Thursday, October 20, 2016

Leaps of Faith

I smell like one of my fondest childhood memories right now. I smell like the Rodgers' dairy farm, c. 1990.

Well, life has changed a bit around here. I've decided to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, and I've been offered an intriguing position freelancing. I've gone back to working at Jo-Ann Fabrics, in part to possibly help an Etsy shop get off the ground. And, in other news, I'm now working at a real dairy farm.

A chance connection on the internet led me to the last working dairy farm in Duxbury, where the most adorable octogenarian farmer sized me up and informed me that I "looked rugged enough" for the job (which, in any other interview situation, I might have found offensive, but this is farming, and the sturdiness counts). He called me back yesterday to tell me that he'd "really like [me] to come work for him." How could I refuse?

So I spent this afternoon learning my way around the 1920s barn, figuring out how to work a mechanized milking pipeline system, and trying to quickly introduce myself to 31 milking cows of varying temperaments, sundry heifers, and beautiful doe-eyed calves. Without batting an eye, the terrified-of-heights Norak climbed the ladder up into the hayloft - and then back down! I learned more about bulk tanks and milk trucks and round hay bales than I ever imagined knowing. I'm covered in iodine and baby cow smooches. The dogs think I smell delicious.

So do I.

A week ago, I took the biggest leap of faith I think I've ever taken, and I've landed quite comfortably in a haystack. It's all good.

Monday, October 3, 2016


For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I am scrupulous about separating my personal life from my professional life.

On this occasion, it is time to bridge that gap and ask for your support for something that means the world to us at Withywindle Farm on a personal level (and a professional one).

In 2009, I did a stint at the ship and connected with a largely-forgotten Mayflower passenger from 1620. I met a guy who was doing his first year as a new character, another one largely lost to history despite his importance (ship's masters are kind of a big deal, you know), even though he had vast experience working as interpretive crew onboard that ship.

John Carver's maidservant, 1621/2009.

In 2010, I went to a meeting of the 50/50 Club, a social organization founded by the original 1957 crew members during their historic trans-Atlantic crossing, the Mayflower II's maiden voyage from Plymouth to...Plymouth! That guy, now best known as Christopher (and one of the men who revived the 50/50 Club on the 50th anniversary of the ship's sailing in 2007), and I had a work gig later in the week, so we went out after the meeting to grab a beer and discuss. It turned into a famous first date.

50/50 Club Meeting, June 13, 2010.

In 2012, Christopher and I got married on the half-deck of the Mayflower II, with our beloved Sandy as flower-goat. There was nowhere more fitting.

May 13, 2012 - Note the little flower-goat peeking between the groom and best man.

In 2014, Christopher got to play his favorite role as ship's master Christopher Jones while the ship was under full sail for the filming of Ric Burns' PBS special, The Pilgrims. When he beat the speeding ticket he was erroneously issued at 5:30 a.m. en route to the ship, we decided to go on an epic journey to Pennsylvania and get Tauriel.

March 2014. Christopher's debut as Christopher Jones at sea.

In 2016, Goldberry and Glorfindel made their debuts as Pilgrim goats. I was finally inducted to the 50/50 Club on June 13, the sixth anniversary of our first date and the 59th anniversary of the ship's arrival in Plymouth. Phillip, Christopher's older son, was inducted, too - he played the Master Gunner on his first ship stint, just as his father did years ago.

John Carver's maidservant, a baby goat (Glorfindel), and a mama goat (Goldberry). June 1620/2016.

If there is anything you can do to contribute to keeping Mayflower II sailing for generations to come, it will not go to waste. And all of us here at the farm will appreciate it on a deeper level than you can possibly know.

The Kickstarter campaign is here.

Thank you, from all of us whose lives have been touched by Mayflower II.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Vintage in the Kitchen: Stack-a-Dinner

This is the second adventurous recipe just this week, ladies and gentlemen. The other one was made by a Norak too tired to post about it, but this one is extremely promising. The Norak, however, is still very tired.

(from the Ground Meat Cook Book, BH&G, 1969, p. 37)

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce with mushrooms
1/4 cup catsup
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
3 drops bottled hot pepper sauce
2 cups uncooked packaged precooked rice
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
4 ounces sharp process American cheese, shredded (1 cup)
Sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

In skillet brown meat with onion; drain off fat. Add tomato sauce, next 3 ingredients, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and dash pepper; bring to boiling, stirring often. Cook rice and prepare peas following package directions. On individual serving plates, layer rice, peas, meat mixture, then cheese. Trim with olives. Makes 6 servings.

Simple and quick for tired nights.

As always, there are a few Withywindle Farm changes to the original recipe. I could have used fresh oregano, but exhaustion is still rampant, so we went with the dried stuff. We didn't have the requisite tomato sauce with onions, so I took roughly half a 15-oz. can of tomato sauce and one small can of mushrooms and mixed them together for the same effect. Neither of us likes hot peppers, so I substituted a smattering of paprika. I just cooked rice rather than bothering with the premade-and-heat stuff. And, of course, there is shredded Cheddar instead of the "process" stuff...

Looks about right.

And no olives, pimiento-stuffed or otherwise.

Verdict: Very good!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

For Sale For Real: The Old Homestead

It's an actual fact, ladies and gentlemen.

The Old Homestead could be yours. Built in 1956, it's been in the same family for 60 years. This official link doesn't give you the homesteading details, but that's what Withywindle Farm is for...

Mature apple, pear, and cherry trees. Fruiting currant, gooseberry, raspberry, and blueberry bushes. Established rhubarb. Proven ground for vegetable gardening. Perfect for bees. City code becoming friendly toward chickens.

Completely up to code and in move-in condition. Offered at the unbeatable price of $189,900 - will not last!,-Worcester,-MA-01606/72073434/photos

Contact your Realtor directly for an appointment to see this marvel for yourself, or email Norah at for complete details.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

For Sale: The Old Homestead

First time on the market since built in 1956. Withywindle Farm exclusive preview!

An urban homesteader's dream on a large corner lot in lovely Greendale neighborhood of Worcester. Mature apple, pear, and cherry trees in the yard, along with fruiting blueberry, raspberry, currant, and gooseberry bushes. Proven ground for abundant vegetable gardening, plus an ideal location for an urban beekeeper. City code beginning to accommodate chickens! Small pond with ornamental plantings and waterfall/fountain. Gorgeous ornamental trees and perennials, including Worcester's (likely) most magnificent magnolia tree.

The house is completely up to code, including a beautiful painted neutral interior with original mid-century kitchen cabinets, new matched appliances (gas range, refrigerator, dishwasher, built-in microwave, and stacking washer/dryer in cellar), Pergo flooring in kitchen and shining hardwoods throughout; newer roof, windows, and boiler. Full basement with custom built-ins and partial bath is waterproofed with automatic dehumidifier and is partially finished - just touch it up to make it into additional living space or perfect storage for your things. Attic accessible by ladder; four skylights and ridge vent make it an excellent additional storage space. Custom vertical blinds and Roman shades in every room!

The Old Homestead boasts three bedrooms and one full bath, a decorative fireplace in the living room, a good old-fashioned dining room with china closet, and a small deck for your bistro breakfasts. Detached single-car garage with plenty of custom built-in storage. Just minutes from I-190 and I-290 and a moment's walk from public transportation.

If interested, please contact Norah at Serious inquiries only.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Barnyard Friends: Meet Sam and Rosie!


You know how we've basically patented "homesteading by crisis" as a Withywindle Farm trademark? Yeah...

So at least two years ago, I promised Wise Former Boss that I'd take home a pair of Pilgrim geese. And then I never got around to it.

Well, the Pilgrim geese have gone forth and multiplied, and Goldberry's milk supply has dried up, which means that Glorfindel can be weaned and it's time to reunite Goldberry with Tom Bombadil to ensure next year's milk supply, and, well...

They followed me home?

Samwise Gamgee (left), and Rosie (right).

Sam & Rosie!

Breed: Pilgrim Geese.

At the Farm Since: Today! Oops.

Fun Facts: Pilgrim geese did not come over in 1620 on the Mayflower. They are a fairly recently developed breed, only getting the name in 1935. They lay excellent eggs and roasted birds are delicious as a Boxing Day treat...

And so Sam and Rosie have taken over the former milking pen, and the little family of goats is now reunited.

Tom Bombadil (above center) says, "Hey, kid, who're you?" to his son Glorfindel (left), while Goldberry refuses to hold still for a photo.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Vintage in the Kitchen: Banana Cream Pie

It is not without proper homage to those who fought (and in some cases, died) to win us the labor rights that we have today that we intend to host a small cookout with our best man later today. I hesitate to go all Emma Goldman in a post about pie, but one cannot adequately celebrate Labor Day without acknowledging The Struggle, and it is not yet won. Come the revolution and all that!

Now, about that pie.

There's a tropical storm headed for Withywindle Farm's environs, so we've made all the usual preparations. But it is a holiday weekend for most (and just a usual weekend for us), and Christopher's college buddy is coming for a long-overdue visit. He promised to bring "a feast" if I'd cook it, so we're anticipating a lovely evening of hot dogs and hamburgers and potato salad and corn on the cob aaaand...

Banana Cream Pie
(from Pies and Cakes, BH&G, 1966, p. 23)

The vision!

With helpful tips in pictures!

I know from past experience that our guest is fond of my cooking (and my vintage dessert recipes), and we happened to have two bananas no longer suitable for breakfasting - but perfect for baking! Hence, I began with a baked pie shell (homemade) and then the base for Banana Cream Pie...

Vanilla Cream Pie
A basic cream pie recipe. Try the four variations, too -

In saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gradually add 2 cups milk, mixing well. Cook and stir over medium heat till mixture thickens and boils. Cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Stir small amount hot mixture into 3 slightly beaten egg yolks; immediately return to hot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour into cooled baked 9-inch pastry shell. Spread 1 recipe Meringue (3 egg whites) atop pie and bake at 350' for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool.
Or, omit meringue and serve with whipped cream. (To prevent skin from forming on surface of filling in crust, put waxed paper directly on top, touching entire surface of hot pudding.)

Just two bananas. Three would have overspilled the pie crust.

Banana Cream Pie

Slice 3 bananas into cooled baked 9-inch pastry shell; top with Vanilla Cream Pie filling and Meringue (3 egg whites). Bake as directed.

A pie in its pretty wax-paper hat.

I'm not a huge fan of meringue, but I do love whipped cream. Hence, we attempt the variation suggested after it cools.

Except that Christopher couldn't let anything go to waste, soo...

Christopher nums the surplus pie filling.

I love it when my adoration of vintage everything intersects with our homestead. I'm tired of looking like a bum, so I dragged out one of Butti's old dresses to wear for the occasion. (My grandmother was a union woman through and through, and I have a fantastic picture of her on strike at Table Talk Pies back in the '60s - how fitting.) The potato salad includes eggs from Eglantine and chives from our garden. The banana cream pie is full of Goldberry's best milk (which has, sadly, dried up) and Eglantine's eggs. We'll have our little cookout in our campground-like side yard and burn up deadfall from our woodsy woods.

Sometimes, you've just got to remember the tiniest little things. Happy Labor Day!