Monthly Archives: September 2012

Kettle Corn

There’s nothing like these cool autumn days to call up nostalgic home comforts.  Soups, stews, a fire in the fireplace, hot tea with milk, and kettle corn!

Growing up we made popcorn balls about once a year.  I’ve made them with my children, too, but I like the kettle corn’s more subtle sweetness.  Not that it’s all that subtle, mind you, but it’s more subtle than the corn syrup laden popcorn balls.

This is not for the faint of heart, and I wouldn’t encourage you to have your kids make it.  You have to be very cautious so you don’t get burned.

Kettle Corn

Large stock pot or dutch oven with a lid

1/2 c. water

2/3 c. popcorn kernels

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. cooking oil for popping

Put the unpopped kernels of popcorn into a bowl with the water and let soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Place three unpopped kernels of corn in your large stock pot or dutch oven (mine is 6 quarts – I’d like 7 or 8 quarts better).  Heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat until the three kernels pop.

Now, very carefully add the water and popcorn kernels, and the sugar, to the stock pot.  I keep my lid on and, lifting it in the direction away from my face, add the popcorn and water and the sugar under the back side of the lifted lid.  It will spit and sputter and have a general hissy fit, and if you are not careful, you will get burned.  If you can, long oven mitts to protect your arms and hands while you pour the water and corn in will be a huge plus.

Let it sit over medium-high heat for a few minutes, and when the kernels begin to pop, start shaking the pan back and forth on the burner somewhat vigorously, to keep the popped corn from sitting in one place and burning.  Pay attention to the sound of the kernels popping, and when they slow down to one every couple seconds, remove your pot from the burner instantly, then turn the burner off. This should minimize any burning.

The kettle corn will be very hot.  We just about always burn tongues in our impatience to taste it!  Give it a couple minutes to cool down some, and serve immediately.  Serves 6-8.



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Passion or Pleasure

“… Passion could be the wrong emotional measuring stick when you’re looking for the good life…. When you start doing the work you were born to do, you don’t feel passion.  What you feel is that nothing is missing.”

~Barbara Sher, Living the Life You Love

Sometimes we feel that we are missing something if there is no great passion in our lives.  A passion to paint, or create, or invent, or nurture, or …?  Somewhere, somehow, there must be passion.  But passion is a great fire that quickly burns out.  Once we have discovered and accepted the things we love to do or to surround ourselves with, and have brought them into our life, we should feel a satisfying pleasure that continues to give us, not a quickly dying burst of flame, but a lasting, steady warmth.

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Hidalgo Horse

Sophie is a haflinger, a type of draft pony. Apparently she’ll eat just about anything!

When the children and I went down to feed and muck last night, JJ tagged along.  He doesn’t ordinarily do much of the routine chores with the horses, but I had promised him a walk down our two-track lane to enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.  JJ loves to talk and visit, so to have me all to himself was a big temptation for him.

While JJ waited for me to finish my chores he did something only a boy(of any age) would think to do.  Recalling the scene in the movie Hidalgo where Frank feeds his horse grasshoppers in the middle of the desert, JJ picked up a grasshopper and offered it to Sophie.  Darned if Sophie didn’t eat the grasshopper.  What!  If Betsy hadn’t been standing there and seen it, I’d have thought he was pulling my leg just to tell a good story.  So I told him to find another one.  He did.  Sure enough, I stood there and watched while Sophie ate a second grasshopper!  Who needs carrots or apples when there are grasshoppers nearby?

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Cream of Butternut Bisque (Squash Soup)

On this week’s episode of Small Home Farm Radio I promised a really good recipe for turning butternut squash into delicious soup.  I hope I do not disappoint!

This recipe comes from one of the recipe books my family uses regularly: Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way by Leanne Ely.  (She has non-low carb versions, but in fact, the title is a bit of a misnomer.  While the recipes are relatively low carb, they’re not no-carb, the carbs are good ones like veggies, while you can make your entire meal pretty low carb based on her recipe and menu suggestions, she also gives suggestions to make the recipes into a whole meal, that can, if you want, include items like whole-grain rolls or tortillas if you like.  So don’t let the title scare you.

In fact, this book has, at various points in my adult life, revolutionized my cooking by saving me hours of planning and grocery list making.  I love that.  It’s one of those books I would personally give a copy to every person who cooks for his or her family, just to make their lives better.  And I hope you’ll at least check out a copy through your library system.  If you love it, I hope you’ll consider adding it to your collection by purchasing it from my amazon affiliate link to help support Small Home Farm Radio. (Click on the underlined book title above.)  But whatever you do, you’ve got to try this soup!  (And you might want to make a double batch next time, after you’re sure you love it, too!)

Cream of Butternut Bisque

1 tsp. butter

1 small onion, chopped

1 3/4 c. butternut squash, peeled and chopped

1 – 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black pepper if you don’t have white pepper)

3/4 c. half-and-half

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook till onion is translucent.

Add butternut squash to onion and cook just a minute.  Now add the chicken broth, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer (covered) till squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Mash or process the squash to desired consistency.  (If you like your soup really smooth, you can puree if in batches in a food processor of blender, but if you like a little more texture, use a potato masher.)

Add squash back to saucepan (if you used your blender or food processor), then add the spices and half-and-half and bring soup almost to boiling point (but don’t boil it, or you will curdle the soup).  Serve hot.

Serves 4.


Filed under Home, The Country Kitchen


I just brought in a couple loads of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cukes and things from the garden.  More than I would normally harvest at one go.

At the feed store this afternoon picking up horse feed, Perry, the fit “almost elderly” Amish fellow who loads our sacks for us, said, “Feels like a frost tonight.”  I stopped to think about it for a minute… and darned if it didn’t feel like I remembered cool days before a frost actually feeling.  Why hadn’t I been paying attention?

I had to check the weather tonight to see if his prediction was likely.  Yep.  It’s calling for temps in the low 30’s tonight.  So Cecily and I brought in a bunch of produce and she helped me cover as much of the garden as I was willing to save.  Farming season is slowing down.

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The Good Life

Photo by Tigerzeye.

I read a marvelous quote last night in Barbara Sher’s book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It.  Here at Aspendale Farm we are in the midst of deep and meaningful career and life planning searches in varied forms.  Our oldest is in his second year of college as a dual-enrolled high school student.  He is restless to decide what, in the end, he will do.  He’ll need to pick a major at the end of the year.  Should he follow what, to him, feels “meaningful?”  Does the word meaningful necessarily have to mean “of benefit to humanity?”  Can it mean, rather, that he chooses what he is really passionate about even if it’s not of “meaningful” benefit?  What if he wants to be a logger?  How meaningful would that feel?  A stock broker?  A cowboy?

We are all in a search in some way for the good life.  And the quote I ran across last night sums it up so much better than popular connotation.  If you were to stand around at a dinner party, eating hors d’oevres and talking about the good life, you would probably be talking about exotic travel, high-end luxury cars that cost more than your current house, diamonds, awards banquets.  But here is a much better definition:  The good life is waking up in the morning excited to start all over again, doing what you love.

Isn’t this what we want for our children?  For ourselves?

Some of us, though, are caught in the trap of not knowing what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us just feel trapped in a dead end job somewhere that leaves us feeling hollow, unfulfilled, depressed, or even angry.  That is the antithesis of meaningful work.

Sher shares two fascinating exercises for the reader to do.  First, if you can, describe your dream job in detail.  What would you be doing?  Who would you work with?  Where would you perform your job?  Get as vivid and detailed as you like.  The second exercise, which is especially helpful for those who could not complete the first exercise very well, is to again, in detail, describe who you would be working with or for, where, and what you would be doing in the worst, most horrible job you could possibly imagine.

Once you’ve described that horrific, hateful job, you turn it around and rewrite the description exactly opposite of the horrible job.  If you work in a stuffy dark office in that awful scenario, change it to be working outside in the sunlight, or in some bright airy studio, perhaps.  Whatever, to you, the “opposite” of the horrible job is.  In the end, that’s your dream job.  You can finalize the details by discussing and clarifying it with someone else, or as she suggests, if you don’t have a partner to help you, take two different pens and write out the scenario, clarifying for the “other” yourself as you go along.

This is not to say that, having found your passion, you will be ready to jump right into it.  Life has a way of confronting us with reality.  Fear will certainly at least attempt to put on the brakes.  Preconceived notions of what you were really “supposed” to do with your life will stop you.  Prosiac matters will natter at you, such as “how will I pay the bills?”  “What will my family think of me?”  “What if I fail?”  “What if I’m wildly successful?”  “Won’t my work be frivolous?”

I love the notion Sher asserts that we are actually obligated to do what we love, because our passion will give us the dedication to be very skilled at what we do.  And if we don’t use our gifts, we will be cheating humanity out of our own brand of genius.  How’s that for permission to follow your dream!



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Little Glen Lake at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.

I’ll admit, I’ve been positively AWOL the past several weeks.  I suspect many of you have been, too.  No one seems to have noticed I’ve been gone anyway.

But in excuse, we’ve been vacationing – first to my uncle’s farm for a Meteor Shower party, then to Traverse City and its outlying areas for the annual Traverse City Triathlon and our last hoorah of summer … vacation.

The illustrious athletes in their wetsuits, about to enter Bowers Harbor in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay (L-R: JJ, Jesse, our friend Steve) before embarking on their two hour Olympic Triathlon. They were hamming it up for the camera.  Yes, that is my offspring on the left there, making that hilarious face. No, it’s not my fault.

Jesse was the fourth athlete out of the water after the 1500 meter swim. Out of the transition area, he hopped onto his road bike for the 40 km bike portion of the race. It finished with a 10 km run. Jesse hit his personal best at 1:45. 

JJ is leaving the first transition for the bike portion of the race. This was his first Olympic length triathlon and he was thrilled to complete the event! His time was around 2:13.

After recovering from the race we spent the next week visiting the Traverse Area District Library, touring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the library, Torch Lake, the library, Glen Arbor, the library, Suttons Bay, the library, climbing a rock wall, playing dodge ball, hiking, bike riding, visiting the library, and drinking coffee.  Okay, mostly the kids didn’t drink coffee.  But they sure wanted to go to the library a lot!

There is a steep drop off to the Lake Michigan shore here at Sleeping Bear Dunes. It appears to be 1/8 of a mile or more down. Jesse and the kids ran down it (or somersaulted in Danny’s case) in about two minutes. They hiked back up it in about an hour. The angle of the climb is about 60-degrees. The two figures on the right are Jesse and Danny.

JJ, Cecily,and I took off to spend one afternoon and evening in Glen Arbor, enjoying some fine food and a great band al fresco. I love spending time with my teenagers! They’re so funny and a lot of fun to be with.

The fam. Vacation time after the race. Looking out at a spectacular view of Little Glen Lake. (L-R: Danny, Cecily, Betsy, JJ and that’s Jesse hiding out behind JJ.)

JJ and Cecily had to drive home early for an event, but we spent our last day with them on the beach with a rented jet ski and a wakeboard, in the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay with Old Mission peninsula to the east and Leelanau peninsula to the west. It was a beautiful day.


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