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Rhubarb Pie As It’s Meant to Be: Delicious!

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Ah Rhubarb, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Let me begin and end with one way: rhubarb pie. Sure, I make jams, jellies, and compotes with the ruby-red stalk, but pie is where it truly shines. The combo of tartness and sweetness wrapped in buttery crusty goodness makes rhubarb pie a springtime treat like no other. And for the sake of my friends who might pop a gasket over adulterating the rhubarb, I never add strawberries or other fruits to the filling. I’m a rhubarb purist at heart.

fresh rhubarb for pie
The spring garden’s most vibrant star…chop, chop!

My Rhubarb pie recipe is relatively simple, and specifically delicious. The recipe always works, always elicits moans, groans, and worthy praise from dessert lovers around my table. Over the years, I’ve streamlined the recipe even more by making it a galette, which is simply rolling out the dough to an even thickness, placing it round and ready into a pie plate, adding the filling, and folding over excess dough to make a top crust. Oh and I do gild this lily with one other culinary trick: custard. Not a lot, just enough to coat the rhubarb and envelope it in a dreamy, creamy silkened coating of sublime texture and flavor. Prepare to smack your lips with the following rhubarb pie recipe, but first some photographs of the steps to get there.

Any pie dough will work. I use the King Arthur Baking Company’s double crust recipe, so I can make one pie and freeze the remaining dough for another pie day. Roll out the dough to an even thickness; rough edges are fine, if not preferred.

Slump the dough in a 9″ pie plate, gently press down dough into pie plate. Compress, don’t stretch.

It’s all about the overhang, note the excess pie dough destined to do a back flip onto the top of the pie.

rhubarb pie filling

As for the rhubarb pie filling, I first dust the rhubarb with cornstarch, then sugar.

rhubarb pie custard

Next up the magic of custard: cream and egg (whole milk and half and half work fine, too).

Combine simple ingredients to create a memorable pie.

mixed custard pie

Mixing up the cream and egg to add to the rhubarb mixture.

A custard slurry creates a silky-smooth binder for the rhubarb pie filling and complements the herb’s noteworthy tartness.

Once rhubarb is tucked away in the pie dough, pour custard solution over it but be careful not to overfill.

Rhubarb on top, with custard filling the bottom of the pie shell.

Once the rhubarb and custard fill the pie, gently fold the excess pie dough back on itself to make a partial top crust.

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Serving Size:
8
Time:
2 hours
Difficulty:
Easy Peasy

Ingredients

  • Your favorite pie dough recipe. (For me, King Arthur Flour Pie Dough Recipe)
  • 5 Cups Rhubarb, cut bite size
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 Cup half and half (Okay to substitute whole milk and cream)

Directions

  1. PREHEAT – oven to 400° F
  2. DOUGH – Rough out pie dough into even-thickness disc that is larger than a 9-inch pie plate. You want it to overhang the sides and touch the counter.
  3. RHUBARB-CUSTARD FILLING – Chopped fresh rhubarb into bite-size pieces (I like diagonally cut.)
  4. Place chopped rhubarb in a bowl, and mix with corn starch until fully coated.
  5. Add sugar and salt to mixture and thoroughly combine.
  6. Let mixture sit room temperature for 15 minutes, then stir again to create a syrupy slurry.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat egg, then add half and half and mix thoroughly.
  8. Pour mixture onto rhubarb to coat and stir well.
  9. ASSEMBLY – Add rhubarb to dough-covered pie plate, tap down lightly to flatten fruit.
  10. Pour remaining custard from rhubarb bowl into pie plate. Custard should only come up half way.
  11. Gently fold the dough over toward the middle of the pie to create a galette top.
  12. Brush top dough with milk, and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar for a golden brown baked finish.
  13. Bake 25 minutes, then rotate pie 180°
  14. Reduce temp to 375° and bake another 20 minutes.
  15. Rotate pie again and bake for another 20 minutes
  16. When custard thickens and bubbles, remove from oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
Bon Appétit and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Related Links:

Grow Organics: How to Grow Rhubarb

Washington State University: Rhubarb Growing Guide

Taste of Home: Rhubarb Recipes

Epicurious: 41 Rhubarb Recipes

Vashon Vision: Future Found in a File Cabinet

30

Cleaning House, Finding Treasures

Ah, the new year, a time to fall in line with my better self and ponder the things I plan to do, change, rectify and/or discard in my life. Nothing too heady here; I’m thinking clean closets, no second helpings, walking more and talking less.

One of my first endeavors included cleaning out and removing two file cabinets from my upstairs linen closet alcove. Initially, I was counting on eight gliding drawers of storage space to keep the documental detritus of my life locked and loaded for easy retrieval. Instead, the behemoths acted more like steel sarcophaguses where entombed papers and “collectibles” awaited an afterlife never realized.

In one file cabinet, under a pancake-stack of CDs, rested a zipped-up leather portfolio cocooning a bunch of forgotten writings, cards, and photographs—seemingly, mementos I held in higher esteem than the neighboring discographies of 80’s greatest hits and funk legends. Inside the portfolio, I found a document titled Homework: Vashon Vision.

I read the first few lines (head-tilt and curious puppy-face on full display). After feather-dusting the cobwebs from my head and shaking a few bread crumbs out of my ears, I remembered Vashon Vision was an exercise to write down what I wanted my life to look like, that is, prodding pen, paper, and intent to speak to my future self. The homework assignment from twenty years ago was part of a life-coach curriculum I was participating in with a friend of mine, Kathy, who was seeking her certification in the field. I was her willing student and she my steadfast, whip-smart mentor.

At the time I wrote Vashon Vision, I was living in Seattle commuting to a corporate job that I feared did not see the magic in me, nor I in it. In my heart, I wanted something else, a day without meetings, posturing or feeling less-than. I also wrestled with the reality that Seattle had outgrown me. My sweet little Green Lake neighborhood was being roused from its century-old sleep by the pin-pricks of “progress” and development. After the little brick house next door to me was torn down only to be replaced a spec-box four times its size, I thought I needed to figure out my next move to escape such urban encroachment and loss of place. How did I see myself in the coming years and just what would a good day look like to me?

My sweet little Green Lake cottage before the neighborhood’s building boom.

The following excerpts are from that writing assignment, where I waxed on about what a move to my favorite Puget Sound island and imaginary farmhouse would look like.

HOMEWORK: Vashon Vision (circa 2003)

“A rooster crows and the lone wale of a ferry horn follows, cutting through the morning fog and silence alike. The warmth and stillness of being in bed makes it difficult to leave such a blanketed embrace, that is until the snorts and gurgles of a sleeping bulldog morph into a full-blown snore — my cue to rise and shine. Downstairs, my ears are keen to another morning sound: the welcoming call of a programmable coffee pot—first rumblings, then escaping steam, drip, drip, drip, then the aroma escapes the confines of this little appliance and finds its way right to my nose.

First coffee on the front porch stairs, as the morning is young (so says this early riser). I wonder what the day will bring—routine, surprise, contentment, a little angst, a little intrigue? I lock on the sight of deer drifting through the tall grass, and I let them linger long enough to stare at me and me at them. As they graze my garden, I think it’s time to shoo them off, knowing they’ll be back by evening when my attention is elsewhere. Maggie wedges her wrinkled mug through the unlatched door and senses adventure mere yards away. A quick piddle in her favorite spot, then off to expedite the deer’s departure and save me the trouble.

My old farmhouse casts a spell of cozy familiarity, of earlier times, of forgotten history. It has stood in its place for a long time, when roads were mud and timber king, when letters were hand-scripted on paper stiff, when the mosquito fleet of Puget Sound dodged flotillas of schooners and masted giants. I know not the history seen through the windows of my house, but my imagination finds no limits to that which I have not experienced, but hold in my heart. I see the mistress of the house retrieving sheets off the clothing lines as a storm approaches, along with a young man carrying a smile and a weighty bushel of fresh-picked apples, his cheeks blushing with the same color found in the basket. Children clamor down the stairs to intercept his windfall. Minutes later, all run for the porch as clouds like the burgeoning bushel can hold their contents no longer.

My daydream takes me to work at hand, some simple chores: feed the chickens, thin some apple tree branches and ponder the story I’m writing. My toes cannot escape the slap of wet grass saddled with dew. The dawn is young and the sun has yet to fully join us. Maggie acts as scout, cutting through the meadow like a stealthy, invisible, tigress. She leads me to the berry patch for breakfast pickings.

After breakfast, I go to my study, to a desk reserved for writing. My study is a small room, well-appointed but not too cluttered (very wishful thinking), and with a view of the garden and the changing cloudscapes skirting the tree line. I have another desk in another room, but it’s reserved for the daily duties of paying bills, and maintaining one’s paper-trail life. And yes, it’s quite cluttered.

I have several projects going, one a freelance piece, another an essay on gardening, and one an evolving story begging to be a book. I hum a song in my head and try to pen the lyrics before the melody evaporates and leaves me in silence. I remember enough to tuck the words away for another day when more music seeks refuge in my head, or I seek refuge in the music.

I write throughout the morning, but not without taking breaks to hug Maggie, drink more coffee and take a clip around the garden again. A neighbor stops by for fresh eggs, rewarding me with a half-pint of honey for my hen’s efforts. We catch up. We laugh. We wave goodbye.

I finish the afternoon writing and rewriting. As shadows lengthen, the sun’s arch towards the Olympic range reminds me it’s time to take a walk before dusk—time to rediscover that the inspiration in words comes from the inspiration in life.”

My first spring on Vashon, where aspiration met sylvan reality.

How Time Flies…

Posts like these are a little awkward for me. I’ll be the first to say there are no magic waves-of-the-wand to make things happen; but based on my own experience, I think any time I focus on what I do want, I find myself on a better path to understanding and realizing my direction. Writing down my perfect day got me started. Course corrections and awareness led me further to find my beloved farm and the solid touchstones of friends and family. Twenty years later my dream found a place to park.

peach palace vashon
2004: Home Sweet Home right before I moved in.
2022: original siding exposed, new paint makes her shine!

Island Life: Words to Live By…

This “Hiway Haiku” of mine is right at home on Vashon Island, just like me.

A Recipe for Bread and for Life

29

A friend of mine recently returned from a Zen Retreat at a German monastery, and told me about a delicious German whole-wheat rye bread he had enjoyed there. Now on quirky little Vashon, no one would bat an eye at that sentence, albeit some would be disappointed there was no mention of a unicorn.

Chris also produced a photo for me to drool over. Bread never looked so good. The rounded little sandwich bread revealed seeds, and nuts as if stones, pebbles, and boulders on a rough mountain road; and a dense constitution that provided nary a space for errant air bubbles or problematic holes so common with other breads. (Are you listening sourdough?)

Chris produced this photo for me to swoon over, and I did.

I listened intently as my pal (a man of thoughtful and artistic ways) shared his fascinating journey of retreat and discovery, from slices of life and to slices of bread–and both sounded delicious.

Now back to the bread. I love the few German breads I’ve tasted. They had a weight, texture, and density that made tongue, tooth, and tastebud sing. After a little research, I read that Germany is considered the bread capital of Europe. Apparently, there are more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in Germany according to the “German Institute of Bread.” (Check out the related reading at the end of the post.)

In lieu of placing a bowl of water in the oven for moisture, I baked the loaf in a lidded cast iron casserole pan. When the bread rose during baking and was firm, I removed the lid, and let further baking time make for a crustier top. I used a “meat” thermometer to test the internal temperature of the bread. When 190° F was reached, I removed the bread from the oven to cool.

Thanks to a continuing stream of dreamy bread photos dancing in my head, I was bent on making the seeded whole-wheat rye bread my friend had extolled the virtues of on his recent pilgrimage. So my recipe search began and eventually led me to the All Tastes German website to a bread called “Körnerbrot.”

Recipe: German Whole-Wheat Rye Bread With Seeds and Nuts

I thought this was a great recipe (linked in title), and I also made a couple changes based on my baking and eating preferences. They are as follows:

  1. I still used two cups rye, but I added one more cup of the whole wheat flour for a total of four cups, for a less sticky dough.
  2. I made and kneaded the bread only using a stand mixer with a dough hook. I only kneaded the bread briefly to shape into a large loaf. Another time I made two loaves from the same recipe using bread pans.
  3. I added more nuts/seeds: 1/2 Cup walnuts, 1/2 Cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds.
  4. I baked the loaf in a large covered casserole dish and removed the lid once it had fully risen and was firm in the oven.
  5. I used a cooking thermometer to test the bread doneness. When 190° F was reached, I removed the loaf.
  6. I did not add any water to the oven.

Discovering the culinary gifts of other cultures through cooking and baking will always yield delicious results both on the palate and in the experience. So bake on my friends and don’t forget the olive oil and the butter.

What’s your favorite bread to bake?

Related Reading

Farmhouse Finery: New Paint, New Chapter

The old gal beams in her new livery of fresh paint and celebratory colors, and I couldn’t be happier. My near two-decade delay to restore and paint my farmhouse exterior was well worth the wait. This past week, on one of the few days when Pacific Northwest torrents relented and the sun appeared, my masterful painter (and now friend) Wade looked up from the porch post he was painting and said, “Well Tom, I think I’m done.” I replied, “for the day?” And he smiled and said, no, “Done, done.” (Cue my happy dance; no cameras please.)

We (make that Wade) started painting the house mid-September, and I knew he’d be at the mercy of the weather for the months to come. I trusted Wade and knew there was no way to rush this process, nor did I want to; but that meant I’d have to put on my big-boy pants and be patient and not bug Wade about some arbitrary timeline I’d conjured up. Let the artist do his thing. The house would be done when the house was done. Two months later the house was done.

I tried to keep out of Wade’s way, but Buddy felt the need to supervise when the sun was out.

Prior to the paint job, my beloved farmhouse had faded into the landscape like a clapboard chameleon, blending with watercolor swaths of Northwest forests and overcast skies. Fronted by a colossal century-old maple, she only revealed her bold new profile after the loss of leaves from said maple. Epic November wind storms ensured a dramatic finale, clearing the view for all to see from her splendid perch on a country corner and gentle hill. She beamed like a kid in new clothes on the first day of school. She was ready to rise and shine!

Let me round up some photos of her new look for the next century; and also take a moment to thank all of you for congenially going along with me on this journey, and offering words of encouragement and support.

Tah-Dah…The Big Reveal!

North Side of House

West Side of House

Northwest Corner of House

The More Weathered South Side.

1888 Front Door

If home is where the heart is, ours (me, Buddy, and the house) beats with gratitude and appreciation for your witness and kind words. Thank you from the bottom of our brightly colored, freshly painted hearts.

Buddy ponders: friend, foe or color inspiration. Western Tanager sculpted by my friend Michael Zitka

Related Stories:

Tom Lives Here, No Doubt About It

Home Sweet Home: Out With Old, In With the New

Tom Lives Here, No Doubt About It

88

Paint Colors to Call Home

I’ve waited 17 years to paint my house, not for lack of wanting, but more for having an understanding of what I needed to do by myself and with limited funds. I drafted an outline of priorities for house upgrades and gentle restoration, and I pretty much stuck to it. Placing no timelines on any project’s completion, I got the job done when I got the job done, just chipping away as free time and affordability allowed. I was happy to live under this roof no matter what the state of repair.

First Things First

As any homeowner will attest, to-do lists are roadmaps drawn with detours, delays, and unforeseen exits. I learned from restoring my house in Seattle that one should not pursue the pretty in a project before focusing on functionality and repair. It’s nice to apply wainscoting, but not if the plumbing and electrical systems behind it are suffering from old age and neglect. So beginning in 2004, I targeted the big stuff first : foundation issues, water-in-the-basement woes, anemic heat sources, aging roof shingles, curious chimney configurations, and feeble porch boards. Yep, I took on the hole in the foundation before lining up paint chips and light fixtures. And may I add my dear homestead has been the most charming of subjects throughout: patient and forgiving. So here it is 2021, and the paint is finally on the brush! My painter Wade is up to the challenge, and I eagerly cheer him on daily (minus the pompoms and cartwheels). He’s so good, I’ve started calling him Leonardo.

Pondering Paint Colors

Wade, master painter and man of the hour…day… decade…at my house.

I’ve never been afraid of color. I relish how color can conjure up a feeling of enthusiasm, warmth, delight and comfort within me. Months went by before the actual painting started, and after I had tested enough sample colors to coat my house two times over, I chose the colors — colors infused in the harvests of late summer, early autumn: peaches, peppers, plums and pears, with side a order of marigold and nasturtium.

Doubting Thomas

When it comes to color, I live out loud, but sometimes I succumbed to self-doubt and friends with good intentions but strong opinions. As a result, I began to stray from my original plan of summer-sweet colors into a new territory of tone-on-tone tastefulness. I started to doubt myself, thinking I should really go all classic white. When I told my friend Lynnanne that I had changed my mind tabling bright colors for a more pallid palette, she responded with disappointment, “Oh, I really love your original paint choices.” So did I, really. Perhaps I was under the spell of an HGTV episode or the quiet beauty of understatement. Hmmm, I needed to rethink this. There’s no doubt a quieter color scheme would be lovely, but was that me?

Getting gussied up in seasonal colors…

A Little Help From My Friend

Within a half-hour of Lynanne's visit, I received this text from her: 

"Hope this doesn’t sound too hokey but when I envision your house and you in it I see a bright, cheerful white or cream body with trim accents of color like sunshine, morning glories, pumpkins, grapes...

When I drive up your driveway and I see your lovely old gal perched on the hill it will say Tom lives here…no doubt about it !
 
Everyone has their opinion…no doubt about that! Me as well, but I did love your first choice of colors. 

Hard to decide, but whatever you do will pay homage to a grand old farmhouse with years of history and stories to tell. ❤️

My dear friend was right (she's an artist after all), and thanks to her generous and heartfelt note, I snapped out of it and how! Back to Plan A: Bring on the joyful colors! 

Colors Inspired by Nature

I didn’t pick my trim colors; the orchard, garden and kitchen did. The wonderful color combinations of red-oranges, golden glows and sunny yellows already lived here. Why not celebrate such vibrance daily, with each walk up the lane, with each view from the orchard, with each swing in the hammock. Here are some of the show-stopping hues Mother Nature let me borrow.

Nature’s Colors Trim the House

Here’s a sampling of the paint job in progress… I’ll post more detailed photos when the house is all painted and gussied up! (This will likely be a couple more weeks.)

Original front door, east side
The first coats of paint…
North side porch windows
Everything old is new again…south side of the house

Home Sweet Home: New Paint, New Life

35

Painting and Patience

Seventeen years ago I drove up a gravel drive to behold the house destined to become my new home. Imperfectly perfect, the pioneer beauty imbued an elegant simplicity wrought a century ago, and still stood proud even with the injustices of layered “improvements” that fell short of her grace and dignity.

After I moved in, I knew it would take awhile to paint the house but I had no idea that nearly two decades would pass before this striking muse in a dirty dress would be granted a wardrobe change. As my Seattle fixer taught me, first things first though; electrical, plumbing, foundation, and structural work would have to precede any desire to create my own aesthetic movement and mark on the exterior. Patience became my learned virtue.

Vashon farmhouse the peach palace
The “Peach Palace” in 2004 replete with a tarp-wrapped chimney, and sided with 50s asbestos shingles.

The House and I: Primed for Painting

My esteemed housepainter has begun this epic transformation, and I believe an “Alleluia!” is in order. (Feel free to throw in a couple amens, too!) After I hired an abatement company to remove fifties siding, my friend Jeff and I patched holes, replaced compromised boards, and added new corner trim, which was removed earlier when the asbestos tiles were installed in the fifties. Jeff, the star of this trim-work team, was meticulous and climbed ladders–my kind of skill set! As for me, well, think panda on a pole; I know better. Grounded grunt work is my game with a soupçon of finesse when needed. Oh, and I can fetch a tool like no one’s Golden Retriever.

A Fine Friend Captures a Fine House

Let me share with you some before-painting photos revealing the original presence of form, functionality and beauty hidden behind sheathing for over sixty years. My talented friend Kent Phelan photographed my favorite perch before her big paint job, using his epic large-format Deardorff wood-box camera. His imagery is nothing less than time travel. Thank you Kent!

Northwest side
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
cold pantry
My cold air pantry, just a screen between the elements and my indoor larder.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
farmhouse porch
My summer haunt: breakfast, lunch and dinner on the wicker table; and power naps on the perfect porch sofa.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan Tall Clover Farm Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
West side of house: mudroom and upper floor guarded by my always growing collection of potted plants.
Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160
South and weather side of the house. Window repair is also on the list. Photo credit: Kent Phelan, Deardorff 5×7 HP5 @ 160

House Paint Colors

The hot topic with any house painting is of course house colors. I can assure you I’ve chewed on this decision with the fervor of Buddy on a bone. I’ve changed my mind so many times, I quit answering inquiries with any specificity or conviction, instead mumbling “Ummm, yeah, I’m really close.” I could only handle so many puzzled looks chased by a “ummm, interesting choice.” Which brings us to the timely question now, “So Tom, what color did you choose?” I will say, the answer will come in another post, with before-and-after pictures, but for now I wish to showcase the austere beauty of my sweet pioneer home in a natural pre-paint state. And besides, I may change my mind tomorrow when we actually order and buy the paint. 

Preparation and Anticipation

Here are a few other photographs as we start to prime; and stay tuned for our debutante’s big day and re-introduction post.

house paint primed
Original shiplap siding shines…
The eighteen foot unsupported beam finally bolstered by adding two matching chamfered posts. Matching brackets will be added once made.
Facing north, sporting a new coat of primer…

Thanks for sharing my love of old houses, and I look forward to revealing the painting progress in the weeks to come. And based on Pacific Northwest autumn weather patterns, I may have to extend that estimate of completion. It’s okay; I’m in it for the long haul.

Time to Remove the Siding

63

Curing a Bad Case of Shingles…House Shingles

In 2004, my very patient realtor led me up a gravel lane to a hilltop setting of monumental trees encircling a sleeping beauty of a homestead. Painted in the color of my favorite stone fruit, the farmhouse radiated grace under, around and through her wavy-glass windows. She was imperfectly perfect. For I wasn’t seeking perfection, just joy, the kind of joy revealed in the everyday moments of simply being in a place called home. Lived-in, well-loved, the house glowed as luminously as the unconventional hue of her siding. Her patina as a gathering place was unmistakeable. Sure, the “Peach Palace” (as she’s locally known) had issues; not a problem, so did I. So what if the seller’s disclosure form could shim a short-legged table, I was game, but more importantly, I was smitten beyond my own expectations.

When I told a friend of all my plans to restore the house, he responded with a raised eyebrow, a chuckle, and a query, “Tom just how long do you plan on living?” (I paid him no mind.) Since then, I’ve chipped away at a multitude of major and minor projects; checked off a thousand items on a hundred to-do lists; envisioned a myriad of outcomes; and shrugged at deadlines. And through it all, I told myself to be patient, do the job right, and don’t spend money you don’t have.

Today I wish to share my complete and utter joy with you for something I’ve waited 17 years to do: to remove the 1950’s asbestos shingles that clad the house and masked the charm of the original features. Every time I drove up my lane, sat on the porch, returned from the orchard, or closed up the chickens for the evening, I would lovingly gaze at my “Peach Palace” and promise her to one day to rid her of that unfortunate livery, and to restore her original siding, for beneath the asbestos-infused squares was century-old fir siding.

danner farmhouse vashon island
Early photos (provided by my friend Gary) show a handsome house clad in fir ship lap with a v-groove.

Friends, I have kept my promise to this serene place, and the results truly brought tears to my eyes. Grace restore, Tom elated. (Remember, I’d waited almost two decades to do this, fearful I could never have afforded remediation. Finally, I could.) Let me share the journey with some before-and-after photographs so you can see what I mean. The house is smiling. I’m smiling, and I suspect you’ll be smiling, too.

2004: Photographs of the “Peach Palace”

The original porch rails had the tensile strength of stacked sugar cubes, so they were removed, and will return anew, once I rebuild them, but for now no tipsy guests allowed on the porch. 😉

2021: Siding Removal Day

2021: The After Photos

Before-and-After Comparison Photos

(Slide mid-photo arrow to compare.)
North side house
Years apart: Fourth of July meets first of May.

So what now? Ah, prepping and painting, my friends! Hopefully this will take place in August, and as for colors, I’m pondering. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts on what happy hues to grace her.

Read More stories about the house:

https://tallcloverfarm.com/category/home-sweet-home

Quiche Lorraine: How to Make Breakfast Pie

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Don’t like Quiche: Hear Me Out

Quiche Lorraine got a bad rap in the 80s, all started by the tongue-in-cheek book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, denouncing the brunch-fare as unsuitable for the alpha male. Truth be told, any man threatened by a bacon-and-egg pie has some deeper issues to explore. I’m not completely innocent of falling victim to the notion of gender-specific foods. On a visit to France, I warmed up to the famed sandwich Croque Madame over the less redolent Croque Monsieur, and why wouldn’t I since it came with an egg on top. I always wondered if the wait staff chortled behind kitchen doors at my expense. “Croque Madame for girly man on table 19, s’il vous plaît.” To this day, I’m not really sure if it’s cool for a Frenchman (or any man) to order a Croque Madame in la République. (Feel free to fill me in, if you know of such cultural norms.)

Cream, eggs, and cheese: the perfect custardy combo

Breakfast Bias Be Gone!

And anyone who poo-poos Quiche Lorraine has likely never indulged in the encrusted custardy slab. Let’s face it, with ingredients like cream, bacon, cheese, and eggs, each slice is a veritable hearty American breakfast disguised as a genteel French pastry. So toss any disapproving preconceptions down the garbage disposal, and get ready to make Quiche Lorraine.

Gild this breakfast lily by adding caramelized onions and bacon.
I like to make my quiche in a deep pie or tart pan, making for a richer slice in my opinion.
There’s a decadent satisfaction to quiche, and as an added bonus it’s the perfect vehicle for customization. Here I added diced ham to the mix.

RECIPE: Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients

  • Pastry for 9-10″ pie or tart shell
  • 6 slices of bacon – chopped into 1/2″ bits
  • 1 large onion – minced into small bits
  • 2 Cups Cream – half and half works fine, too
  • 5 large eggs – large, beaten
  • 1 Cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino, or romano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

  1. PASTRY
  2. Preheat oven to 450° F
  3. Roll out dough to 1/8″ and fit in 9-10″ pie plate or fluted 10″ tart pan.
  4. Refrigerate while assembling the filling.
  5. FILLING
  6. Sauté onions and bacon until browned and caramelized, respectively.
  7. Drain fat.
  8. In a bowl, thoroughly mix all remaining ingredients with bacon and onions
  9. Remove chilled dough and pour custard mixture in leaving 1/4″ from top of rim.
  10. BAKING
  11. Place on middle rack of 450° F oven
  12. Bake for 20 minutes
  13. Reduce heat to 350° F
  14. Bake for additional 15-30 minutes, depending upon pan size, and until an inserted knife about 3 inches from the edge comes out clean.
  15. NOTES
  16. The middle may still giggle a little, (make that jiggle) but that’s okay as the quiche will continue to cook while cooling.
  17. Refrigerate any leftovers.
  18. Add flavor-rich ingredients you like. Sometimes I plop in chopped artichoke hearts or diced ham or red peppers or spinach.
  19. And if you don’t have interest or time in making dough, use a ready-made shell or simply add the filling to ramekins or over-safe mugs and bake — breakfast in a cup!
  20. My mom freezes them in muffin tins, then bakes or reheats later as individual servings.
  21. UPDATE: My mom prefers to make a frittata in a pie plate, bake it up, slice individual servings, freeze, place in a freezer bag to retrieve and microwave when an easy meal is needed.
  22. UPDATE: Here’s the pie dough recipe I use (make two pie shells) from King Arthur Baking – Classic Double Crust
Any leftover filling goes into a ramekin or two for a delicious crust-free quiche. Or you can make an entire batch of mini-quiches by just eliminating the crust option and filling up cups or ramekins.

Buddy, party of one, you’re table is ready!

Happy Baking my friends, may the quiche be with you!

Christmas Gift 100 Years in the Making

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In 2019, on Christmas day , I received a gift 100 years in the making. Surprisingly, the treat presented itself within an email inquiry and subsequent exchanges; and embraced me with a warming joy best described in the redemptive words of one changed Scrooge, “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy.”  Darn tootin’ Ebenezer, my dimples were on overtime after this surprise; I couldn’t stop smiling. And to be delivered on Christmas day, well, that was the holly sprig in the figgy pudding. (Have I used enough Christmas metaphors? Nah, I’m just starting!) But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me parcel the details as they happened, and as I’m want to do by reliving the delight again, word by word, smile by smile.

On December 22, last year, I received notice for a comment awaiting approval on my blog post: A Century Ago, My Farm Was for Sale. The comment from Gary read,

“I have some original pictures of your house from a Danner family scrapbook circa 1900’s to about 1918. I think I could take a picture and email you a couple photos of the farmhouse.”

I reread it a couple times and chuckled, “Yes, yes, absolutely yes!” Of course I had a litany of questions, and responded,

“Gary that would be so awesome. I would LOVE to see any and all photos of the house you have. Do you live on Vashon? How did you come to acquire the scrapbook. I love a good mystery. Thanks for checking in!”

I received a thorough and throroughly-wonderful response from Gary. Here are some excerpts:

“…I bought the photo album at an estate sale for William Danner who passed in September of 2009, he donated all his belongings to the Boy Scouts and they hired a company that specialized in liquidating estates to have the sale. I went because there were some military items, which is my area of interest. I was able to grab (it’s a real scramble at a sale like this) all of Delbert Danners World War I items, uniforms etc., which included the album because it has pictures of his training at Camp Lewis and shots around the house with his fancy new US Army outfit.


“The album is quite interesting and shows lots of island shots…the steamboat Daring (an early ferry I think), early cars including the Danners’ 1914 Metz, a kit car they had shipped to the island. There are lots of porch shots of your house with little kids, couples, and some full family shots…if you have spirits in your house (we do) these would be them. There are a few full house shots from the front and a really good one of the side back area…Some of the photos are long shots and may be of your property, there is an interior shot of a Christmas tree decorated and with presents underneath and one of an old woman by a parlor stove. Anyway I ran into your site here about a year ago and had sent an email on another page of yours that probably didn’t work out…but I will get right on these pictures and get a couple sent your way.”

I was so glad that Gary tried contacting me a year after his first attempt. I’m not sure why I never received the first message (likely email filters), but I know I’m grateful for his persistence and generosity in sharing the photos with me. And if you wonder how he found me in the first place, his valiant effort started with a search for “Danner” and “Vashon Island” which returned my blog post about said subjects, and references to the farm’s for-sale pamphlet from 1917.

A few days later on Christmas day, I rose early, trundled downstairs in the dark, dancing around dog toys, beloved bones and wayward shoes (Thank you, Buddy). My trek to the ground floor a success, Christmas lights turned on, I was eager to brew a pot o’ joe, settle in, check emails, open gifts, and figure out my holiday phone calls and times, all while trying not to dispatch an entire tin of Russian tea cakes before my second cup of coffee. (Based on the powdered sugar coverage on keyboard, fingers, face and dog, resistance was futile.)

The first email I saw and opened that Christmas morning was adorned with the subject line: Pictures for my new friend Tom Conway. I clapped like a toddler in a high chair eyeing a sippy cup and a bowl of elbow macaroni.

Gary wrote:

Hi Tom, here’s a few photos from the album, I am sending mostly shots of the house but in the album there are shots of outbuildings, crops, a barn looking structure, pigs and lots of pictures of the Danner family. I think there are 355 photos in the book with early shots of the island, showing beaches, people swimming and what must be downtown. There is a very cool professional aerial view of what must be your land and a small tower keeps popping up in several of the people shots I’m not sure what it is. Merry Christmas from Gary and Dolly. We hope this little pile of lost information will brighten your day.

And like the twelve days of Christmas, there were twelve photos to discover. I even thought, maybe I’ll open one each day. That notion lasted two seconds after downloading the first photo.

I wrote back:

Dear Dolly and Gary, Brighten my day? Oh you two sent me a solar flare! You are my Christmas angels delivering the sweetest missive of joy this very morning. You brought me to tears, truly. Who could have imagined I would be downloading 100-year-old images from the house where they were taken. What treasures, both the images and you two. Thank you so much for contacting me in the first place and being so generous to share this history of the Danner house with me…

We’ve been in contact to meet in person, but schedules and COVID-19 put a halt to that for now. Until that day, I will relish these photographs and re-imagine the early days of the farm and family who brought the island outpost to life a century ago, and cherish my new friends Gary and Dolly who shared these visions and their passion for history that Christmas day. Thank you Gary and Dolly for the best gift basket of all: new friends, history, stories and fond memories. One day we shall meet I hope, and together write another chapter in the story of this beloved house.

The photos sent…

vintage christmas tree farmhouse
Then: Adorned in popcorn pearls and homemade ornaments, the Christmas tree reigns joyfully over the front parlor.
Tall Clover Farm house vintage
The front porch is the place to hang out, one-hundred years ago as well as today. The porch railings are now absent, but will return anew some day soon I hope. (Project 342). The walkway is now lawn grass, and the porch corbels, windows and front door remain original to the house.
Danner house farm Vashon
I’m particularly fond of this photo for its overview of the property looking south west (from left to right), showing the house, the machine shop, and the long-gone water tower and milking barn behind it.
Danners porch vashon island
Porch-side portrait: The black locust tree on the left, is now a stalwart stump refusing to rot 100 years later. The beautiful shiplap siding remains but has been covered by a protective, albeit less atheistically-appealing siding that I hope to remove one day. The small singular window on the far right peeks into the cold pantry, which is still wonderfully functional today. Upstairs, the four open window bays served as sleeping porches for seasonal farm workers. Today the bays form two separate rooms protected from weather by large picture windows.
Vintage dogs tall clover farm
Buddy was delighted to see that the first residents of the house included this handsome posse of pooches.
delbert danner and girlfriend
Delbert Danner and Imogene Breed strike a pose in front of their 1914 Metz kit car.
Cove road house vashon
This house, and home to Imogene Breed, is northwest of mine about 3 miles away and still stands off Cove Road on Vashon Island.
Vashon high school girls vintage
The only thing I know about this photo is it’s lovely.
delbert danner friends high school vashon
Sunday best: assuming Delbert Danner is in this group photo.
danner house vashon girl dolls
On the front porch: Fear not, the figures flanking the little girl are dolls.
vashon farm house
The east side of the house, not much has changed, thankfully.
danner farmhouse vashon island
The north side of the house: the porch on the far right is now enclosed. The original structure (left of the tree) was built in 1888, while the addition right of the tree came about in 1892. Not sure what crops are growing in the foreground.
The day after solstice 2020, the skies opened up and shared a little sunshine before the next round of Pacific storms. I love that this lovely wood-framed Vashon pioneer still stands and marks a prominent place on the island and in my heart.

Over the years I’ve whittled down the celebration of Christmas to what’s important to me in family, friends, places, and moments. If I never have to step into a shopping mall for the remainder of my days, I will consider this an appreciable outcome for a life well lived. The fewer the holiday assumptions I have, the fuller my seasonal celebration. I like to give Christmas a chance to find me, not the other way around. Sure there’s wonder in a Snowflake Lane or Zoo Lights, but don’t dismiss the everyday kindness and generosity that speak more eloquently to the season. I’d trade the aforementioned activities for the giggles and smiles of the neighbor kids delivering homemade cookies to my door, nary one absent of candy sprinkles (both cookies and kids), or the sheer delight of a kind soul reaching out to share a beautiful history that touches me on this day and everyday.

And thank you for joining me on this journey of discovering my farm’s past and the joys of everyday.

And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”

Buddy, seeks warmth on all levels, and sends his love and seasons greetings, too.

Thanksgiving 2020: Gratitude Is on the Menu

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Darkness surrounds me right now, but I know light will prevail if I just wait patiently. My rooster Rufus reminds me of this notion, along with the solo song of wheels to wet pavement a country lane away. Buddy concurs with each snore, grumble and snort; just be patient.

Buddy the bulldog reads
Buddy taking a break from his book club…

I’m at my kitchen table (aka Tall Clover Farm World Headquarters) and I’m thinking about the last nine months and the ups and the downs that riddle my days, and I try to resolve what this pandemic has taught me. For one thing, it’s slapped me across the face like a gangster’s moll in a bad B movie, awakening me to the fact that I’m a very social person. (Insert, “Duh” here.) My friends, laugh over my reluctance to admit what everybody else already knows; I’m a talker and a listener, a hugger and a storyteller and a man who is by no means an island. I live out loud. (You get the picture).

Aptly-named Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin destined for today’s dessert.
Pie preferences run deep; for some it’s pumpkin, others pecan, or my favorite, both. I was shocked to learn of a vocal splinter group: those who like neither. 😉

If I didn’t have contact with Buddy and enjoy a few masking-wearing moments of chitchat, I think I would be rocking in the fetal position on my front porch. At times, even Buddy seems bored with me, gazing upward with a face that seems to say, “Do you ever stop talking? Oh yeah, and when’s dinner?” His coat is like a finely woven cashmere sweater because I brush him daily (heck, make that hourly), and check in often to make sure his every need is met. He knows I am assuredly his man servant. Well, not much change there, I suppose.

Forelle pears: delicious autumn harvest and beauty

These last few months, I have never been more thankful for what is now absent in my life: family, friends, connections, simple hellos, handshakes, and hugs. I have enjoyed a life of plenty, a life of love, a life of kindness, a life of learning, and a life of being embraced by the beauty and generosity of this world and its citizens. I have it good, and it took the isolation dictated by a pandemic to correct my vision about just how truly fortunate I am. I knew, for the most part, but now I really, really, really know.

So on this Thanksgiving Day I wish you all the best this life has to offer from beloved family and friends to the hugs, to the smiles, to the shared dinners that feed us in every conceivable way. We will get through this, and we will celebrate with the effervescence of popped Champagne. And for that day, I just can’t wait, but I must. And for that I’m most grateful, for my view of life will never be the same.

Apparently, I’m in Buddy’s spot…

Stay safe, stay mighty, act in love, inspire kindness, call your mom, be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Finding light among the shadows…