Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pie in the Sky

The Motherhouse Old Style Life Skills Pie in the Sky Workshop was described as follows: Celebrate harvest season with a homegrown pie. Pluck a ripe squash, collect eggs, make maple syrup, grind flour, and render lard to make a delicious “pumpkin” pie from scratch...

But as we gathered around the table in the milking room at Local Farm, Debra Tyler, founder of Motherhouse, handed us each a Pumpkin Pie recipe and told us she had gone shopping - to two supermarkets - and here were the ingredients for a pie. Were these ingredients really the makings of the Pie in the Sky? We wondered... Then we talked about each ingredient.... and how we could make the pie, from scratch, with what we had available around us... It was beginning to sound like Pie in the Sky....

The recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin. Because there was butternut squash growing in the pasture at Local Farm, Debra said we could substitute squash for the pumpkin and off we went to the patch. Each of us picked a rosy colored squash to bring home. We left the greenish ones to ripen on the vine.

The next ingredient called for was 1 cup of sugar. Sugar comes from sugar beets and we didn't have any growing here. So instead we used local maple syrup. September isn't the time of year for collecting sap and boiling it to make the syrup, that time is in the early Spring when the night time temperatures are still below freezing but the days warm up. However, Margaret, Debra's daughter, demonstrated how a tree is tapped and the sap collected.

And lucky for us, Debra had some sap from last Spring, so we each tasted it.

We started the sap boiling early on in the workshop so that we could see how much syrup we would end up with. It takes some time. Because we were using a liquid sweetener in place of the white sugar, we substituted 1/2 cup maple syrup for the 1 cup of sugar.

The recipe also called for 1 can evaporated milk for the filling and 1/3 cup of butter for the crust. We could use milk from the Jerseys at Local Farm in place of the evaporated milk. Jersey milk is notoriously rich - rich in protein, fat, and minerals.

In order to make the butter, we needed cream, and to have the cream, we needed to get the milk and to get the milk, we needed to call a cow. Debra called for Lovely and in she came. Many hands tried milking Lovely, who is a very patient and beautiful Jersey.

Then we learned how to take the cream off of the milk, it is more of a sliding off then scooping motion. We took turns churning the butter.

We needed flour, 2 t. in the filling and 1 3/4 cup for the crust. We are fortunate to have locally grown wheat available from: Lightning Tree Farm in Millbrook, NY, 914-677-9507.

We learned about different types of mills and we took turns grinding the wheat berries, using two different types of grinders.

Along with the butter, the recipe called for 1/3 cup of lard to make the crust. Debra told us that lard makes the very best pastry, making it flaky, and butter is best for taste, so that is why we used both. We learned about the two types of fat from a slaughtered pig and we learned how to render the lard.

The recipe called for 4 eggs and since there are some laying hens at Local Farm we collected eggs from the nesting boxes.

There were a number of ingredients - salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla that are not available locally. Debra described their sources.

The butternut squash can be prepared in two different ways - cut up into cubes and cooked on the top of the stove or baked in the oven. Debra prefers baking it, as the flavor is preserved.

Here is a Pie in the Sky which we each sampled, made from scratch, following this recipe:

2 1/2 cup pumpkin (we used butternut squash)
1 cup sugar (we used maple syrup)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
2 t. flour

4 eggs
I can evaporated milk (we used Jersey milk)
4 t. water (we did not add because we used the liquid maple syrup)
1 t. vanilla

Pour into crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes.

1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup lard
1 tsp salt

Mix 'til like cornmeal. Add cold water by the Tblsp.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Build a Milking Stool

Thanks again to the Arts Presentation Grant awarded to Motherhouse from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to support it's Old Style Life Skills Series of Workshops, Joe Brien, Lost Art Workshops, was back at Local Farm on Sunday leading a Build a Milking Stool Workshop. In this workshop, participants rotated through a series of work stations called shaving horses as they learned how to hand craft a stool to take home.

Each building team was provided with a seat blank made of eastern white pine. Here are pictures of participants planing the seats:

Each building team was also provided with an assortment of kiln-dried hardwood branches to use for the legs. In this step, this father and son team are shaving a leg tenon:

Here a participant is drilling seat holes for the leg tenons:

Chiseling split into leg tenon:

Tapping wedge into split tenon:

Sawing wedged leg tenons flush with seat top:

Two pictures of cutting legs to length:

Marking legs to length to be cut:

And the final planing of the seat top:

Voila, the group with finished stools:

Building a Stanchion

My daughter and I were one of six building teams at last Saturday's Build a Cow Stanchion Workshop, led by Joe Brien, Lost Art Workshops, and Izzy Fitch, Battle Hill Forge.

This workshop was another workshop made possible because of an Arts Presentation Grant awarded to Motherhouse from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to support it's Old Style Life Skills Series of Workshops.

A stanchion consists of a framework with at least two vertical bars, one stationary, one movable, and is used to secure a cow for milking or for any other reason.

We assembled stanchions which can be mounted to an existing stall.

In addition to learning and using basic woodworking skills, each building team formed a 1/4 steel rod into a bail with blacksmith Izzy Fitch.

And here are a few of the stanchions, ready for future family cows...

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Family Cow featured in the New York Times

If you read Sunday's New York Times on August 24th, and got to the Connecticut/In The Region section, you would have seen the large photograph taken at a Motherhouse Family Cow workshop including the caption "With food and fuel costs rising, some families have opted to keep cows. From left, Alice, Peter and Rosie Villano at a family cow workshop in Cornwall Bridge. Page 2" Turning to page 2, is the article "In the Backyard, Not Just a Garden, but Cows" with another photo, this one of Debra Tyler, founder of Motherhouse, showing how to milk a cow by hand at a workshop. If you missed it, read it online at

From The New York Times, August 24, 2008 © 2008 The New York Times All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of the Material without express written permission is prohibited.