Slides: baking mild French sourdough

I wondered how the dried cherries would work. Would they turn to a mush and water down the dough? Should I have chopped them first?

Mild French sourdough with dried cherries and coriander

As it turned out, they worked beautifully. I plumped them in hot water for about 20 minutes, drained them, and then added them to the dough of mild French sourdough. I mixed them in along with a heaping tablespoon of freshly ground coriander. That spice, and freshly shaved nutmeg, have become favorites.
I came back to the dough every 45 minutes or so to stretch and fold the dough, a step that strengthens the gluten structure. Why? Because it’s the gluten that captures the carbon dioxide released by the yeast, and this is what causes dough to rise.

Interestingly, I could have just as easily walked away from the dough for a few hours by refrigerating it to slow the process. Yup, there are ways to use temperature to extend the breadmaking process to fit your schedule.

Sourdough w roasted beets

It is amazing how the feel and strength of the dough changes over time. It looks different, and its aroma shifts.
There’s nothing like getting up to your elbows in flour to learn how to make loaves of artisan French sourdough in your home kitchen. There’s no substitute for seeing and feeling the way water, flour and sourdough starter come together and transform those simple components from dough to crusty, flavorful bread. And the beauty of it is that once you know the basic recipe, you can make dozens of variations: olive, herb, cranberry and walnut, cornmeal and pumpkin seed, roasted squash, seeded, and more.

This quick slide show highlights steps in the process. I invite you to join us at Bull Brook Keep and get your eyes, fingers, nose into this magical metamorphosis. Click here for upcoming classes and to register.

Crisp crust and tender crumb


Typing, invoicing, phone calls, map searches – getting our grass-fed beef to your table

I sat down to the keyboard a bit before 8:00 this morning, and now it’s after 1:30PM. How is that possible?!
Well, there were all those emails with a subject line I love to write: Your beef is ready!
Then there were the follow-up calls with customers to confirm delivery to drop sites in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN metro area.
And there were Google Map searches to find out where I’d have to make home deliveries.

Beefy soup!

And, of course, while all of this was going on, I was keeping a mental inventory of beef just picked up from the USDA processor. Hmmm, T-bones, ribeye, sirloin, chuck and cross-rib roasts, briskets and flank steaks, and lots more.
This is the record-keeping-and-communications time of the year that adds the final links to the food chain. To be honest, it’s a time I value and respect – delivering beef directly to the customer.
It represents well over two years of work on Bull Brook Keep farm.

BueLingo calves

It starts in the early spring with the arrival of our BueLingo calves. The herd grows sleek and fat as we move them from pasture to grassy pasture throughout the growing season. Midsummer marks the breeding season. We separate the bulls from the larger herd in mid-fall (away from the heifers too young to breed). Grasses shrivel as frosts hit and snow blankets the farm. That’s when we provide the cows with hay grown in our own fields. As the days warm in April and May, the cycle begins again. Dave and I work to manage our pastures and herd in harmony with nature.
Cattle that spend the last several months of their lives eating grain in feedlots reach harvest weight by the time they’re 16-18 months old. It’s a confinement approach that is often accompanied by subclinical antibiotics in the feed, and the administration of hormones.
In contrast, our 100% grass-fed cattle, take nine to 10 months longer to reach harvest condition. It means an extra year of feeding and care for us, but we’re committed to breeding and raising our beef cattle on grass – and only grass. No grains, no hormones, no subclinical antibiotics. And by practicing rotational grazing, our cows are contented and healthy, and the pastures improve. We’re seeing more farmers in our area adopting this approach.

Fresh air and sunshine 24/7

Dave and I made a home delivery last night, and I’ll be making several stops at drop-sites this week and next. It’s hard work, but to me it feels like a reward. When I hand over the boxes, it’s almost like placing a big bowl of delicious beef stew and a thick slice of homemake sourdough bread in front of a dear friend or family member. (It’s so much more fun to cook, when you’re cooking for someone you value.)
I thank God for the farming stewardship He has given Dave and me, and for the wonderful customers and friends walking the path with us.


New calf, sights and sounds from Bull Brook Keep

Spring has arrived on Bull Brook Keep. We greeted our first calf, a little bull, yesterday morning. He’s now tagged #82, and he the cow are doing fine.
I’ll be at the CSA Fair at the Farm Table Restaurant in Amery, WI tomorrow afternoon, March 25, 12noon-4:00.
I thought you might enjoy some pics and videos, old and new, from the farm. This brief slide show includes a short video clip of the new calf.
I hope to see you at the Fair.



American Public Media on Bull Brook Keep – about un-retiring to the farm

As Dave and I look forward to 2017, and look back on the several few years, I again appreciate an interview I did with American Public Media’s Chris Farrell last year.
Chris’ program is about unretirement – what people are planning and doing as they retire from one career and move into the next part of their lives.
SummerIconThanks again, Chris, for visiting Bull Brook Keep and for considering the values David and I strive to live as we’ve made that shift from our city-based careers to our farm-anchored lives.
I hope you enjoy this interview. Bonus: the episode ends with Dessa’s “Beekeeper.”
You can find out lots more about Chris’s program, resources and other interviews at
And, I trust you will have an absolutely wonderful New Year!

#GrazingItalyUK — Stranded in Dublin Airport.

…”the best laid plans…”
Nov. 13. Dublin Airport. 10:30PM
Today’s itinerary stated: 7:30PM fly from Dublin to Derbyshire.
We’ll here it is, 10:30PM and I’m sitting in – drum roll – a McDonald’s in Dublin Airport.

McDonald's busy while rest of food court sleeps

McDonald’s busy while rest of food court sleeps

And guess what? It’s crowded. It was fairly quiet 30 minutes ago, but I’m guessing hungry customers will come in waves as planes arrive and depart.
I gotta say, I appreciate the noise and activity. I’m a bit nervous about that time of night when all foot traffic stops. I think it’ll be a bit scary. We’ll see.
Well, I’ve chowed down on a chicken sandwich, fries and a diet soda. Yes, every food rule broken. In my own defense, McD’s was my only choice because the rest of the food court, a fairly large area, is shuttered for the night. Go figure.
Boy, I hadn’t had McD’s in a long time, so it was interesting to note everything tastes exactly as it did years ago. Consistency – yes. Nutrition? A different story.
Stomach full (if body not truly fed), I’m plugged into an outlet, charging up laptop and phone, and talking to you!
Things could be lots worse.
Oh, and how did I end up in this pickle? My bus from Wexford to Dublin took an hour longer than scheduled because of traffic tie-ups. Why all this congestion in small seaside towns? Who knows. I can attest to the fact that there were at least a couple of other bus riders who were very fearful of missing flights. I hope they didn’t.
Ah, my devices all charged up. I wonder if there’s a pub around here?


Video: moving cows to fresh pasture. Great beef starts with the soil and grass.

My husband Dave and I are committed to a handful of values: living in thanksgiving to God, nurturing our marriage and family, producing delicious and nutritious beef, using agricultural practices that regenerate soil and pastures, improving our financial sustainability, and contributing to a thriving local community.
These core principles matter to us, to our neighbors and to our customers.
Moving our cattle from paddock (small field) to paddock is one of the things we do to regenerate soil, reinvigorate our grasses, and promote the health and growth of our BueLingo beef cattle. This practice, called rotational grazing, accomplishes several things at the same time: it puts fresh, sweet grass under the noses of the cattle; their hoof action churns up the soil and exposes dormant seeds to sun and rain, thereby increasing the diversity of plants in the field; the herd deposits fertilizer as the move; and it avoid spending money and fuel to move feed to the cattle and to remove waste from a barn. At the same time, the cows move as a herd across open fields. This is important because cows are social creatures – they are most calm and healthiest when they are with their herd. Because they are on pasture, the herd is also in open sunshine and moving on springy grass and soil. This promotes strong bodies.
I hope you enjoy this very short video of moving the herd from one paddock to the next. Although it takes time and effort for me to set up the electric fences for the temporary paddocks, moving the herd is easy because they’re always eager for fresh grass.


Dirty, dusty, messy little Siggy

*An ongoing adventure story for children of all ages*
It’s time, thought Sylvia.
She looked down at her little dog and noticed his smudged nose, dirty paws and matted fur. Hmmmm.
Siggy is 10 weeks old and loves his home, Bull Brook Keep. Sylvia and her husband Dave raise beef cows on the farm. The cows eat grass, and only grass, their entire lives. This makes them big and strong and very healthy.
Siggy likes to watch the cows and the new little calves running in the fields.
Siggy also runs and plays every day. He rolls in the wet grass, splashes through muddy puddles, runs on dusty roads, and digs in the dirt. Sylvia looked at Siggy and saw that his fur was covered with dried mud, loose dirt, wood chips, and who-knows-what! Phew!
Sylvia leaned down and petted his little head. “Siggy,” she said, “it’s time to clean up.”
Siggy didn’t know what she meant, but sat and listened as the laundry tub filled with water. When it was about five inches deep, Sylvia gently lifted the young puppy and placed him in the warm water.
Siggy whined. He didn’t know if he liked this at all.
Sylvia gently spoke to Siggy as she bathed him with a very gentle soap and then rinsed him off. Siggy was glad the bath was over. As soon as he was out of the tub, he shook and shook and shook the water from his fur. Sylvia laughed as water drops flew everywhere.

Soon Siggy was dry and comfortable again. He was clean and ready for his next adventure.
Clean and ready to go

Clean and ready to go

For more stories about Siggy, click here.


Siggy meets the chickens

An ongoing adventure story for children of all ages.

Today’s the day, thought Sylvia. Today, Siggy, her little Corgi puppy, would meet the chickens on Bull Brook Keep.

Chickens spend the night in their safe and snug coop.

Chickens spend the night in their safe and snug coop.

The chickens live in a chicken coop not far from the farm house. David, Sylvia’s husband, built the chicken coop so that the birds would stay safe from foxes and raccoon, weasels and snakes, and wandering dogs.
The chickens on the farm are now a year old. The hens weigh about eight pounds and the rooster weighs more than 12 pounds. He’s very big indeed. And to think, they started out as tiny little yellow chicks that could fit in your hand.

Taking a look before stepping out into the new day

Taking a look before stepping out into the new day

The rooster was not only big, he was very protective of the hens. He guarded them from anyone or any animal that might come near. He would do this by jumping up and trying to scratch with his back claws, or talons. He could also peck and hurt your hand. Despite this, the chickens were very useful on the farm. They provided eggs, and meat, and they ate insects that would bother people and cattle. They would eat ticks!
Next year, if he learned his lessons well, Siggy would be in charge of the chickens. Sylvia would give him a command – “Round them up, Siggy” – and Siggy would herd the chickens into their coop area. But right now, Siggy is a little puppy with a lot to learn.
So today, Siggy took a first step.

Siggy surveys the birds

Siggy surveys the birds

Sylvia stood close by as Siggy met the chickens for the first time. Sylvia stayed near because the rooster might want to peck at the little puppy.
When Siggy got near the chickens, he did not bark. That’s good because Sylvia and David don’t want their herding dog to scare the animals they have to work with.
It was a good first meeting.
Soon, Siggy will meet the biggest animals on the farm – the BueLingo beef cows.

For earlier Siggy stories, click here.

Siggy meets the big, big dogs

Siggy is a little puppy. He’s little because he’s young – under two months old. And he’s little because he’s a Pembroke Welsh Corgi – a breed that only get’s to be about 14 inches high.
Siggy is so low to the ground that his belly brushes against the grass as he walks across the fields. His legs are so short, he needs to jump when he climbs steps.
He is learning to climb smalls hills and jump over rocks. Siggy is curious about everything!

Siggy is just 6 inches high at the shoulder and less than a foot to the tips of his ears

Siggy is just 6 inches high at the shoulder and less than a foot to the tips of his ears

There are so many new sounds and smells for this little dog. And most of what he sees is very close to the ground. After all, Siggy is just six inches high at the tops of his shoulders.
Siggy is so much shorter than his new pack-mates, Chevy and Parker. Chevy is a German Shorthair Pointer. He’s nine years old and very strong. He’s also a valuable worker on the farm. Chevy’s human master, Dave, spent many, many months training Chevy to be a good hunting dog. Every fall, Dave and Chevy hunt pheasants, grouse, and woodcock. Chevy has lots of energy.Siggy plays with Chevy
Siggy meets Chevy, our German Shorthair Pointer

Siggy meets Chevy, our German Shorthair Pointer

Siggy meets Parker, our English Setter

Siggy meets Parker, our English Setter

Siggy also met Parker, an English Setter with a very waggy tail. Parker is five years old and is also a hunting dog. Parker works with Chevy and Dave when they walk the woods hunting for game birds. Parker and Siggy
Now Chevy and Parker are older, bigger and stronger dogs than little Siggy. They are tall dogs with long legs. They love to run and play roughly with each other, as you can see in this short video,Big dogs play rough Although Siggy would love to run and play with Chevy and Parker all the time, Siggy’s master – his human Sylvia – has to watch very carefully because Siggy is still a small baby. Chevy and Parker don’t want to hurt Siggy, but because they are so much bigger, they might step on him or scratch him by accident.
The dogs will learn to live and play with one another over the months and years. They will work with Sylvia and David to make the farm work well.
Soon Siggy will meet the other animals on the farm.