to pee, thus interrupting my already too-interrupted sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.

    To keep my bathroom runs to a reasonable minimum, I try not to drink much after 8pm, which is hard because I get wicked thirsty around suppertime, mostly because I don’t drink much during the day because I’m not thirsty. Probably, I should set a “drink water” alarm for 4pm and then knock back a quart or two. . . but do I? No.

    The other solution? Potato chips. The salt soaks up all the water in my body and then I don’t pee as much. 

    Or at least that’s what I tell myself at 9:30 at night when I get a case of the munchies.

    This same time, years previous: three days of birthday, the quotidian (9.28.20), evening feeding, the soirée of 2016, getting shod, pointless and chatty, 37, peposo.

  • currently

    Good morning!

    This is the time of year when I often find myself asking, What month are we in again? because fall feels like spring, or mid summer maybe. It’s confusing, but in a benign and kinda comforting sorta way. Anyone else have this problem?

    But moving on. Right now I am…

    Celebrating… the start of sweater weather. I love cold weather, wool socks, toasty fires, and hot chocolate. And speaking of cool weather, I’m gearing up by. . . 

    Ordering… these slippers! (Because it takes me forever to make footwear decisions.)

    Rewatching… Ted Lasso. It’s funnier the second time around, never mind I’m still missing a good 10% of the dialogue. (I’m looking at you, Jamie Tartt.) 

    Waking up… earlier and earlier, which makes no sense since it’s so dark in the morning and I’m still going to bed at the same time.

    Drinking… coffee three times a day instead of two. Because: see above. 

    Organizing… my life. I just ordered spiral-bound folders for all my random projects and a single notebook in which I intend to keep track of myself, à la a bastardized version of bullet journaling, which a friend recently briefly summarized to me and I realized I could probably benefit from. Any bullet journal fans out there?

    Teaching myself… some (very) basic graphic design via Canva, a ton of YouTube tutorials, and loads of messing around. Canva has so many more options than Snappa (which is what I’ve been using for my YouTube thumbnails), plus Canva is much more intuitive and cheaper. I’m actually enjoying myself, which says a lot since I’m not that keen on techy stuff.

    Wondering… how long it will be until my toenail falls off? I don’t remember getting injured so I imagine I was probably cleated in Ultimate a few months ago. The nail is almost entirely a mottled purple, and there’s a new one growing in under it. Mostly, I don’t think much about it (keeping it painted helps me forget about it), but last Sunday when I was playing Ultimate, my toe was too tender for cleats, so partway through the afternoon I had to take them off and play in bare feet, which felt much better but was also terrifying, thanks to the way-too close proximity of everyone else’s cleated feet, eek!

    Asking… “How’s Charlotte’s backside look?” a couple times a day whenever anyone comes in from the field because I’m determined not to miss this birth.

    Struggling… to get my next batch of clabber going, what the heck? All it involves is setting milk out. How is this not working?!

    Eating… not enough vegetables. I’m craving greens and sweet potatoes and big salads. I could solve this problem, I suppose…

    Strong-arming… my husband into making me a floating hideaway desk so I can have a two-monitor office in the main part of the house without having a pair of large blank screens staring me down when I’m not working.

    Eagerly anticipating… getting the call from our butcher telling us to come pick up our pork. My husband took Fern and Petunia in last week and they will return to us as a variety of ground sausage, bacon (both Canadian and traditional), and a few butt roasts and hams, plus all the lard and bones which I’ll spend hours rendering and processing in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to find out how much each of the pigs weighed.

    Waiting… to see how the slow-growing pigs taste in comparison to fast-growing pigs before we decide which kind of pig to get next. Because according to moi, having pigs is mandatory if you have a milk cow.  

    Bottling … my sour cherry mead, or at least I will be as soon as I can convince my husband to help me. I am so excited to have it in easy-to-access bottles for sipping and sharing.

    Wanting… a good memoir to read. Something thought-provoking and well-written and attention-grabbing. The last good one I read was Take This Bread by Sara Miles which hit three things I care about: Nicaragua, food/cooking, and hard theological questions. Plus, the cover always made me pleasantly hungry. Suggestions?

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.26.22), Italian chopped salad, a bakery shift, what we ate, evening feeding, the quotidian (9.26.16), home cut, the run around, a jiggle on the wild side.

  • farm tour

    Mid-afternoon on a Saturday a couple months ago, a group of twenty-some people from our church showed up on our doorstep for a farm tour. 

    We all crowded around the kitchen island while I explained the basics of cheesemaking, showed them my clabber culture, and stirred rennet into a pot of warm milk for a batch of cuajada. My husband explained the milker and then, while the milk set up, took them down to see the milking shed and the cows.

    While they were gone, I began making corn tortillas, and when they came back up to the house, my older daughter took over the tortillas while I showed everyone how to hand-squeeze the curds and mill in the salt.

    And then I made them do it, too. “I can’t do this myself,” I said. “Come help me.” And then when they hesitated, I got bossy. “Go wash your hands. NOW.”

    The cheese made, I showed them how to eat it: place a hot tortilla on a plate (or your hand) followed by a scoop of red beans and a thick wedge of cuajada. Tearing off a piece of tortilla, use it to scoop up some beans and cheese. One of the guys had brought a bunch of shishito peppers from his garden and cooked them up in a cast iron pot with oil, salt, and lime; the perfect pairing to the beans, tortillas, and cuajada.

    While they ate, I set out a bunch of other cheeses for them to sample, including a huge wheel of Pepper Jack which was an absolute flop (so much for showing off, ha!), and then I bandage-wrapped a cheddar for another little demo.

    And then everyone left and I washed the kitchen floor. 

    When it comes to cheesemaking, messing up and second-guessing myself is my norm, so talking to people who don’t make cheese but are super interested is a delightfully jarring because suddenly I’m aware of just how far I’ve come. Talk about a nice little ego boost!

    And I love the teaching component. Cheese is such an ordinary food and yet most people know very little about how it’s made. It’s not that I expect anyone to begin making their own cheese at home on the regular (though they certainly could!), but simply exposing people to rennet, cultures, cheese presses, and aging caves is something that is not readily accessible for most people — and that’s super fun. The steeper the learning curve, the more gratifying the climb, right?

    In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that now I’m toying with the idea of offering cheesemaking workshops. I mean, nerding out about cheese for a few hours with a group of interested folks, and then eating it together, sounds like a pretty darn wonderful way to spend an afternoon…

    (And I bet my floors would get cleaned more often, too.)

    This same time, years previous: weekend wedding party, family night, the unraveling, the big bad wolf and our children, candid camera, when the relatives came, cornmeal whole wheat waffles.

  • the quotidian (9.18.23)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    When work and leisure match.

    My go-to, always and forever.

    When three free containers of expired burrata land in your lap…

    …make a pan of Pepperoni Rolls, The Fancy-Schmancy Version.

    Turning three gallons of yogurt into…

    Herbed Yogurt Cheese!
    (And then my younger son inhaled a half pound-plus in one go.)

    Emergency treat: Defrosting

    Grape mead, aka Pyment.

    Also: grape wine and grape juice.

    He takes floor washing to a whole new (lower) level.

    Xero shoes: he and my younger son are both fans.

    Ferdinand is no longer a bull.


    “I am not a farmer,” he said. And the universe laughed.

    Friday night at Silk Moth Stage: Clymer & Kurtz, followed by Wonder of Our Stage.

    This same time, years previous: fruit crisp ice cream, cottage cheese, saag (sort of) paneer, the quotidian (9.17.18), the quotidian (9.18.17), black bean and veggie salad, historical fun, in defense of battered kitchen utensils, goodbye summer, hello fall.

  • what are your three favorite recipes from this blog?

    People have occasionally commented that they wish I’d do a cookbook, an idea which has never really appealed to me because: a) my recipes are always based on someone else’s recipes (I’m not a recipe developer), b) it’d be a lot of work, c) who needs more recipes?, and d) all my favorites are already on the blog.

    For the last 15 years, this blog has been a dumping grounds for my cooking experiments, discoveries, and trusted favorites. I’ve published the recipes mostly for my own benefit; it’s my personal record, as well as a handy family resource, and I reference the (ridiculously extensive) recipe index almost daily.

    But then both my older daughter and my niece told me (rather aggressively) that I ought to make a hard copy of the recipes because they’re sick of looking up recipes whenever they want to make something.

    scribbled recipe notes to eliminate computer scrolling

    And the truth is, I’m kinda sick of searching my blog, too. The sheer quantity of recipes is overwhelming. The search bar feature is awkward and clunky. The index is disorganized. It would be awfully nice to have a streamlined binder with all my favorite selections. But would this sort of thing — a PDF of favorites that people could print off for themselves — even appeal to anyone besides me and a few family members?

    this week’s menu

    Obviously, narrowing down the list to just my top 30-50 recipes would be a struggle. Maybe I’d have to do several docs, like one for breads, another for main dishes, and another for desserts? I don’t know. I’m just brainstorming…

    But now I’m curious about two things:
    1. How many of you actually cook from this blog?
    2. If you do, which top three recipes do you reference most often?

    I have way more than three — it’s more like thirty — but just for funsies, I’ll go with buttermilk pancakes, brown sugar granola, and hot chocolate mix. It’ll be fun to see if there’s any overlap with our favorites!


    *And speaking of looking up recipes on my blog, my brother just installed a new search bar thingy and it’s soooo much better than what I had before. Thanks, bro!

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.12.22), Coco, lemony mashed potato salad, the quotidian (9.12.16), making my children jump.

  • the quotidian (9.11.23)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    With chunks of cumin-spiced Gouda, grilled chicken, and lime.

    We’ve got the crunchy crystals!
    A two-year-old Gouda that’s a cross between a Parm and a sharp cheddar.

    Before the heatwave: oven-based meal prep.

    Natural rind Gruyère: new video coming tomorrow!

    Measuring the specific gravity with my hydrometer: this time I’m gonna know the ABV.

    The Second (Third?) Annual Family Corn Day.

    Transporting an open, uncorked bottle of champagne.

    It was a bumper crop . . . until the drought.

    He installed an AC unit in the clubhouse.

    Occasionally borrowing a friend’s bike: until hers is road legal.

    The heat finally broke.
    photo credit: my younger daughter

    This same time, years previous: the cheesemaking saga continues, the quotidian (9.10.18), the quotidian (9.11.17), what writing a book is like, the good things that happen, ketchup, two ways, dreaming, honey whole wheat cake.

  • five fun things

    Thing One: A Celebration
    For our 27th anniversary, I drove to the jobsite with warm chocolate chip cookies and mint iced tea because my husband is always trying to get me to come to work with him. We sat under the tarp for a bit and then I watched them measure things for a bit before growing bored and going back home.

    And then a week later, the kids arranged for an all-paid fancy dinner date. When our daughter-in-law: when she texted me about the meal, she said, “So as Anthony Bordaine said, ‘Order the steak rare. Order the oyster. Have a Negroni. Have two!'”

    The evening came complete with an uber pick-up and a stack of cards that arrived at the table with our dessert. How sweet is that?

    We almost never eat out at a menu restaurant, and I soaked it up: a local cheese board, duck soup, salmon, plus drinks, coffee, and dessert. We ate for two hours!

    Thing Two: An Article
    I enjoyed this NYTimes article in which “the world’s happiest man” shares his three rules for life. I particularly appreciated his perspective on the compassion: “If someone beats you with a stick, you don’t get angry with the stick — you get angry with the person. These people we are talking about are like sticks in the hands of ignorance and hatred.” I struggle with the impartiality of compassion, so thinking of people as sticks is helpful for me.

    Thing Three: A Podcast
    My mom introduced me to Wiser Than Me, a podcast in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus interviews women who are, well, wiser than her.

    Julia is a fantastic interviewer (though a bit dramatic and sensational at time), and I love her little personal stories at the start of each interview. The discussions are wonderfully rich and nuanced; I think I’ve listened to them all (I fast forward through the ads). A couple of my top picks are: Fran Lebowitz, Jane Fonda, and Isabel Allende. Check them out.

    Thing Four: A Movie
    A few weeks ago, we watched The Swimmers for a family night movie.

    I thought it was going to be mostly about swimming, but it turned out to be an in-depth look at the Syrian refugee crisis through the story of two sisters, professional swimmers, who make the terrifying journey from Syria to Germany. It’s a long movie — we had to watch it in two sittings — and intense, though not scary. The acting is excellent, and the story’s an important one. Highly recommend. (Probably most suitable for ages 17 and up.)

    Thing Five: A Quote
    One night during rehearsals for Tiny Beautiful Things, the director quipped, “Strong and wrong!” about someone’s acting choice, and I busted up laughing. 

    (painless) Ultimate bruise

    Strong and wrong is now my new go-to for everything: When I hurl a frisbee into the top of a pine tree. When I hip-hop to the wrong beat. When I go after Ferdinand and get kicked in the shins. When I stir 15 pounds of honey into a pot of red raspberries and rhubarb for another five-gallon batch of mead. When I pummel the bag with a series of rapid-fire hooks in kickboxing. When I write vulnerable blog posts.

    It might not work, and it might even be a disastrous mistake, but strong and wrong is about making a choice and then just going for it, full-steam ahead. Sometime I fail, and many times I don’t.

    In fact, I’m frequently surprised at just how often it turns out right. 


    Have a good weekend, friends! xo

    This same time, years previous: seven fun things, has anyone made grape liqueur?, the quotidian (9.9.19), outside eating, calf wrangling, blasted cake, how to clean a room.

  • Ferdinand

    Look what we found in the field the other evening!

    My husband and I were munching potato chips on the deck and enjoying the evening breeze when my daughter came out to grab some chips and, just before she headed back inside, she looked down at the field. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing. “Who put a calf in our field? Is that a calf? THAT’S A CALF.”

    So then we all went sprinting down to the field and, sure enough, Emma had her calf!

    I’d been home all day and I still somehow managed to miss it, grr. I’d thought she wasn’t due for a few more weeks, and she looked so much smaller than Charlotte (who is due a month after her), so I hadn’t been paying her much attention. Even when my husband said that Emma had some discharge, it didn’t register.

    the little family: Mama, sister, and baby brother

    We named him Ferdinand. He and Fiona are full siblings.

    In case you need a crash course in the state of our small dairy (it’s kinda hard for even me to keep straight), here’s a rundown:

    Emma: A2A2 Jersey. Beginning lactation.
    Fiona: a Devon-Jersey cross, Emma’s second calf. We are planning to sell her this fall as an open (not pregnant) heifer.
    Ferdinand: a Devon-Jersey cross, several days old. We’ll castrate him and either sell him or raise him for meat (though now that we named him Ferdinand, I sorta feel like we should keep him a bull, ya know?).
    Butterscotch: a cross of some sort that my daughter bought from a local farmer. Bred to a Devon and due in a few months (and currently living at our friend’s farm where she hung out with the bull). We are planning to sell her this fall as a bred heifer.
    Charlotte: A2A2 Jersey, due in the next month or so.

    Fiona has the most spectacular coloring.

    There’s nothing quite like a newborn calf to kick our non-farming butts into high gear. The very next day my husband stayed home to clean out the milking shed . . . and wage full-scale war against the rats that have taken up residence under the floor mats.

    They flushed the rats out of the walls where they hid and chased them back and forth between the milking shed and the goat shelter.

    Lots of screaming and hollering was involved.

    It was quite the entertaining morning, what with all of us circling the shed armed with shovels and logs, and excited dogs (who proved their mettle).

    rat carcass headed for the burn pile

    I mean, seriously. Who needs a roller coaster when you’ve got scrabbling rats to give you a thrill?

    While I was down there, I checked up on Fern and Petunia.

    The ladies are porking up quite nicely. They go for slaughter later this month. I have a feeling I’ll be swimming in lard.

    Now I’m trying to convince my husband to get two more pigs. I mean, with cheesemaking ramping up, I’m gonna have buckets upon buckets of whey, we might as well put it to good use.

    This time, though, I think I want regular pigs, not these slow-growing Guinea hogs. Unless their meat is exceptionally delicious, I don’t really see the point in feeding pigs for 18 months when I can get as much meat from feeding them for half the amount of time.

    And here’s a shot of Charlotte.

    She’s so big she looks like she swallowed a small car. I’m a little concerned she might be having twins. Her last pregnancy was twins that she miscarried at about six months, and I’ve read that cows that have twins often have multiple twin births. I might have the vet come out next week to check on her.

    And finally, with the milk tsunami fast approaching, I knew I had to get my next batch of mead going right away (I use my cheese pot to start fermentation), so I spent the rest of the morning blending up a vat of red raspberries and rhubarb and stirring in the honey like some sort of sweet witch.

    I guess my cheesemaking break is over!

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.6.21), a hernia, hip-hip!, the big finale, proper procedure for toweling off after a shower, in my kitchen, regretful wishing.

  • racking mead

    As with most of my projects (writing a book, having babies, my YouTube channel, etc), it’s good I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first started. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have dared start because, it turns out, making mead is quite the production: a whole lotta of Doing Nothing mixed with Frantic Research, Last-Minute Sourcing of Various Tools, and then bouts of All-Kitchen-Consuming Mess.

    For example, after getting the fruit a-fermenting in my cheese pot, we poured the five gallons of fruity sweet syrup into a carboy and then set it aside for a couple months. Once the violent bubbling ceased, we realized we had to rack it, which meant getting it from that carboy to the second carboy (that I’d borrowed from a friend) without letting in any oxygen.

    Which meant we needed a siphon.
    And sanitizer.
    And brushes.
    And we needed to learn HOW to do everything so I better find a quality YouTuber to follow.
    Oh, and we should probably order the corks and a corker thingy and find some bottles.

    I sent out a request for empty wine bottles on Facebook and then spend a week soaking the bottles in the buckets in the downstairs tub and then, bit by bit, scraping off the labels. (And then my husband stepped in with his utility knife and a razor scraper and Goo Gone and sped things up considerably.)

    I figured I’d have to backsweeten the mead (which is the process of adding a little more honey water or sugar prior to bottling along with some sort of chemical thing that keeps it from fermenting and blowing up once it’s in the bottle) because when I’d tasted the mead a few weeks ago — a process which had required yet another purchase: a pump to withdrawal some of the mead without disturbing the fruit — I thought the mead was dry, dry, dry, which surprised me because: fifteen freaking POUNDS of honey.

    tasting the mead at two months

    But then I tasted the mead when we were racking it and it tasted much sweeter — perhaps because I was tasting the middle-bottom part and not the very top? In any case, I decided there was no need to backsweeten. So we just went ahead and racked it into the second carboy for now.

    sanitizing with star san

    And what does the mead taste like, you ask? Bear in mind that I’m no connoisseur, but here’s my best shot: it’s light and mildly fruity, with a hint of almond. It doesn’t taste like sour cherries (though every now and then I do get a whiff of cherry), and it’s more strongly alcoholic than I expected — it sorta has a vodka-esque vibe. It kinda blew my socks off, honestly. I mean, I JUST MADE FIVE GALLONS OF ALCOHOL, isn’t that wild?

    Since everyone around me turns up their nose at it (because none of them like wine), I’m eager to have other people try it. Is it horrible? Delicious? I need more opinions. Tasting party, anyone?

    do not fear the foam, they said

    Technically, I could rack the mead straight into the bottles — and we did fill two bottles because there was some extra mead (my second carboy was smaller) — but now it’s in the second carboy, we’re just going to let it age a little longer. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll rack it into the bottles.

    The alcohol content is as high as it’s going to get, but the aging process should mellow out the flavors. I can drink the mead at any point, and I have been, but technically it’s not ready for six months to a year.

    Just for the record, here’s my ingredient list:

    Sour Cherry Mead
    Adapted from Kate’s method from Venison For Dinner.

    4-5 pounds sour cherries (I used 4 pounds 13.5 ounces), all of them pitted but for a handful
    2 lemons (the rind, seed, and white pith removed)
    60 (20 grams) organic raisins
    15 pounds raw honey
    5 gallons water

    This same time, years previous: mint chip ice cream that’s almost exactly like Turkey Hill’s!, made it, five-dollar curtido, southern sweet tea, blueberry muffins, the quotidian (9.5.16), in my kitchen: 5:25pm, the cousins came, a laundry list.