This week the girls and I have been busy with Halloween prep, harvest season fun, getting back into our kitchen, tending goats for friends, and spending as much time as possible with friends who are leaving for a year.
Last weekend, we were honored to be asked to goat-sit for our friends at Rose and Thistle Farm east of Santa Maria. They have milk goats that need daily tending, and, thanks to our Nebraska hosts, we have the basics. Plus, we're excited about farm life, so E and I jumped at the opportunity. (V balked, 'til we were there; then she was all over the chores, and the animals!) Our pay - fresh goat milk!
You say that's not a good deal? Well, I might have, too, had these friends not introduced us to FRESH goat milk. See, like too many people, the only goat milk I'd ever had was from the cartons at the grocery store. That milk is pretty, er, gamey? Goaty? STRONG! But fresh goat milk is superb, and not entirely unlike cow milk in taste. It's white, creamy goodness that, for me, causes a lot less gut distress. (I didn't realize lactose had any effect on me 'til we spent our Nebraska week drinking solely goat milk. It was an amazingly comfortable week!) And with organic DAIRY at $7/gallon at our neighborhood store, the goat milk trade for service was a nice perk.
We were also given license to enjoy the farm, play with the dog, pet the cat, feed the horses, eat the grapes growing along the house, pick lemons, play in the pool. Well, we didn't have enough time to hit the pool (can you believe it?), but we enjoyed the rest. Plus, with Mr. B's help, we picked a grocery bag full of lemons which I then processed into lemon juice (a whole gallon of it!) at home. I'm working on freezing the lemon juice by way of the ice cube trays so we can store the juice, but still access it easily as needed for a variety of baking projects. (And, no, it's not all about money - but lemons in our grocery store are running 99 cents EACH...not per pound...EACH! Even at our local farmers' market they want 50 cents per lemon. So, we've been steering clear. The Rose & Thistle lemons have enabled us once again to create lemony treats in our kitchen.)
In an effort to make room in the freezer for the lemon juice, I freed the frozen bananas. (We stick them in there when they get overripe on the counter before we can eat them.) Freeing them means making something with them. This time - banana nut bread that turned out wonderfully. (Mr. B actually noted the improvement in my baking!) We shared slices with friends who stopped by, but otherwise hogged the scrumptious, marginally healthy treat.
We also discovered Trader Joe's Gluten-free Pancake/Waffle Mix which we tested as a waffle mix this week. MMmmmm...scrumptious!
While I baked and cleaned my way to oblivion, E seized the opportunity to sew her own creation. She WAS going to make a skirt, she said, but once she had the fabric in her hands, I think it spoke to her. In the end, she made matching hats (Quaker style) for herself and her sister. Not bad for an 8 year old with no pattern!
My friend Karen (who the girls refer to as the chicken farmer), has offered to have us over to teach us how to make apple butter, AND how to can (something I really want to learn from a real live person rather than a book). She has the know-how, the supplies and all the makin's except the apples. So, I'm on the prowl for apples. Do you have an extra bushel you'd like to share? We'll do the work and share butter if you'd part with your bounty! Just drop me a note! :)
Meanwhile, the girls and I continued our Halloween prep. Today our friends Eliana and Noah joined us for pumpkin carving, and the last play date before they head back to Papua New Guinea for another year. We're sorry to see them go because they're so fun to play with and their parents are wonderful people who we really enjoy. But we know they're doing great work as Christian doctors in the rainforest and look forward to their return. (I also discovered, today, that a jigsaw works WONDERS for pumpkin carving!)
Later the girls and I finished their costumes (E=angel; V=WallE) in time to head to San Luis Obispo for Thursday Night Farmers' Market complete with Mr. B, Grandpa Randy and Grandma Margaret. This year-round event offers special activities for kids the Thursday before Halloween. For a quarter per game, they can toss rings or bean bags or skull-shaped ping pong balls in trade for treats. These games, put on by the city rec department, are run by various student organizations from Cal Poly University. I always enjoy the energy of these young people who sacrifice their party night in order to create special memories for little kids.
Farmers' Market has always been a great thing. Started in the mid-1980s, the market includes not just farmers selling their fantastic stuff, but entertainment and food prepared at barbecues and kitchens along the street. The event really invites a long stay; you can grab dinner for the family, pull up a curb and watch Irish dancers or a rock n' roll band, a juggler or church choir. The place is always packed, but still worth it. Tonight, we particularly enjoyed the "Drumschool 101 Student Spotlight." The local drum school, run by the former owner of a local drum shop and an impressive percussionist in his own right, buys the space downtown to give its students of all ages a chance to perform. We saw an incredible 9 year old, and some pretty good older kids as well as an 8 year old who was really working to keep in the groove (he did great) and a guy who looked like he was living a second childhood as he entered the drumming scene.