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20130317-082317.jpg On Sundays my grandmother would always make a big lunch. Sometimes a roast but mostly20130317-082143.jpg fried chicken. My brothers and I would stay over on Sunday nights and the next morning my uncle would cram me, my two older brothers, our grandfather, a pomeranian and a rat terrier in his little red and white Ford Ranger, and we’d set off for morning chores.

The most memorable part of Monday mornings was not the journey home, but the breakfast grandma would make us before we left. You see, she used her cast iron skillet for everything, but mostly for frying chicken and cooking pancakes and she never cleaned the pan in between, just wiped it out every now and again with a paper towel and it was good to go. As a result Monday morning pancakes where speckled with Sunday afternoon fried chicken bits, but we smiled and ate ever last piece anyway because those where the days that kids ate what was set out on the table regardless of having fried bits of chicken or not.

I was thinking of those pancakes this morning. It was a particularly cold March day and one of the heifers was having a difficult calving. I was underdressed and overtired, but there was no going back to bed. I pulled some twine off a bale of hay, made a loop and pulled the calf. The cow was up right away licking off her calf. I made my way back inside and knew the only thing that could warm me up and fill me up were buckwheat pancakes made in a cast iron skillet, chicken bits not included.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Wild Blackberries

I found a buckwheat flour that’s grown in Eau Claire, WI that I absolutely love. It’s from Bee Healthy Foods and I found it at The Coffee Grounds. I used their recipe for pancakes but added wild blackberries that I had frozen last summer as my own touch. Use a bit more milk if you like thinner pancakes.

1 cup Buckwheat Flour20130317-082604.jpg

1 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg beaten

1 cup milk

2 tbsp. melted butter

3/4 cup frozen blackberries

Preheat griddle to 375. Grease lightly with oil. Mix dry ingredients together; add egg, milk, and butter, beat well after each addition. Fold in blackberries. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto the griddle. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning when edges look cooked and bubbles begin to break on surface. Continue to cook 1 minute more or until golden brown.

My mom was the kind of mom who bought whole-wheat bread, made macaroni and cheese from scratch, practiced yoga in the living room and substituted honey for sugar in her oatmeal cookies.

I hadn’t thought of my mother’s oatmeal cookies in almost twenty years, until the day one of my favorite cows ‘kicked the bucket’.

I don’t know if it was the grief or maybe I was just lacking in fiber, but somehow I knew the only thing that was going to make me feel better were those oatmeal cookies.

I searched through cookbook after cookbook, each time finding a recipe for oatmeal cookies, but they all had white sugar listed in the ingredients, and none of them called for a grated apple or golden raisins.

But there hidden by a dusty pile of old Gourmet magazines, tucked behind some forgotten thank-you cards, and an old photograph of me in my questionable ‘hair style years’, lay a worn, stained copy of Whole Earth Cook Book.

I knew I had found the right recipe when I flipped through the book and found the oatmeal cookie page full of smudges from butter and honey, and in the upper corner my mother had mindlessly scribbled a note reminding her about a CPR class she was to teach.

I spent the rest of that day making batch after batch of oatmeal cookies. Adding golden raisins to some, and dark chocolate to others. As I stirred, mixed and tasted I felt my mood lift and sadness wane.

I will never get used to losing a cow, I don’t think any farmer does, but as we say at The Mead “It just a part of farming”…… and cookies are good for the soul.

Oh, and Mom, thank you for never letting us eat boxed macaroni

“Doesn’t it feel like we’re in Tuscany?” Sue said from the back seat as we meandered our way up the hill to Sandstone Ridge Vineyard & Winery. We were only minutes away from the farm, yet it seemed like we had crossed an ocean as we looked out over fields of grape vines, and the rolling foothills below us.

My mother, our friend Sue and I arrived at the vineyard ready to explore Wisconsin wine. Andy, our “Tasting Tour Guide” for the afternoon started us off with a semi-dry white table wine called ‘Brianna’ named for the grapes it was made from. It was crisp and delicious, with notes of green apple. Sue and my mother and I being seasoned wine drinkers, (That’s code for we like to throw a few back) tasted our way though almost ten different wines. My two favorites were ‘Frontenac’, a semi-sweet red table wine that goes amazingly well with dark chocolate (Andy had a stash of dark chocolate on hand for us to taste with the wine) and ‘Frontenac Rose’, a bit lighter wine that’s excellent for sipping.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the wine. Most Midwest wines that I’ve tasted have been extremely sweet, which quite frankly doesn’t do it for me. My only regret was not having visited the winery earlier. They are open for tasting Friday through Sunday, May to December. I am so happy that I have such a lovely local winery that we can impress our out of town guests with!


Sandstone Ridge Vineyard & Winery
Osseo, Wisconsin

Keeping chickens through the winter months doesn’t make me all that excited. My hens were getting a little “Long in the tooth” anyway, and since chickens will start to lay fewer eggs when they reach about three years of age, I decided it was time to turn the residents of the coop into a winters’ worth of soup.

Joe has a gift for catching chickens.

There was a time my husband used to take care of all the chicken butchering on our farm, but the chicken heads always seemed to end up in the front yard and I’d step on them at five in the morning on my way to the barn, and it scared the hell out of me. We found that for $1.50 a bird our highly skilled Amish neighbors would take care of the butchering and bagging for us. Off we went.

Joe and I love visiting with our Amish friends, we talk shop and compare farming techniques. On this last visit we discovered that we could grow peanuts here in Wisconsin. Henry (Our Amish friend) says they do rather well in the sandy soils he has at his place. They had ten onion bags full of peanuts air-drying on the front porch. He grabbed a few from the bags for us to try and it was remarkable how much they tasted of peas before they get roasted.

Henry’s wife also had some great advice. She said they love using rendered chicken fat to pop their popcorn. The Amish know how to do snack food! She said it’s easy enough to render, just leave it cooking on the stove all day until it’s done. There was a colander full of chicken fat sitting next to our neatly plucked hens for me to take home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the mindset to render chicken fat all day and seeing how they loved it so much I said she should just keep it.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

I’ve been making up large batches of chicken soup to send to work with Joe to eat for lunch. As I was looking through recipes for chicken stock and talking to folks who make their own I found that there are as many recipes for chicken stock as there are people who make it.

Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions, says to add a tablespoon of vinegar to the pot to pull out extra minerals from the chicken bones.

I learned a great trick from Martha Stewart, keep a freezer bag handy in the freezer and add onion peels and bits of carrot and celery, when your bags full make stock.

My mother-in-law said to add a dash of Tamari to build the flavor, and my mother always sings ‘Scarborough Fair’ by Simon and Garfunkel when she’s making her chicken stock to remind her to add parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

My advice is to find yourself an old hen that was raised organically, and cook it down all day. As far as a recipe for chicken soup, ask your mother, I find that no one makes better chicken soup than your mother.

I’ve always thought as Washington State as home, I grew up there then left with my family to the East Coast when I was eighteen. I hadn’t wanted to move from the grey skies and mountain views, but I didn’t really have a lot of choice. For the first few years after leaving I thought about returning, as the years past so did the feeling of moving home. I hadn’t been back to Washington in over ten years, this past weekend I returned with my husband and my parents for our friends wedding on Camano Island.

Joe walking through Seattle

We were all pretty excited to eat the local food. We started our dining experience with a stop at my fathers beloved Taco Time, a Washington fast food joint that turned fifty this year. My dad had been going there since his high school days for their bean burritos. This was no typical fast food dining. First of all, the ingredients are sourced locally and all the plates, wrappers, straws, and utensils are compostable, so instead of seeing garbage cans it was all compost bins. What a great idea!

We made it to the Pike Place Market to pick up clams for dinner. We also scored some gigantic mushroom that where harvested from the mountains in Washington State and garlic and dill to go with the clams. Our friends brought Alaskan salmon that their mother had caught on a fishing trip out to the island and we had a magnificent feast.

Joe’s out to lunch!

Our weekend was memorable. I was happy to show my husband where I had been raised and the sun even came out for a bit. I realized something when I was there, I loved growing up in the Pacific Northwest, but my home and my heart are right here in Wisconsin.

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