A Morning’s Work

I’ve been busy. Thirty people are coming here tomorrow for pie. I worked all morning.

Sixteen cups of onions were sautéed down into golden sweetness.

They were put into a Shepherd’s Pie with a butternut squash (homegrown) topping.

I made a few other pies that can be done a day ahead.

This is the Chocolate Walnut Pie.

And here is the Cranberry Nut Tart (I made two.)

I still need to prebake the crust for the Lemon Meringue Pie, then that’s it for today. A good morning’s work.


Frosty Morning

It’s cold in the morning when I go outside to take care of the animals. But it’s early in winter season and so I’m not yet worn down by freezing temperatures that seem ever-lasting and exhausting. Instead, it’s a chill that brings beauty.

The detailed structure of sage is highlighted by sparkling white frost.

There’s a thin sheet of ice covering the Beast’s lair.

Every blade of grass is rimmed in crystal. It crackles when I walk on it.

It’s time to start wearing gloves out to the barn. That door handle is frigid!

The barn sparkles in the morning light. I don’t mind this weather, and neither do the animals.

Candy’s hutch is positioned so that she can nap in the sun.

The hens, even those still without tails from molting, like Jasper, are active and content.

The goats are always happy.

However, they would like it to get even colder. Their soft and dense winter undercoat is in. They’re almost too toasty on these frosty days that warm up above freezing. Bring on the cold!


Pie Party Preparations

Seemingly everyone else today is prepping for Thanksgiving dinner. They’re thawing turkeys, cubing bread for stuffing and baking squash. They’re setting tables with an elaborate array of dishes. I’m not. But, I have gone grocery shopping and I have been at work on my own tradition – my Sunday After Thanksgiving Pie Party.

Cranberry Cherry Peek-A-Boo Pie

I love Thanksgiving, but, years ago, when it became clear that, for various reasons, I wasn’t going to be able to fill my dining room on Thanksgiving day with family, I was quite sad, until I decided to come up with my own tradition. Now, every year, three days after Thanksgiving, we fill the house with friends. And PIE.

Each person eats about a half a pie each. Yes. Really. I’ve kept track. That’s partly due to the fact that I make a lot of different pies, and so everyone wants to taste them. A sliver of this, and a sliver of that, adds up when there are a dozen (or sometimes more) pies to choose from. I used to make just sweet pies, but I had requests for savory. People were staying so long that they need substantial pie for the main course. They didn’t eat less of the sweet pies, they ate more of everything.

I make every one of the pies. My guests don’t bring anything but themselves (although a bottle of wine is appreciated.) I make all of the pies from scratch. It takes some planning. I collect recipes all year. I keep a notebook with my favorites from years past. I make a list of tried and true pies to keep on the menu and new ones to try. This year, I have 20 crusts to make, of three different types (not including the butternut squash topping to the Shepherd’s Pie.) Those I do in advance and freeze. I have lists of what I prep and when. Some pies need chilling, some need warming, and some need to have their meringue tops scorched with my blow torch right before serving.

Here is this year’s list (subject to last-minute tweaks):

Lemon Pie
Chocolate Tart
Cranberry Nut Tart
Pumpkin Apple Pie
Toll House Pie With Chocolate Chips
Toll House Pie with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
Pear Butterscotch Pie
Cream Tart With Oranges, Honey & A Toasted Almond Crust
Chocolate Walnut Pie
Ginger Custard Pie
Squash And Sausage Shepherd’s Pie
Onion Tart
Feta and Leek Quiche

What pie will be on your table?


(PS I’m sorry that recipes that have previously been up on my website have been taken down. The contract with my cookbook publisher prevents me from sharing recipes that will be in the upcoming book. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get out of that clause.)

Spurs on Hens

When it comes to animals there are no absolute hard and fast rules. When you have a flock of chickens, you’ll find your assumptions upended. For example, those of us who choose to keep only hens do so to avoid traits that we find undesirable in roosters. We want quiet. Having only girls, though, is no guarantee of a muted flock; it’s usually the roosters that crow, but once in awhile you’ll have a hen that loudly yodels. Some hens can really make a racket.

We like our hens for their feminine looks. Here are Betsy’s clean and dainty legs.

Roosters have long, sharp and dangerous spurs. Hens do not.

Wrong, again. All chickens have buds on their legs from which spurs can grow. In most hens they remain latent, but spurs are not that unusual in the females of Mediterranean breeds. Polish hens often sprout them. When Tina and Siouxsie were about two years old I noticed that they were developing spurs. Over the years their spurs seemed to keep growing, like fingernails, but slower. Still, they got longer and longer. I left the spurs be, but then the other day I noticed that Tina was strutting like a rooster. Now what was going on with her? I watched and I realized that her spurs had grown so long that in order to walk she had to pick her feet up and out of the way of each protuberance.

Can you believe the size of that spur? It was time to give both Polish hens a spur trimming. I got out the tools. Those are dog nail clippers, which are perfect for clipping round bird toenails. Since spurs do have a blood supply, I always keep blood stop powder at the ready in case I nick it.

Steve held each hen. I carefully trimmed each spur. I did this in small increments, about 1/8-inch each snip, so that the nails wouldn’t split and so that I would remove only the dead cartilage and not cause bleeding.


It’s much easier to walk now.