Archive | Posted by Francine RSS feed for this section

Spring Lambs

11 Mar

by Francine

On Saturday, we took a 30 minute drive to a nearby farm that advertised they had a ‘lambing experience’ from now until mid-April. A photo of a lamb

It’s definitely not uncommon to see sheep in the fields around here, but there’s only a short period of time when you can glimpse little lambs jumping in the fields.

We didn’t find any jumping lambs in the fields at Coombes Farm, but we did find newborn lambs.

And loads of baa-ing ewes…soon to be mama sheep.

A photo of the ewes

Two big barns, with hay-covered pens, were filled with expectant ewes–some would have triplets and some would have twins.

As you walked around, it was possible to see ewes in labour. When we were there, there were no births, but we did see some very recently born little ones.A photo of a newborn lamb

Many of the lambs were sleeping (being born is hard work) or having some milk. 

There was one lamb who was very noisy, friendly and active (see below…this was the only non-blurry photo I could get of the little guy).A photo of a lamb

There were some sheep and three older lambs (can you spot them?) out in the field. They were very curious about us. A photo of curious sheep

I loved visiting this farm! 

It’s hard to believe that spring is nearly here especially because it’s snowing today!

When we visited on Saturday, the grass was green, yellow daffodils were standing tall, the sky was grey and A photo of flowersthe only snow was the dainty snowdrops announcing that spring is almost here.

Have you ever seen the birth of an animal?  Do you know any spring lambs?  I’d love to hear!

PS. Deanne once helped a ewe in labour: reaching in and re-arranging the little legs so that the ewe could deliver the lamb properly. Go Mom!

Advertisements

Francine’s Five Favorites of 2012

31 Dec
by Francine

This year was a big one for me…I moved to England, got married, became a UK resident and started a job in marketing…phew! 

But in between those huge milestones, life was really pretty normal and filled with boring (and A photo of the castlesometimes stressful things)…things like heaps of paperwork, cover letters and a never-ending, slowly drying pile of laundry (we don’t have a dryer in our flat).

Thankfully sprinkled amongst all of those stressful things were heaps of delicious food, sunshine-y memories and a few castles. ;)

I thought I’d take a moment to share five of my Real Local Cooking favorites from this past year.  It was hard to narrow it down when there are 105 posts (!!) from which to choose, but here they are…

1.  Making a Watermelon Radish Salad was really fun because it allowed me introduce my family to a vegetable I discovered in China and it brought some vibrant color to a cold MN winter.

A photo of the inside

2.  Since moving to England, I’ve enjoyed many store bought oatcakes, but before moving here, I made my own oatcakes after discovering the recipe in a River Cottage cookbook.  It was fun to create something different and many of you also enjoyed finding out about this recipe. 

A photo of Oatcakes

3. Early in 2012, I began making FarmerChef specials with seasonal and local products/produce.  Once a week, we put these specials on the menu at my parents’ restaurant.  I enjoyed the challenge and creativity involved in coming up with dishes. 

After moving to England, my parents continued preparing and serving FarmerChef specials, and I loved finding out about all the creative dishes they were coming up with.  I thought their Kohlslaw…coleslaw from kohlrabis was especially fun.  I made this salad in September when we picked our own Kohlrabi.

Photo of Kohlslaw

4.  In England, the summer of 2012 was very cool, wet and un-sunny; perhaps that’s why it made me so happy to see the Garden Tours of the raised bed garden throughout the MN summer.

photo of a tomato

5. Last month, mom, dad and Luke came to visit us in England.  We discovered the beauty of the Lake District…oh my!

A photo of Littletown Farmphoto of salad in a jar

And some runner-ups…

Having my first scone with clotted cream and plum jam, picking strawberries, trying out this FarmerChef quiche (and making it many times since…any time I have eggs, vegetables and no idea what to fix for dinner), making both strawberry+rhubarb crumble and cobbler and seeing that mom made an oh-so pretty layered salad.

It’s been a fun year of blogging, filled with many good memories and tasty recipes

Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the internet and sharing your own memories. thoughts and recommendations in the comments! It’s always so great to hear from you!

My First Fig

26 Dec
by Francine

Growing up in the midwest and always living in places with cold winters, the only fig I ever encountered where those of the Newton variety which I’ve always found found to be delightfully crunchy.  When I moved to England I started noticing figs from faraway places in the supermarket, but I wanted to hold off on having a fig until I was in a place that had figs growing on a tree. Since it might be that figs are one of the last fruits I’ll get to have for the first time in my lifetime…

I tasted bright pink dragon fruit for the first time in Vietnam and saw the cactus-like way it grows; I was introduced to the very smelly durian by Chinese friends, and I bought fragrant mangosteens from a smiling Chinese fruit vendor after seeing the very cute fruit piled high in all the street market stalls (more on mangosteens in a future post because they are just so delightful).

Anyway, I promised myself that I’d wait to have figs until I was in a place that had figs on their list of local seasonal fruits.A photo of a fig tree  Thankfully this happened sooner than I expected.  We went to Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic) back in September and as we drove from Skopje (the capital) to Lake Ohrid we were amazed at the beauty of this tiny mountainous country. We also noticed its bounty…vines heavy with grapes, watermelons everywhere, and the ripest tomatoes of our lives crowning every dish. 

We arrived at our guesthouse on the shore of Lake Ohrid just as the sun was going down and we sounded like a crazy flock of seagulls muttering ‘wow, wow, wow’ over and over.  It was SO beautiful, seriously one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited. 

A photo of the Sunset over lake Ohrid

Our private balcony was framed by creeping vines, purple flowers and an unobstructed view of the lake.  Just when I was thinking that things couldn’t get any better, the jolly and very kind guesthouse owner, Pavel, leaned over our balcony and presented us with a bowl of perfectly ripe figs, asking us if we liked them.  He then pointed to a nearby tree that was completely heavy with ripe figs!A photo of figs

I immediately had one; and as the juice dripped down my chin, I was so glad that I waited to have a fig that was so ripe it would fall of the tree into your hand.  A photo of a figI was pleased to find out that the crunchyness of fig newtons comes from the seeds which are interemingled with the delicate flesh.  And how pretty that tangled flesh is…upon close inspection it looks like a the center of a rose.

I had no idea that Macedonia would have ripe figs, but it was such a wonderful surprise.  If you ever get a chance to visit Lake Ohrid, you must! And if you ever find yourself in Ohrid you must stay at Pavel’s guesthouse (Grebnos Stonehouse Apartments); he was a wonderful and welcoming host with a deep love and pride for his beautiful country of Macedonia.

Do you remember the first time you had a fig?  Have you ever plucked one from the tree?  I’d love to hear!

ps. Sorry it took me 3 months to get this post up…I’ve been wanting to share this figgy tale with you since it happened. ;)  Hope you’re all well…thanks for reading!

Our Pick Your Own Adventure

6 Oct
by Francine

I’m familiar with pick your own strawberries and pick your own apples, but pick your own kohlrabi and broccoli (!!?) sign me up!  Two weekends ago, we spent an entire afternoon at Garson’s PYO Farm, with 30+ crops you have to drive around to the different fields, but once we found the fields we got lost in rows of sweetcorn, jumped over pumpkins and spent a very long time in the raspberry bushes (there were SO many!!). 

Here’s some photos of what we discovered.  We plan to visit again this weekend to get some more apples and, of course, some pumpkins.  Hopefully next growing season we can rely only on pick your own for all of our produce needs.

A photo of kohlrabiMassive kohlrabi just waiting to be turning into some fresh Kohlslaw.

a photo of the applesSo many tasty English apples.

a photo of pumpkins

A patchwork of pumpkins.

a photo of cabbageThe purple cabbage was very tender.  I made some tasty slaws.  There was also broccoli for picking.  I picked a few bouquets and turned it into an American favourite…broccoli slaw!!

a photo of squashLook what I found…an ambercup squash. I wrote about this squash last fall in my series on squash.

a photo of runner beansI discovered a new bean…the runner bean.  As you can see runner beans are very long, you can eat the same way you standard green beans, cut up, steamed and tossed in butter.  But I decided to cut ours thinly and add to coleslaw for more crunch.

a photo of raspberriesI’d probably still be in the raspberry patch stuffing my face if it was up to me.

A photo of a sunflowerCute bees.

Have you picked your own everything?  Are you still harvesting from your own garden? I’d love to hear.

Photos of Scotney Castle…continued

15 Sep
by Francine

It was gloriously sunny and perfectly warm last weekend so we headed to Kent (a county over) to visit Scotney Castle. A photo of the castleThis property and its landscaper garden is a well-known example of the Picturesque style, which literally means “in the manner of a picture; fit to be made into a picture.”  The castle was first built in the 13oo’s and it may or may not have ever been completed.  Then in the late 1700’s the family decided to build a house on the hill which over looked the castle ruins.  The owners then created a magnificent garden with the moated castle ruin being the main feature (sheesh…most people use gnomes or flamingos as focal point of their garden;).

A photo of a flower and the castle

A photo of the castle

A photo of the castle

A photo of the castle's reflection

A photo of the stairsSteps for a princess?

A photo of the gardenThis part of the garden was behind the main tower you can see in the photos above.  It was ruinous, calm and overgrown.  Favourite. 

A photo of a flowerA photo of the sunA photo of the gateBye bye Picturesque garden.

A photo of sheep And one more photo of meditative sheep because I spent a long time watching them.

Photos of a Kentish Castle

13 Sep
by Francine

Hi all!  Yesterday I promised photos of our weekend visit to a Kentish castle. 

I’ve processed them, and they’re looking good (I got a new camera)!  But…my pillow is calling my name; it’s time-for-bed time for me.  Until I get the rest up tomorrow, here’s one of my favourites.  Have a good Friday!A photo of sheepPeek-a-boo sheep!

A what nut?

12 Sep
by FrancineA photo of cobnuts at the supermarket

Last week I was poking around our local supermarket when I noticed a new item.

“Cobnuts,” I said aloud to Scott (my plus one), who was on the other side of the aisle rustling through onions.

“Cobnuts!” he said excitedly. 

“What are they?” I asked.

To which he selected a handful for us to crack open at home, promising I’d enjoy them.

After turning to the internet for answers, I’ll tell you what I learned about cobnuts.  They are commercially cultivated hazelnuts, the most popular is the Kentish Cobnut which has been cultivated in the region since the 1500s.  I also discovered that you can buy  cobnut oil, grown and produced in Kent.  (Remember when we visited a Kentish tea room?  Click back tomorrow, I’ll share some photos from our weekend day trip to the prettiest castle in Kent.) A photo of cobnuts Even though cobnuts are technically grown and sold commercially, Scott recounted childhood memories of checking to see if the cobnuts on the bush-like tree in his childhood garden (yard) were ready for picking.  He told me that the nuts required frequent checking to ensure you got a handful before the squirrels started munching on them too.

A photo of a cracked open cobnutAfter my internet research, we cracked open our cobnuts.  The green frilly casing was soft and easy to remove.  We cracked open the strong shell with a pair of pliers.  The next step was to remove ALL of the skin… I was told that even a small speck of skin will turn your tasty treat bitter and vile.A photo of the skin peeled

Once all the skin was removed, it was time for my first cobnut…the taste was sweet and earthy, it reminded me of the smell of freshly shelled peas, but since then I’ve heard it described as similar to coconuts.

We quickly munched through our handful of cobnuts and purchased some more on our next visit to the store. They are only in season for a few weeks and the wild ones are probably available for an even shorter period of time due to the gastronomic preferences of grey squirrels. A photo of a ready to eat cobnut

I loved discovering them at the store.  When I was in China new food discoveries were a near daily occurrence, but it hasn’t happened as much in my new home.  But when it does it makes me as excited as squirrel discovering a cobnut tree!

Do you know, can you pick wild hazelnuts in your area?  Have you ever tried a cobnut?A photo of the cobnut stages