• the quotidian (5.1.23)

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

    Berry crisp ice cream: make it for yourself!

    A variation on my asapargus and egg fixation: with cheesy grilled chicken gravy over biscuits.

    My husband saved cream for me while I was gone.
    (The piggies got the milk.)

    4.25 pounds

    Afternoon treat.

    Deepening my scoring.

    It could’ve gone even deeper!

    Food pantry scraps for the pigs.

    Driveway mechanics.

    CSA worker.

    My mama feeds me.

    How many mugs can you hold with one hand?

    A good use of plastic.

    This same time, years previous: a few good things, an under-the-stairs office nook, transition, the quotidian (5.1.17), life can turn on a dime, coffee crumb cake, baked-in-a-pot artisan bread, take two, green smoothies.

  • currently

    coffee shop tabletop in Jackson, Mississippi

    Hello friends! On Tuesday, the kids and I arrived back from a week-long civil rights learning tour of the south. I am working on a post about the trip, or maybe a series of posts. The whole experience was ovewhelming, and ever since I’ve felt at loose ends, unable to focus. How to even begin to write about it? I’ll get there, but it’s taking time.

    In the meantime! Right now I’m…

    Curled up… under a fuzzy blanket because the day is cooler than I expected and I’m stupidly wearing shorts. (Yeah, yeah, I’ll go change soon.)

    Reading… Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. I wanted a fun-read to take on the trip, so I bought the book. Well. Turns out this was not the escape book I was looking for. It’s well-written, yes, and the subject matter isn’t even all that heavy (at least not yet), but what I really needed was a fast thriller I could get lost in, or a candy book (straight-up pleasure), and this book was not either of those. But it’s still good! And now once I finish it, I can loan it out to anyone who wants a turn.

    Smelling… baking bread. (Is there any better smell?) I’ve been making a batch of sourdough daily — a batch is two loaves — and I often end up giving one of the loaves away. I love it when someone pops in and I just happen to have a fresh loaf on the table that I can spontaneously gift, like I did yesterday when the vet made a farm visit. And speaking of the vet, I’m . . .

    Celebrating… that Emma is pregnant! The vet confirmed what we’d hoped: girlfriend is four to five months along, and due September or October.

    Marveling… at how green everything is! When we left on our trip, the trees were just beginning to bud, and when we returned they were in full leaf. It’s emerald city (country) out there. It makes my eyeballs happy.

    Ordering… my fancy all-in-one moisturizer and sunblock. I apply it to my face every morning — there’s no smell and no greasy residue. It’s pricey, but two small tubes last me about a year.

    Eating… loads of asparagus and fried eggs, my trip-recuperation food of choice. Also popcorn, cheese and pretzels, and chef salads. We ate fantastic food on the trip but nothing beats the refreshing simplicity of homegrown and homemade.

    Appreciating… that my husband stayed home to take care of all the animals, milk the cows, and go to work while the rest of us traveled. When I checked in with him mid-trip and asked him how he was doing, he said, “I think I’m hungry.” He sounded a little surprised, as though he was just realizing it for the first time.

    Finishing (just last night)… the final show of the final season of Ted Lasso. What a show! It did my soul good.

    Seriously considering… making my own mead. I took a free online class yesterday and it lit a fire under my butt. I hear that sour cherry mead is the best, and we’ve got two trees. Anybody have a 6-gallon carboy rolling around their basement that they want to off-load? (My husband thinks I should start small, but we all know that’s not my style.)

    Feeling… excited and hungry for my lunch: chef salad followed by almond tea ring and a latte. Gotta go!


    This same time, years previous: perimenopause: Jo, age 54, strawberry syrup, the coronavirus diaries: week 8, the quotidian (4.29.19), graduated!, besties, back to normal, the quotidian (4.29.13), Sunday somethings, something strange.

  • the quotidian (4.17.23)

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

    Goodness and sunshine.

    Real food.

    With smoked toscano pepato.

    Caraway Swiss, roasted pecan ale (ah-mazing) and pretzels = supper.


    Swing snacks, plus a fantastic book.

    Chimney visitor.

    New do.



    Easter Elves: the pre-opening celebration.


    This same time, years previous: Emma, sunshine cakes, do you fight with your spouse?, the coronavirus diaries: week 6, while we were gone, gado-gado, the quotidian (4.17.17), right now, cheesy popcorn, joining the club.

  • milk training

    A new mama heifer is always a bit of a crapshoot. [says I, with great authority, even though this is only the second heifer cow I’ve delt with] Will she tolerate milkings? Will she let down her milk? Will she develop mastitis? How quickly will be catch the hang of the milking routine? Will she be a kicker? 

    The first week with Honey was touch-and-go. We milked her 2 to 3 times a day, even though we’d often get only a cup or two of dirty milk (that ended up going to the pigs), in order to familiarize Honey with the milking process. It was a two-(sometimes three)-person job: one person leading her in and the other wacking her on the rump. 

    From the start, Honey’s front left quarter was super swollen and produced almost no milk. After consulting with a couple cow-milking internet people, and one long phone call with our friendly vet, we determined that the problem was probably due to an undetected case of mastitis in the first two years of her life. Even though she wasn’t currently sick, the earlier infection meant that the quarter was damaged (and, should we get her lab tested, would probably test positive for mastitis, but the vet said that wasn’t really important since she had no other symptoms). Since it’s fairly common for cows to have a dead quarter, and not really a big deal, we simply quit milking that quarter and — problem solved.

    pummel-massaging the bad quarter

    Honey did not take well to the milking machine. She was tense and moderately kicky, but then, on the one day when I was at work and not able to help, she kicked the machine with both back feet so hard that one of the metal pieces flew the whole way across the shed. My husband phoned me spitting mad and sore — in the fray he’d wrenched his wrist — while my younger son, I later learned, suffered a violent case of giggles. 

    That was the low point. From there, it got better — mostly because we bought a kick bar. 

    Snap the bar into place on the same side the farmer squats to milk — one end hooked over the back bone and the other end jabbing up into the back leg “pit” — and the cow can’t hardly lift that leg at all. She can still kick on the other side, however, but my husband holds the milker away from that foot and I stand behind him with a big stick poised over her back side. Every time Honey makes to kick, we both bellow NO and I whack the kicking leg. Gradually, she’s accepting that we’re boss — but that kick bar isn’t coming off any time soon.

    The other morning my husband and I had a spat because I wanted to go running and he wanted me to help milk. So I angrily changed my running shoes for barn boots, stomped down to the shed, whacked Honey a couple times until she got into the stall, stomped back up the house, changed back into my sneakers (huff-huff), and left for my run. When I got back, I found this note in the basket where I keep my running gloves:

    It’s been nearly 3 weeks since Redbud was born, and Honey’s giving a solid two gallons of milk each morning. And some days when she’s feeling generous, she even gives chocolate milk.

    This same time, years previous: Colby cheese, the quotidian (4.12.21), god will still love you, making space, beginner’s bread, the quotidian (4.11.16), when popcorn won’t pop, Mr. Tiny, deviled eggs, on fire, lemons and goat cheese.

  • two (no, three!) fun things

    I was going to make a fun list for this Friday, and then I realized I only had two fun things, only one of which was new to me, so then I wondered if it was worth it to share, and is two things even a list anyway?, but: to heck with it. Fun is fun is fun. So there.


    Season three of Ted Lasso is here!

    New episodes are released Wednesday, so after we get home from pick-up Ultimate, shower, and eat supper, my husband and I plop down on the couch to watch the latest episode. It’s not anything that amazing, really — just familiar and homey and sweet, and the perfect end-of-day, bone-weary, tummy-full, couch-cuddle with my best bud. 

    In other viewing news, we finished season one of Shrinking, which we loved. What are you watching? 


    Have you met Squirmy and Grubs?

    The other night I opened YouTube, just to see what the algorithm would recommend, and one of their videos popped up. Within minutes, my husband and I were sitting side-by-side (because I hollered at him to come watch), watching video after video. 

    The channel is about an inter-abled couple’s relationship and watching their videos challenges my assumptions about bodies and relationships in ways I didn’t realize needed to be challenged, which makes the videos all the more fascinating. Two other bonuses: the videos 1) help me feel more grounded and matter-of-fact about my own body, and 2) make me feel more happy and hopeful, and not in a superficial way, either.

    (One caveat: their thumbnails and titles are often misleading, veering towards sensationalism, which bugs me, but aside from that, the videos and couple themselves are delightfully earthy.)


    Oh, wait! I’ve got another fun thing, after all. (But for locals only — sorry, all you faraway readers.)

    raspberry ricotta cake, minus 1/3 of the flour, oops (and thus the reason for test bakes)

    At a bakery meeting a few weeks ago, we were wishing outloud that we could do more for Easter weekend (which is the third biggest holiday in the bakery world), and I suggested that a couple of us show up at 3 am on Saturday morning and bake out little buttsies off. A couple hours later one of the other bakers texted me, “Were you serious? Let’s do it!”

    One thing led to another and now three of us are gonna have a rocking middle-of-the-night bake party, which means I have to get up at 2:00 tomorrow morning to mix up bread and bake off aaaaaall the goodies: apricot couronnes, challah, cookies, hot cross buns, scones, pastries, bread, etc, etc. Also, there’s gonna be flowers!

    Check the Insta for deets. It’s gonna be a blast.

    This same time, years previous: how I trick myself into writing, the coronavirus diaries: week 57, the coronavirus diaries: week 5, the quotidian (4.8.19), missing Alice, millet muffins, the quotidian (4.7.14), the quotidian (4.6.13), yellow cake.

  • how to make clabber

    I bet 95% of you read that title and your eyes immediately glazed over, am I right? (That’s okay. I still love you! Please love me back.) But for the 5% of you (and that number might be generous) who immediately did an internal happy dance, this is for you.

    I’ve been doing a ton with clabber in my kitchen and on YouTube, but I haven’t much mentioned it here, so it’s high time I get some of the main points down in writing. (I find written instructions to be a more accessible resource than video, though video is stellar for actual teaching purposes. But I digress.)

    Some facts:
    *Clabber is milk that has been left to sit out at room temperature until it thickens.
    *To start out, you gotta use raw milk.
    *Once thick, clabber is like a sourdough starter: shake a bit of clabber into a new jar of milk, wait a day or two until it thickens, and then repeat to infinity and beyond.

    The Big Questions…
    What does clabber smell like? Freaking amazeballs. Like nutty-sweet, buttery cream.

    What does clabber taste like? A little tangy-tart. Needle-y bright.

    What is the texture of clabber like? Watery jello, as opposed to thick and creamy like yogurt. Cut into it and it holds its shape. Shake it up and it reverts to liquid, like a thin lassi. In some places, like South Africa, clabber is a standard beverage that’s more easily digestible for the lactose intolerant.

    What’s the point of clabber? For the regular home cook, it’s like buttermilk: use it in baking or salad dressings or smoothies, or drink it straight. For the cheesemaker, it’s pure magic. A one-size-fits-all culture for cheesemaking, clabber can be used to culture any cheese — mesophilic and thermophilic — removing entirely the need for freeze-dried cultures which means that each cheese is completely unique to the cheesemaker’s location and cows. In other words, cheese cultured with clabber is ALL about the terroir.

    Months ago, I made my first clabber-cultured cheese and it turned out to be one of my best yet. Nutty, sweet, and uniquely flavored, I went absolutely gah-gah over it. Since then, I’ve experimented with making and maintaining various clabbers, posted a video on it, and I’ve made a bunch more clabber-cultured cheeses (most of which I have yet to taste* but all of which are behaving and smelling most marvelously). I have been maintaining the same clabber for the last month and a half and it’s still going strong.

    Actually, that’s not totally true. The other day I noticed it was smelling a little less-sweet than normal, and then I realized it was setting up in only 12 hours (because of the extra-hot weather, I think), so I started refreshing it every 12-18 hours and now it’s smelling like insanely delicious butter once again.

    I’ve heard that you can keep clabber in the fridge and then take it out and get it going again — like sourdough starter — but when I tried it, the revitalized clabber never returned to its former rich, creamy state so I decided it’s better to just let it live on the counter permanently and refresh it daily. I save the discard in a jar (in the fridge) and make pancakes every few days, or else feed it to the pigs. Considering we’re drowning in milk, it’s not a big loss.

    How to Make and Maintain Clabber

    First, some tips…

    • Use a permanent marker to write the date on the clabber jars.
    • Always use a clean jar and lid.
    • Don’t screw the lid on tight — a little airflow is good.
    • Shake in the clabber culture and then don’t disturb (though I did take my clabber along with me on a family trip and all the jiggling in the car didn’t seem to faze it).
    • Take notes so you can see how much time it takes for the milk to set up between feedings.
    • Important! You must start clabber with raw milk. Once it’s set up the first time, you can switch to pasteurized milk, they say, though I’ve only ever used raw milk.

    The Process…

    Step 1: Put a half cup of raw milk in a clean jar, top with a lid (but don’t screw it on tight), and set the jar on the counter at room temperature. Check morning and evening by gently tipping the jar to one side. When you tip the jar and the milk stays solid, it’s set. (For a full set, you should be able to hold the jar upside down for a couple seconds before gravity pulls it down.) It will take between 2-5 days for the first set.

    Step 2: Take a scoop of the clabber and plop it into a clean jar. (Toss the discard — you could probably drink it, or use it in baking, but first-set clabber has a stronger flavor.) Add some fresh milk, either raw or pasteurized. Shake. Set on the counter, with the lid loose. This time, it should set up in 24-48 hours.

    Steps 3-5: Repeat step two. (In other words, use the clabber to culture fresh milk three more times.) At this point, the milk should be setting up into clabber every 24 hours. If it’s really cold/hot in your house, it may go slower/faster accordingly. The discard can be used in baking and cooking.

    After Step 5(ish), the clabber will be established enough to be used in cheesemaking. To scale up for a batch of cheese, just put a small scoop of clabber in a larger jar and add as much milk as you need. There’s no need to use extra clabber to culture the larger amount of milk; one small scoop of clabber will culture a cup of milk as well as a quart (or more) of milk.

    Steps 6 to Infinity and Beyond: Each day, culture a bit of fresh milk with the clabber from yesterday’s milk.

    To use clabber as a culture for cheese:

    • Use ¼ cup of clabber per gallon of milk. For example, if you’re making a 6-gallon cheese, you’ll need 1½ cups of clabber, so the day before, culture about a pint (2 cups) of milk.
    • Shake up the clabber, and add a little milk from the pot, if you want to thin it. Where the recipe says to add your fancy, freeze-dried cultures, just pour in the thinned-down clabber and stir.
    • You can use refrigerated (discard) clabber for cheesemaking, but only use clabber that’s 1-3 days old. Much older than that and it starts getting risky (though some people say 4-5 day-old clabber is fine — you decide).
    • If the clabber doesn’t smell good, don’t use it!


    *Correction! I opened one of the Camemberts today and HOLY HECK FLAVOR FIREWORKS. Clabber is The Bomb.

    This same time, years previous: dairy developments, the different kinds of meals, the quotidian (4.6.20), caribbean milk cake, a trick for cooking pasta, scatteredness, the quotidian (4.6.15), the quotidian (4.6.13), cup cheese.

  • the quotidian (4.3.23)

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

    A new layer.

    Baby bears

    Jammy shortbread crumbles.

    This is what winning at leftovers looks like.

    Behold! A natural rind, ale-rubbed Gouda.

    I made mozzarella; therefore, pizza.

    Quick dessert: frozen raspberries, cream, maple syrup.

    A boy and his dog.

    And then he took me on a Jurassic adventure.

    Fence dismount.

    His newest employee.

    Sitting out the game because I got cleated — stomped on with cleats — waaaaah.

    This same time, years previous: ground beef chili with chocolate and peanut butter, coronavirus diaries: week four, kickboxing, the quotidian (4.2.18), the quotidian (4.3.17), red raspberry pie, an ecclesiastical funk, babies and boobs, the quotidian (4.2.12).

  • a special weekend

    You know how I mentioned that we missed Redbud’s birth because we were on a trip? Well, this was where we were. 

    My dad arranged and funded a getaway weekend in Pennsylvania for the whole family.

    This sort of thing is NOT something my parents do — EVER — which made it all the more special, and it just so happened that the weekend that suited everyone was my dad’s birthday weekend so: double special. 

    I was in charge of food, which, with my brothers’ help and Dad’s funding, was pretty low-key and easy. The place had a mammoth kitchen with three (three!) sinks, and was fully stocked with all the basics and then some.

    the Indian feast that my younger brother ordered in: SWOON

    randomly at breakfast: all of my kids in chronological order

    This was an action weekend, not a rest-and-relax weekend; in other words, my dad had An Agenda.

    Saturday morning, we toured Crystal Cave, and late afternoon we toured the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead (the restored home of Nicholas and Anna Stoltzfus, the ancestors that all Stoltzfuses in the US can trace their heritage back to), and in between those two things, we went to Body World, an exhibit of human bodies that have been dissected and then preserved through Plastination. (Years ago, he’d gone to a exhibit, and ever since, he said that when an exhibit came close to us, he was going to take us.)

    the snake inside us

    the nervous system

    only (ONLY!) the main arterial branches

    This particular show was an RX exhibit, so along with the regular, healthy bodies, there was a focus on injuries and illness: smoker’s lung, metal plates on bone, hip replacements, aortic dissection, swollen hearts, etc. 

    It was wild to see the actual parts of the body that I feel and experience daily: the hamstring, the sciatic nerve, the achy shoulder muscles, the clitoris, the achilles tendon. I did a lot of standing and staring, trying to piece together what I was seeing with what was inside my body. 

    If you ever get a chance to go to one of these exhibits, I highly recommend. It’s awesome, in the literal sense of the word.

    Sunday morning we messed around at the house, making eggs and bagels, cleaning up, and then taking advantage of the cavernous living room’s acoustics. Here’s a snippet of us monkeying around, if you want to hear…

    Sunday noon, the majority of us stopped in at my grandparents’ house on our way back home. We don’t get to see my grandparents that often, and my grandfather’s health is rapidly declining, so it was super special to get to visit with him and Grandma. 

    entering my daughter-in-law’s information into the geneology database

    horsewomen: three generations
    (My daughter got to hear the story of how her Great Grandmother got kicked in the face.)

    It was such a special weekend.

    This same time, years previous: six fun things, how we homeschool: Jane, the quotidian (3.30.20), Asian slaw, the art of human rights, the quotidian (3.31.14), Good Friday fun, braided bread, great cooking.

  • redbud

    We went on a family trip over the weekend so of course Honey had her baby while we were away.

    I was pretty sure she was close so I’d resigned myself to missing the birth, but even so, when our animal caretaker neighbor called on Saturday to say she was in labor and was it okay if she slept at our place so she could keep an eye on things (of course!!), we were bummed, especially my older daughter who’d missed both Daisy and Emma’s births (because she was in Massachusetts). Our caretaker said she’d called our other neighbor and he’d confirmed that Honey was, indeed, in labor, and then we let our other friend, Honey’s owner, know, and then my Pittsburgh brother said, “You have a better support network for your animals than we do for our children!” which made me laugh because yeah, it’s pretty amazing how everyone rallied to take care of our animals while we were gone.

    Less than two hours after we got the call that Honey was in labor, we got an email: “The calf has arrived! It looks alert and Honey is doing what good mama cows do.”

    The next day, the updates continued: “Honey has a spunky heifer calf. She is very protective and Butterscotch has some scrapes on her neck, behind her ear, and on her side from getting too close to the calf.” And the owner updated us with messages and photos, too, along with their family’s name suggestion of Redbud.  

    photo credit: Honey’s owner

    Other name ideas included:
    *MCC, because of the dove on her head
    *Goldie, because the white marking looked like a Golden Eagle
    *Queenie, because one of my daughter’s friends kept saying “yaaaas, queen” to Honey when they went to pick her up, and because the marking kinda looked like a crown.
    *And then, to cover all our bases, “Her Royal Highness, Queen Goldie of Redbud”

    At which point we went back to Redbud which really is the sweetest name. 

    When we got home the next day, we zipped straight down the the field to greet the new baby. She’s absolutely perfect, feisty and curious, gangly-wobbly, and soft. 

    Kisses from Aunty Emma
    (Honey will actually leave the calf with Emma and go off to eat.)

    Honey was a bit fierce, huffing and puffing if we got too close, and since my parents had just reminded me over the weekend that one of my great uncles (who I didn’t know) was gored to death by a bull ten years ago, I was a little more nervous than normal.

    Butterscotch, a bit roughed up.

    one of several

    But my husband and son got right in there and managed to get Honey into the milking stall for the first hand milking.

    It always feels touch-and-go with a new cow.

    This is our second heifer cow (first-time mama), so we’re still pretty new at this. There’s always so many questions: Is the calf nursing okay? Do we need to hand milk more often? Are we milking too much? Why isn’t she letting down? When should we try the machine? Is that quarter too full? What does mastitis look like?

    We watch YouTube videos on milk-training heifer cows and read websites about udder problems and research kick bars. Honey’s owner has come over a couple times to check her, and to drop off some peppermint udder balm to help alleviate the edema. 

    Each milking is a team effort — bringing her in, keeping her calm with brushings and rump rubbings, keeping a constant eye on her legs so we can dodge the kicks, picking up the kicked-over buckets, etc. My younger son is actually quite good with her — calm and measured — but my husband falls into the pit of despair every five minutes.

    Yesterday morning I wasn’t there and apparently it was a real shitshow: Honey kicked the milker off with both feet so hard that one part of the milker flew the whole way across the shed, and then my husband lost it and threw open the gate to set her loose, at which point he yelled at himself “THAT’S NOT RESPONSIBLE” and slammed it shut again, and all the while my son was laughing so hard he could hardly stand up.

    So when my husband goes out to milk, I have to go along so I can coo a steady stream of Calming Big Picture Perspective into his ear to counter his steady stream of “This Won’t Work” and “What’s The Point” and “I Didn’t Sign Up For This.” (Yes, you did.)

    Like I said, a team effort. 

    It’s getting better. I think every single issue we’re dealing with is one hundred percent normal and it will all even out in a week or so, and Honey will be a fabulous family milk cow. 

    Here’s to hoping I’m right!

    This same time, years previous: celebrating seventy, the quotidian (3.29.21), milk bread, now that she’s back, for-real serious, teff pancakes with blueberries, absorbing the words, seven-minute egg, our oaf, on being together: it’s different here somehow.

  • honey

    Last week we got a new cow. (Well, she’s not ours, really — she’s on loan from a friend in exchange for milk — and she’s a heifer, not a cow. But those two minor details aside, my opening statement is one hundred percent true.)

    you can’t see her in the photo for all the people admiring her

    Her name is Honey and she’s due the end of this month or the beginning of April. I’m not exactly sure what breed she is — a cross between Jersey and maybe Holstein and/or Normande? — and she’s super sweet.

    Or at least she’s sweet with humans. With the other cows, she’s pretty much a holy terror, charging them with her horns and chasing them away from the food. It was so bad, in fact, that we got a little worried that Emma’s milk production would drop and wondered if we might have to feed them separately, but things are stabilizing now — i.e. Honey’s learning to share. She’s still somewhat territorial and stabby, but less so. 

    We’ve been trying to spend time with her, getting a halter on her and coaxing her into the milking shed, turning on and off the vacuum pump (for the milker) so she gets used to it, etc.

    She doesn’t like grain, but she’s a voracious hay-eater and goes nuts for alfalfa, so we bought her a few bales of that. 

    thanks for the present, girlfriend

    I thought she’d be delivering in April, but she’s looking close: swollen and hard udder, bits of mucus, leaking teats. I spent a lot of time yesterday staring out the window: Why is she stretched out like that? Is she straining? Is her back arched? Has she stopped eating?

    I ran down to the field several times, too, to poke her udder, check her pins (the ligament between the pin bone and the tail bone that turns jello-y before birth), and give her lots of good brush-downs and neck scratches. Pro tip: always scratch a cow’s neck( instead of the top of the head) so they’re less likely to headbutt for attention.

    checking the pins: they’re beginning to soften

    At one point, the kids joined me in the field, and my older son taught my younger son how to ride motorcycle. There was lots of “Watch out for the poop!”

    And then Honey got frisky from all the excitement and tossed her head at me, goring my boob with her horn. It was just a light poke but that was enough to make me turn tail and head back to the house, thank you very much.

    P.S. Is anyone else getting a kick out of today’s date? Three-twenty-three-twenty-three, wheee!

    This same time, years previous: the cheezer, the quotidian (3.23.20), almond cardamon tea cake, the solo, the tables are turning, the quotidian (3.23.15), the walk home, oatmeal toffee bars.