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bread, bone broth and bacon

That, my friends, is homemade bacon and homemade bread for breakfast on a Sunday!

The last few years, I’ve either been staying at Boyfriend’s house or traveling for work … a lot. Some weeks, I’d only be back here at the farmhouse one or two nights to change bags and whisper hello to my plants. Who am I kidding. All the houseplants died.

I hadn’t necessarily been planning on spending a lot more time at my house this year, but I’m not complaining about the opportunity to sink in and enjoy this place I love so much.

While working from home and sheltering in place, I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free sourdough starter the last few weeks (start here and then try this). I know there are a lot of sourdough starters out there nowadays, but I haven’t actually seen a lot of GF versions! I’m loving this recipe. It takes some planning and some dedicated time, but the bread is delicious and the sour is getting stronger as the weeks pass.

sourdough starter in progress
keeping a scale and a bag of flour on my counter: not things my house has ever experienced.
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good crumb, perfect crust (not too hard) and great flavor

It’s also been really interesting living in a state with a lot of pork production, and numerous meat processing plants closing and reopening due to covid-19 outbreaks. For a while recently, thousands of hogs were being euthanized every day because the processing plants weren’t open to receive them. Boyfriend’s family has the equipment and know-how, so we (and I mean a royal We — there were lots of hands helping on this one) located, picked up and butchered seven 250-lb hogs (for $50 apiece) in the meat shed on his parent’s homestead. I’ve had exposure to deer processing over the past few hunting seasons, so I knew some of what to expect.

What I did not expect was finding that anyone would throw out the feet — the most nutritious part of the hog! So while the brotherly assembly line tackled the big stuff, I learned how to skin and clean pigs feet so that I could bring them home and make myself some rich, gelatinous bone broth. It’s going to save me a ton of money at the grocery store, based on how much broth I go through.

Lauren holding a skinned pig's foot
Very proud of my first solo skinning job
roasted pigs feet
My method for bones is 1) blanch to draw impurities to the surface 2) roast for 2 hours at 450 3) low simmer for 24 hours with a bit of apple cider vinegar in a pot of water just covering the bones
bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove
Bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove. I bake the bread in a cast-iron skillet with a small pan of water next to it for steam.
Bone broth after 24 hours on a barely-there simmer. I know it’s done when I cool a spoonful and watch it jiggle like jell-o.

Boyfriend and I got one hog for ourselves, which yielded probably $500 worth of meat for the $50 we paid:

  • Eight bags of bones and feet
  • Seven racks of ribs
  • Eleven roasts
  • Ten hams
  • Pork belly and bacon
  • Many pounds of ground pork
  • One tenderloin and one loin roast
  • Seventeen chops
  • Six t-bones
slabs of bacon in a smoker
Bacon in the smoker, courtesy of Boyfriend and his very patient dad

The bacon is being cured and smoked now, and the hams are up next. I got to try the first batch of bacon this weekend. This particular cut is chewy, kind of like brisket burnt ends — more pork chop than crispy fatty bacon. And so delicious!

slices of bacon in butcher paper
Bacon fresh from the smoker

I’ve always been interested in meat processing and fascinated by the cuts and techniques. It’s one of Boyfriend’s particular skills, so it’s been a lot of fun to work alongside him on this project and start to learn how to help.

We now have pork recipes earmarked to last us a long while — probably a good way through the year. We’ll still buy beef and chicken occsionally, but have plenty of venison still in the freezer to cut in with the pork (they balance one another nicely – one lean, one fatty) so I don’t think we’ll run out of ideas before we run out of meat.

Next up: broiling the bacon with maple syrup from this spring’s harvest! Which was, entirely, another adventure…

seedling season

I said a few weeks ago that this stay-at-home spring feels a lot like the first few months as a homeowner. A lot of this is because that was the first — and last — year that I tried starting my garden from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings from a nursery. As soon as my employer told me, in mid-March, that we’d be working remotely until at least the end of April, I thought “well … I would finally be home to water seeds!”

And so, friends, I jumped in with basically no plan. I visited the neighborhood hardware store the weekend before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and I grabbed a bunch of seed packets, seedling trays and a grow light. It wasn’t until a month in that I realized my grow light situation was probably only 1/10 of what the seeds really needed … like I said, no plan. But it made me feel better about giving them a try, since spring weather in Minnesota means we don’t plant outdoors until between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

I’m excited about the herbs and veggies for sure, but I’m especially hopeful about the perennials. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 could yield dozens of plants that otherwise cost $15 or more apiece from a garden center. I know that’s because they’re time-intensive to nurture, so we’ll see if it works out in my favor by the end of the summer. But if I can fill my side yard with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers that will come back year after year, I’ll be happppppy.

To be continued …

planted 4/5: lavender, green onion, oregano, lettuce, sweet basil, genovese basil, chives, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers; perennials: soapwort, black eyed susans, shasta daisies, coneflowers, butterfly flowers, hollyhock; annuals: cosmos, coleus, poppies
week 1 | the winner for first to sprout is … cosmos! three days!
weeks 1-3 | grow lamp and west-facing sunlight in the upstairs guest bedroom
week 4 | transition to the three-season porch
week 4 | everything has germinated except the soapwort and coneflowers

cheers to 10 years!

March 25, 2020

It’s been almost five years since I logged in to update this blog — as many of you know, I hit a major speedbump in 2015 with my health and have spent the last few years recovering. Throughout, I’ve been so grateful for this wonderful house to shelter and comfort me (especially when I was spending hour upon hour on my living room couch, enveloped in those gorgeous teal walls). At the same time, remembering how much energy I had “before” and how much work I used to do on the house, well, it made me feel pretty low by comparison. So, I took a little break from house projects and the blog, which turned into a long break. “Comparison is the thief of joy” never felt truer than during the years I spent recovering. So for the most part, I just lived here and enjoyed it and tried to spend increasing time away from the house as a measure of success in healing.

And now, it’s March 2020. I’m back to good (maybe great) physical health, and spending all my days inside the little farmhouse … thanks to the coronavirus. I just spent the 10th anniversary of home ownership conducting my day job responsibilities from a desk I’ve set up in my dining room, and raking last autumn’s leaves out of the garden beds. One benefit is for certain: my garden has never looked better, and it’s barely even spring yet.

So, I’m dusting off the blog to document a few highlights of this, the 10th year. It’s already proving to be an unexpected one. But there have already been more than a handful of deja vu moments that have transported me back to the first year. Similarities like the earlier-than-normal snow melt, the mid-March signs of spring, the stock-up trips to the grocery store and hardware store, the hours upon hours spent alone in the house tackling projects, the sowing of seeds, and the excitement of all I can cook and make in my very own kitchen. I have some more time to cook, which means revisiting recipes from my early years of the little farmhouse, and trying some new ones like a gluten-free sourdough starter (started it today … we’ll see!) And, I’ll fill you in on the few projects that I did tackle in the last five years.

the living room, March 2020

Whoever might be reading this — you’re probably at home a lot these days, too. I hope your home is safe, I hope you’re able to spend quality time with people you love, and I hope you’ll reach out if you want to connect.

xoxo

the big 1-1-5 … happy birthday farmhouse!

The farmhouse turned 115 this year, and I hosted a big backyard bash in July. It was amazing to have so many friends and family members show up to help celebrate. I’ve had the idea in my head for a few years, and have been dreaming up party food ideas all year. Some awesome girlfriends helped me bring the idea to life, preparing party fare from every decade that the house has been around. It was so much fun. We rounded out the menu with home-smoked pork from my awesome cousins, Maggie’s famous German potato salad, and the most amazing ribs from Smoke in the Pit (a neighborhood BBQ place).

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  • 1900s: Jell-O salad (yeah Rachel!)
  • 1910s: root beer floats
  • 1920s: Rice Krispies treats
  • 1930s: Fritos
  • 1940s: deviled eggs (thanks aunt Mary!)
  • 1950s: Chex Mix (great job Brianna!)
  • 1960s: Sangria
  • 1970s: cheese ball (way to go Mary!)
  • 1980s: 7-layer dip
  • 1990s: Bagel Bites
  • 2000s: Millenium cupcakes (amazing job, Sarah!)
  • 2010s: the best kale chips ever (thanks mom!)

And, by popular request, the white sangria recipe:

4 bottles vinho verde
2 L. club soda
1.5 c. Triple Sec
2 cans frozen lemonade
3 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 peaches, sliced
Bags of frozen fruit (1 of each): raspberries, strawberries, pineapple
//combine and pack dispenser in ice or refrigerate for a few hours prior to serving//

So much <3 to everyone who showed up and made it a party. xoxo

               

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extras in the entryway

My “everything has a place” efforts needed a bit of help in the dining room/entryway. Without a good space for a command center (aside from the secretary desk), I decided a while back that what I needed was some baskets for the wall by the front door. It took me a while to find some I liked — I finally found this set at Target, and while they’re not perfect, they’re close enough! I can now drop to-read magazines, to-pay bills, to-mail items, wedding directions cards and all sorts of other little items in the front entryway. I like that everything is close to my desk in the dining room for when I pay bills, but also tucked away and not the focal point of the room. What do you think? Want to place bets on how long I can stay tidy + organized? 🙂
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2014 garden

Some of you have noticed I took a bit of a break from blogging this spring. Between work travel and some family things to attend to, I really haven’t been home — much less, cooking, crafting, gardening and fixing! But I managed to get a few things in the ground recently, and despite the torrential rains we’ve been getting, they’re doing great so far.

It’s going to be a low-key summer for the garden this year. I took out some trees in the backyard last November, and I am looking forward to seeing how that changes the light in the garden. A year of observing and waiting, and maybe next year I’ll make some big changes. Oh wait, you thought that was a metaphor for life instead of my garden plan? Funny…

Parsley, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Chives, Peppers and Raspberries on the north side of the garden

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Mint (three varieties), Thyme (two varieties), Oregano, Cilantro, Sage and Tomatoes on the southeast side

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Annuals in the whiskey barrel out front — a purple and coral theme this year, which I’m loving so so much

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Some beautiful Bleeding Hearts that have spread out in the front garden beds

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xoxo

4

I forgot what day it was, and then I saw this photo in my timehop stream. I guess this makes 4 years of Lauren + the little farmhouse!

I should probably get around to finishing the paint job in the kitchen that I started the first weekend, eh?

fix it february: cabinets + closets

The latest installment of Fix-It February: tackling cabinets and closets.

This is less of a how-to post and more intended to inspire you to get out that screwdriver and fix your own crooked doors and loose wall hooks. Maybe even climb on a ladder in your closet and install some battery-powered LED lights so that you can get dressed in the dark of winter? Because that was a pretty fun project.

Cabinets: I have the kind of kitchen cabinet hinges that snap apart (with a bang) when the screws get loose. They’re easy to fix, and I took a few extra minutes this time to go around the kitchen and tighten all the screws so there are fewer loud, scary noises in the future.

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I also deputized some drywall expansion screws (Twist-N-Lock) to fix this curtain hook that was falling out of the wall. Don’t know why it took me two years to think of that solution, but it definitely did the trick. These hooks hold back the curtain doors of my master bedroom closet…

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…which was also the site of some new LED lights. Eventually I’d like to have the closet wired for real lights, but these help well enough for now. If you can drill pilot holes and fill battery packs, you too can add remote-control-powered lights to your closet! I got this set on sale at my local ACE Hardware for just $15.

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All together with some projects not worth photographing, I fixed or installed 8 things around the house in about two hours. Much speedier than I planned, leaving plenty of time to enjoy season 2 of House of Cards 😉

fix it february: boots and baubles

Week two of “Fix It February” is all about accessories. Saving boots from the trash bin and necklaces from the scrap heap!

Project #1: boot heel healing

This is one of my favorite pairs of boots, but the black color on the plastic heel had worn down from driving. I’ve tried shoe polish and heel stains before, but nothing stuck to the plastic. So this time I tried black electrical tape. *Hopefully* it sticks this time!

Total time: 15 minutes

1. Clean and dry plastic surface.
2. Cut strips of black electrical tape and place vertically on heel, starting from the center and working your way outwards.
3. Trim extra tape with an X-acto knife

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Project #2: fixing some favorite accessories

Each of these pieces needed just a few minutes of attention, but I had been letting them gather dust instead.

Before: broken chain on a vintage purse, broken chain link necklace, and earrings with a missing crystal piece

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After: 

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How to fix crystal earrings: Gorilla Glue. Nothing works better. Just remember that it expands a bit when it dries, so you can’t use too much in small spaces.

How to fix gold link chains: needle-nose pliers and a patient hand. For each of these chains, I used the pliers to first open a chain link at the break site, and then to re-attache it to its neighbors. The round-nosed pliers can be slippery on metal, so you might find ridged pliers easier to use.

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Total time: 10 minutes

 

fix it february

We’ve had 40+ days of sub-zero temperatures in the beautiful Twin Cities this year. They’re saying it’s the coldest winter in a generation. Since 1981-82, which is before my parents left Minnesota for Texas.

All of this to say: I can’t fix the weather, so I’m fixing everything else. Understatement? Welcome to Fix It February, y’all.

This past week, the focus has been my blog (#nerd). If you read my blog via RSS or email, as many of you do, you won’t have noticed much of a change, but that’s ok! It’s working a lot better on the back-end now. I’ve had a few things I needed to fix since the site migration in November, and their lingering presence on my to-do list has also been a major reason for my lack of posting these recent weeks. See! Another thing that will now be fixed.

Kind of neat, though, if you like this sort of thing: you can now see related posts when reading any of my blog posts. You can also browse by categories — just navigate to “Archives and Categories” via the main menu.

archives and categories

Next up: some DIY fix-it projects around the house. It’s time for all the little annoyances to be checked off the list.

What are you working on during this cold spell? Or the drought in California? Or whatever crazy weather it is where you are? 🙂

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