Still alive.

Hello fine folks.

This morning found me with a cuppa coffee and my notebook. I’ve wanted to update this blog for awhile. It seems that the pattern is empty quiet for 11 months out of the year and then spontaneous and overwhelming outpour for the last. That being said, I’m gonna attempt to keep this short and set an intention for a once a month check-in (she says w/ a chuckle).

It has been a hard year to say the least, but another season is once again on the horizon and as nature knows~  with spring comes hope and the promise of new beginnings. And so I raise my eyes to the sun and welcome them with humble gratitude. I am still here. We are still here.

Woolf'sAfter witnessing the land for an entire cycle we are now ready to begin laying out garden plans. With those plans come massive effort but nothing unusual there. Niko wants to try straw-bale again while we work to amend the soil. We’ll start with a relatively small area at first. As eager as we are, we have to remember that it’s just us out here~ one of the reasons we’re still living on plywood floors and continuously dealing with frozen pipes. It’s not impossible to live this way on your own, but damn near close to it. Especially when one of your two has wicked seasonal depressive disorder (raises hand). I tell you what, friends~ I don’t know how I got so lucky. Bless my husband for his positive and persevering spirit. He is the bones, muscle and organs of this family body. He is the pumping life force. Without him, we’d not be here.

Along with the large-ish food garden we’ll also begin to plant some flowering trees and bushes (mostly for me) and some perennials. We will no longer be letting the goats forage unsupervised. It worked for the purpose of not having to purchase as much hay but frankly they’re disrespecting punks and have zero boundaries. Electric fences and guided walks will be their life for awhile. And as much as sheep are still my longing, it’s time to work the land and all our excess energy will be required to do so. Sheep will have to wait.

Last thing: we’re moving forward with the loft in the yurt and will be redesigning the kitchen to be near the wood-stove with the intention of easy access to warm water and no more frozen pipes. This will change the entire present layout of the yurt and I welcome it. Thanks to our beloved friend, Mikey, we were able to bring in the first post, er, giant tree. Hopefully he’ll be back sooner than later because I’m not much help in that department. All forward movement is micro movement ’round here. But at least it’s forward.

Thanks for handing out, friends. I’ll be back next month. Maybe sooner.


Homebrew Cheese Press v.2.0

You may have seen last year’s photo of our first homebrew cheese press. As awkward as it appeared, it was actually doing a fine job of squeezing that leftover whey out of the cheese. It was gouda. And it did taste good. There was just this small problem that a pregnant fly had made her way through the protective colander as the cheese sat drying and laid her plethora of eggs right there in our first homemade aged cheese. I sliced off a sliver of the side that was not so maggot-ridden just to have a taste. It was going to be good. But it ended up going to the chickens, since they actually enjoy eating maggots, unlike us so-civilized human creatures.

Brandi had recently checked out a cheese making book from the library and I found it lying around one day when the fridge was overflowing with milk. Within it’s bountiful pages sat a recipe for “White Goat Cheddar” and it sounded like a good thing to try to mess up.

The recipe was quite simple: 1 gallon of pasteurized goat milk, 2 tablespoons of mesophilic starter culture, 3/4 teaspoon of rennet, a bunch of time spent stirring and watching a pot of simmering milk and the resulting curds, and a cheese press.

While the recipe was simple and seemed near at hand, we had none of the prescribed ingredients. Our goat milk is raw, we had only packages of “direct set” mesophilic bacteria and extra concentrated vegetable-based rennet, and nothing resembling a classical cheese press. We did have the time to do it, since time really does count as an ingredient. Confident that we could do just fine with what we had on hand, I dumped a gallon of raw goat milk into a makeshift double boiler and put the process in motion.

cheese-curdsThe book went so far as to give time figures for how long it should take for the milk to heat up, the culture to ripen the milk, the rennet to set the curds, and the curds to drip away the rest of the whey. It was kind of the author to provide these guidelines, but reality didn’t quite unfold in the same timeline. Even so, raw goat milk turned into a very rubbery cheese-like substance throughout the course of the day, and before long, the time came to figure out just how we were going to apply 40 pounds of pressure to this lump of fermented sludge in order to send it on its way to becoming cheddar cheese.

I enlisted Leelu to help me figure it out. After exploring the options of placing ancient dirty bricks or a 5 gallon bucket of sand atop the cheese-to-be, Leelu found a bungie cord in the van. That discovery sped through my mindspace and led me directly to consider the multitude of ratchet straps that are generally hiding in every vehicle we own. We found one there in the van and joyfully trodded back to the kitchen, intent on victory.

A quick assessment of possible accomplices in our daring mission provided a pair of pot-shaped colanders to hold the cheese and let the whey drain away. The next missing piece was a way for that ratchet strap to apply the needed pressure (that we would never measure to assure it was providing 40 pounds worth…). A log? No, too dirty. A bit of dimensional lumber? Alas, the clean ones laying about were too short and/or skinny to get the job done. What about that flour crock that’s not holding flour? Eureka. And we found our cheese press.


It may not be quite as pretty as those professionally built presses one may purchase from your local homestead supply store, but it is a bit of an improvement over our first attempt of home-pressing cheese. The major flaw in the current design is that there is no lateral limit to the squashing of the cheese. We end up with a fat pancake of cheese, rather than a finely formed wheel. Homebrew Cheese Press v.3.0 will attend to this situation, but for the moment, we continue to squash the cheese with this crock and look forward to enjoying the consumption of said squashed cheese in a month or so, after it has aged its way into a semblance of cheddar.


On tasks, and the processes of living.

Much of the writing I do on here all gets done in one day. I’ve learned to work the schedule button so the blog seems to get updated regularly. Not that I am under any delusions that it gets read. And that’s okay. Because one day it will. I’ve learned that even though most of our lives are spent living, there is something about the recording of the process, and the sharing of the hope that inspires community. I know this is true for me. Many of the things I do, I do because I read them somewhere else first. We must encourage each other by our actions and our words. Because in some cases we would not be aware of the actions without the words.

There has been a whirlwind of energy circling through here the last two weeks. So much going on, and I keep making notes to myself to post about it. But they don’t get much further than that because a new task forms and another day passes.

Right now we are once again in the midst of a destructive wildfire burning its way through the lives of loved ones. Family, friends, and strangers alike flee their homes, taking what there is time for, which is next to nothing and then leaving up to prayer. Over 360 homes have been destroyed in the Black Forest area. An acquaintance prominent in our beekeeping world lost everything. Niko and I both shed tears for he and his family. The devastation is immeasurable and presently there is only five percent containment.

I feel very emotional this time around. Perhaps because we were evacuated last year for the Waldo Canyon fires and I can feel the anxiety of my loved ones being affected now. I don’t know. It’s too much.

And while the lives of six chickens may seem minimal to the present destruction, we were devastated to wake up to find that our six chicks had been killed by a raccoon. Niko found them. That is all I’ll write about that right now. We are sad.

I will work to update what I can. There is much farm news to share. Hive openings. Goat heel trimming. Bee stings (in the eye!). Green growing things, etc. There is a possibility that it may wait until July as I am busy with product prep for a music festival I am participating in at the end of the month. Between that, the fires, farming, and just being grateful to be with my family, I am spent.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, remember to find gratitude in something. There is always something to be grateful for.

Good Eats (Bread Pudding)


{Good Eats #4}

Bread Pudding

*Feel free to add your own mixins’ to suit your taste or fancy!

Folk Ways Farm Bread Pudding

I used leftover loaves from my baking last week. Feel free to use any kind of bread you have. Just tear it into chunks and leave it out for a day to get crusty. I would guesstimate 4-6 cups of bread.

Butter a 2 quart casserole dish and throw in your bread bits. Scatter over the top the following (or create your own concoction: 1/2 cup date pieces, 1/2 cup dried apple pieces, 1/3 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup chocolate chips (I do this so Daisy will eat it), & a small handful of flax seeds.

Whisk together in a bowl: 4 large eggs, 3 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg & a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing down the mixture to help it absorb the liquid. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. If desired, serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or a caramel sauce. Yum. Or, like the photo above, slice into a hot buttered skillet until toasted and drizzle with maple syrup.


Saturday (non)Market & Sheep Shearing

Folkways FarmI was SO excited about the 1st Farmer’s Market of the season. The girls and I had a nice lingering morning, collected our library books for return, and set off to enjoy the literal fruit of the season. Daisy brought her camera upon my request to snap some pictures for the blog. So there we were, crossing the street where we had a good view of the park, where lo and behold… No Market.

I got the date wrong. I believe that I did the same exact thing last year, except I could’ve sworn that the Lippis FB page said they were starting on the 1st. Ah, well. It always makes for a nice walk. We walked into our local coffee shop, Jives, and Lindsey (the owners’ daughter) said that she had a few customers that made the same mistake, and that she thought that it usually started on the 1st, too. Due to the late freezes though, there was a produce shortage. So, we’ll try again next week.

After Leelu’s nap we went to Rock Ledge Ranch for their opening day. For Leelu all I have to do is say ‘sheep’ and she’s in. Daisy on the other hand, while not kicking and screaming, is still not easily persuaded. It helped that I held the cards for a swimming trip the next day. She is 16. And SO roll your eyes at the urban farming parents. Still though, she was pleasant, and got to take pictures of cute baby geese. We are not members, so we had to pay full admissions. I knew we would only be there a half hour at most, but I was ok with the fee because Rock Ledge is awesome and they deserve it. It’s a working farm with historic reenactments and really cool demonstrations, as well as annual music festivals and much more. And it’s only a 6 minute drive from my house.

Opening day was all about Sheep. Herding, shearing, carding, dyeing and spinning wool. Watching the dogs was amazing. Their discipline and determination is awe-inspiring. Really, it is. I wonder if it’s just in that breed of sheep dog, or if it could be taught in any dog with a dedicated owner. SO. COOL. We wandered the grounds and visited with the massive Clydesdale horses and beautiful Mustang. We walked the pond after watching a bit of the shearing demonstration. I hope to have my own someday. It was crazy to see how white the wool was on the underside in contrast to the dirty topcoat. The shearer was so adept though. The sheep made not a sound and was calm as can be. The others in the pen though, that was another story. It was comical. For some reason, I assumed that I’d heard a sheep ‘baa’. And for some reason, I thought it would be similar to a goat. It’s not. It’s loud. It’s LOUD. It has a vibrational resonance. And it’s really funny. I think I could handle hearing it among all the other calls outside my farm window. Not in our city farm, of course. But on our land. Which is coming…

It was an enjoyable day with my girls. Leelu is growing up with this. And my Daisy is tolerating it. But she’s a good girl. And I will miss her desperately when she’s gone.

Folkways Farm Rock Ledge RanchFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways FarmFolkways Farm

Good Eats (Kale Paneer)

{Good Eats #3}

Saag Paneer (w/ Kale) & Homemade Naan Bread

We love Indian food, and I do it justice fairly often. This was my first hand at Saag though. I didn’t have spinach, but thought that kale would substitute nicely. Although the texture would be different, the taste would still be divine.

I was a little nervous about Naan. I’d heard it just couldn’t be done without a Tandoori oven. (I think that’s what it’s called.) They SLAP it against the side of the super HOT pit. They took us back into the kitchen at our local Indian spot, Little Nepal (Go there. Yum.) and showed us the process. Way cool.

But with a little help from Joy of Cooking, I got a boost of confidence. Here you go:

For the Naan: Combine in a large bowl, 2 cups flour (I used a mixture of og white and wheat), 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 & 1/8 tsp active dry yeast. In another bowl, mix: 3/4 cup yogurt at room temp., 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp to 1 tbsp water as needed. Add this to your flour mixture.

Mix by hand until a soft ball is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours. (It won’t double like bread. Don’t worry.)

Punch down your dough and then divide it into 4 balls. Cover and let rest while you prepare your Saag.

Folk Ways Farm

Saag Paneer: Make your cheese: Bring 4 cups whole milk to 185-190 degrees, or just before a gentle boiling point, stirring often so as not to scald your pot. Remove from the heat and add 3 tbsp lemon juice. Stir gently. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour through a fine cheese cloth and set over a bowl or hang to drain. (Save your whey for future baking) When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze as much whey out as possible, then press flat on a plate and cover with another plate. Place some weight on the top and let stand for 20 minutes.

Prepare your kale. Separate the leaves from the stems of and chop leaves into small pieces. (Chop up the stems and give them to the chickens or compost bin) and emerge them in a bowl of cold water. Drain and then do it again. This is a great way to remove soil from all greens. Drain and set aside.

The Naan Preheat over to 450 degrees. Place your oven rack on the lowest setting and if you have a pizza stone, place that in the oven now. Roll out each ball into an oval shape. Melt 1-2 tbsp butter and rub onto the top of each flat piece. Place as many ovals onto the pizza stone as will fit without touching. Bake for 6 minutes, or just beginning to golden and puff. Remove and fold in half. Wrap the bread in a towel to keep warm until the Saag is done.

Back to the Cheese: Remove the weights and the plate and cut the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat 1/4 oil in a skillet and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, partially crushed, stir lightly for about 15 seconds. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Shake the skillet every now and then until the cubes are golden brown. About 5 minutes or so. Remove the cheese and set aside. Add 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, to the pan. Stir until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add your kale, a little at a time, until wilted, then add some more until you’ve gone through all of it. Cover until it is well wilted. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, uncovered, until most of the water is evaporated. Fold in the fried cheese and serve hot over cooked brown rice. (I usually make 1 & 1/2 cups of dry rice to 3 cups water for this dish.) Don’t forget your Naan! Enjoy!

Folk Ways Farm

Of names, tried and true.

We started out as simply a blog attached to New Dawn Energy, my husbands ‘parent’ business and called it “Our Sustainability Project” which it certainly still is. I then changed the title to “The Woolf Family Farm”, because again, that is what it was. But then we started talking about the future of our farm. Names came up, because at one point when Niko was at the homesteading fair, he was asked if we kept a website or blog. It was tricky to say, “sure, we’re at new dawn energy (slash) sustainability project (slash) blah blah blah.” So we started to think about what we “were” per say, and what we wanted to be identified as.

Original image found on "Vintage Flip" on Etsy. Click on the picture to visit her site.

Original image found on “Vintage Flip” on Etsy. Click on the picture to visit her site.

We considered many before deciding on StoryBrook. We both liked it a lot, and definitely identified with it. We are a fairytale, after all. We were even married in a castle. Niko writes fantasy novels. He builds structures that belong in storybooks. And we thought by playing on the word with brook, it might help to manifest water on our future land. Daisy thought it was funny because I guess there is a Snow White-esqe television series in a land called Storybrook. When we googled, we found that there was a bed and breakfast that shared the name out East. Tennessee, maybe. But otherwise, it seemed to be ours.

So we made the change. And the commitment. Niko did a lot of work switching over the blog and I finally got the email subscription to work.

But true to my nature, there was something else brewing and I just couldn’t let it go. I tried. I really did. You made a decision, Brandi. Now stick to it. But I just couldn’t get Folkways out of my head. I mentioned it to Niko in passing. He liked it too, but again, the commitment was made.

A few days ago I came in from milking, and having turned it over and over in my head, brought it up to Niko again. It turned out he’d been thinking about it too. It just seemed to make sense. It resonated. It is what we love and what we are. Folk tales. Folk medicine. Folk music. Folk magic. Folklore. Folk, folks. And it feels permanent. There is no second guessing at all. There is no thinking on it. It just is.

So, Folkways Farm is born. One more online move. But this one will stick, I promise.