2014: Year in Review

New Years Eve_Steve Jurvetson
Courtesy of Flickr/Steve Jurvetson

Confession time. We had lots of goals for the wee homestead in 2014. How’d we do?

1. Give the krakhaus some curb appeal. While stabilizing the roof, we removed the non-functional coal chimney and built a new closet in its place. Those fireplace bricks were salvaged for a much-needed front yard overhaul, replacing out-of-control tree roots with usable patio space. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but we’re moving in the right direction.

2. Clear the orchard. Hard to believe we got hosed a second time by the nonprofit that sold us land. Exact same scenario, with the majority of the replacement property tied up in an ownership dispute. Delayed but undaunted, we hope to work with the city’s land bank to find another blighted tract to convert to an urban farm.

3. Master one small aspect of cooking. For me, it was soups. Brad took on sauces. We each wanted to master a couple of recipes, simple dishes that use pantry staples or ingredients available at the farmers’ market. I’d say this was a resounding success, having opted for one of these instead of take-out many, many times.

Chunky tomato
Lentil vegetable soup
Roasted butternut squash (recipe below)

Fra diavolo
Butternut squash

4. Dry more herbs. Check. Thanks to hubby’s steampunked drying rack, most of the herbs we’re enjoying this winter are homegrown. And who knew rebar could be so pretty?

5. Build a bar. The oak pallets have been collected, broken apart, and de-nailed. But that’s about as far as we’ve gotten. Will 2015 be the year our Richland Rum finds a more fitting showcase?

6. Winterize the house. Fail. Hurray for climate change?

7. Find a permanent home for the rain barrels. Success. At the moment, the barrels are collecting rain straight from a valley on the roof, but we plan to add gutters this year to catch even more water.

We may not have accomplished everything on the wish list, but it’s still been a life-affirming year, and we are constantly reminded how fortunate we are. Most of all, we’re grateful to be surrounded by folks who are trying to make themselves and the Earth better. So happy new year, dear readers, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
splash of dry white wine
3 cups vegetable or duck stock (stick with something dark and earthy, not a lighter chicken stock)
1 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

Cut squash in half, remove seeds, and roast at 350°F for 40 minutes. Scoop the soft squash into a pot (having drizzled a little olive oil first) and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool, blend, and enjoy with crumbled cheese on top — we use a smoky feta.

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