summer wishes + a day at the buffalo river

on sunday we snuck away for a day at the buffalo river. we packed up our swimsuits, snacks, reading material, chairs & blankets. the weather was so beautiful! 

the buffalo river is an absolute gem & we consider it such a gift to live so close! we spent time at steel creek, a perfect family-friendly spot with access to the water and nice bathrooms. 

we hiked the nearby trails and then spent several hours by the water. we read, snacked, napped & savored every minute together. 

this summer we hope to be very intentional with our weekends. we want to ride our bikes more & sneak away for more one-day adventures. we want to eat outside on the patio & spend the last hours of sunlight in the garden together. we hope to soak up the sun & spend many afternoons in our backyard pool. 

what are your wishes for the season ahead? i'd love to read your summer fun ideas!


u-pick strawberries + three easy ways to process berries at home

last week we carved out a couple of hours for strawberry picking! we packed a few baskets with snacks, picked up our sweet nephew for the adventure & headed off to our favorite u-pick farm, dickey farms in tontitown! 

on saturday we spent the morning hours in the kitchen baking bread (luke) & processing strawberries (me). we harvested about 12 quarts of berries - quite a bit less than our usual but a manageable amount given our current season of life. 

there are so many ways to process a large volume of strawberries - shrubs! liquor! baked goods! - but i thought i'd share the three ways i processed our berries last saturday morning!

1. strawberry jam - i pulled out one of my favorite canning cookbooks, preserving by the pint, & made her honey-sweetened strawberry jam with a hint of thyme. i would highly recommend this canning book for processing small batches, but i actually found the recipe online here if you're interested. 

2. strawberry shortcake - we met with friends for an evening of feasting & card playing on saturday night. nothing quite beats strawberry shortcake with fresh-from-the-farm berries. i purchased the shortcake at the grocer & paired it with sliced strawberries. don't forget the homemade whipped cream. simple & sweet!

3. frozen berries - we love having farm fresh berries all year long so i make sure to always harvest more than we can eat. we enjoy smoothies, muffins & other baked goods with the berries i freeze in the spring. i freeze my berries on a baking sheet to prevent sticking & then once they are fully frozen, i bag them up for the freezer. don't forget parchment paper or a silpat between the berries and your baking sheet - this makes for much lighter work. 

 there's nothing more enjoyable than picking berries on a beautiful spring day & rewarding yourself with the bounty for months to come!

i'd love to read the many ways you process strawberries in your own kitchen. please share your ideas in the comments below!


Planting Summer Flowers

i am so excited to have my husband, luke, in this space sharing his tips for planting annual flowers! if you have a garden-related topic that you'd like us to blog about, please comment below! thanks!

When we first moved to our farm and were planning out the garden Natalie had to convince me to devote space to flowers instead of planting it all to vegetables. I was reluctant, but conceded to her request. By the time the zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers were in bloom I was so glad I let Natalie persuade me. Seeing our summer garden with flowers in full bloom always brings a smile to my face.

Here I’m going to discuss seeding summer flowers like zinnias and sunflowers, which we just planted in our own garden this week. For those of you in our region (Zone 6) it is time to plant summer flowers! For those of you North of us, wait to seed until soils have warmed or transplant after you’ve passed your last spring frost date. 

I usually start zinnias from seed in the greenhouse, but this year I wasn’t able to so I’m just going to be talking about directly seeding in this post. Like with our directly-sown vegetable crops I start by digging a shallow furrow with a triangle hoe to plant into. I like having my drip tape laid out first so that I can use it as a guide to keep my rows straight.   

Zinnias might just be our favorite garden flower. They are so vibrant and colorful and make beautiful summer bouquets. Especially since we can’t buy zinnias at the store, they are such a special treat to grow in the garden and have in our home.

Because zinnia seed is light and non-uniform I find it easiest to sprinkle by hand. Zinnias should be sown 2 inches apart and then thinned to 9-12 inches between plants once they are starting to crowd. I recommend using a ruler at first to get a good handle on the correct spacing. They only need to be buried a 1/4 inch deep, so be sure your furrow isn’t too deep.

Sunflowers are a must for our garden as well. Not only are sunflowers a gorgeous accent in the garden, they are great for attracting and feeding pollinators which are vital for your flowering summer vegetable crops.

Because sunflower seed is large and fairly uniform I find it easiest to use the seed packet as a little seeder. I fold the lip of the packet so that the seed comes out one at a time and I tap the side of the packet to control how fast the seed slips out. Sunflowers can also be sown at 2 inches between seeds, 1/2 inch deep. Thin to 4-6 inches between single-stem varieties and 18-24 inches between branching varieties once the seedlings have started to grow.

Once the seeds have been dropped in the furrow I will use a trowel to scrape the soil back into the trench and cover the seed. Be careful not to bury the seed too deep. And make sure there is good seed-soil contact when you cover the seed, even taking the flat end of the trowel to pat down the soil to make sure it is firm.

Lastly, be sure to water in the seed thoroughly giving the beds a good soak with a water hose. I use drip tape for irrigation, but I will still water in my seeds with a hose-end sprayer to make sure they have plenty of soil moisture for germination. And be sure to keep the beds from drying out until the seedlings emerge. At this point it is critical that your seeds have plenty of moisture.

Stay tuned to see how our zinnias and sunflowers do this year. I can’t wait for those summer blooms!


P.S. If you'd like to purchase flower seeds for your own garden, we have our favorite varieties for purchase at Freckled Hen Farmhouse. Click HERE to shop our selection of garden seeds!

in the garden: april 2016

goodness, we are so grateful for our flourishing spring garden! april is such an exciting month for us in arkansas as we welcome a productive growing season for many months to come.

this spring season we started most of our seeds in the greenhouse & then transplanted the small plants into the ground as the soil warmed up. we directly seeded sugar snap peas (shown above), radishes & mesculin salad greens, but most everything else was transplanted. 

see luke's spring planting guide HERE for more information on planting techniques. 

our choice to transplant does create some extra work, but the uniformity of the plants is so lovely & it is space-saving, which we value in our productive yet relatively small garden plot.

our flowering winter cover crop has been such a bright spot in the garden. this year we planted mustards & red clover to build soil health & add nutrients back into the soil before planting this summer's tomatoes. bonus - beautiful color in early april! 

you better believe we're thoroughly enjoying spring salads with greens, radishes, green onion, boiled egg & our homemade balsamic dressing. the true delights of spring eating!

just last weekend we planted herbs in our perennial flower beds. i'm excited to dry & preserve herbs this fall. i hope to gift family & friends herb-infused olive oils this holiday season with home-baked bread!

what is happening in your april garden? please share!


our favorite slow cooker, on-the-go chili recipe

we are entering into a season of living more of our day out rather than in. when the spring rainstorms  let up & allow it, you will find us puttering about the garden, sharing meals with others on the back patio, spending the evening around the bonfire & if we're lucky, running away to a nearby campsite for a weekend retreat.

we love easy, portable meals for sharing with others at home or packing up for a weekend getaway. today i thought i'd share our family favorite slow cooker chili recipe that's healthy, simple to prepare & ideal for on-the-go moments. 

the morning of, i simply prep a bit of meat in our cast iron & then throw everything in the crockpot while i pull together breakfast & pour my coffee. right before dinnertime, i gather our enamelware cups with handles (ours are from 1canoe2 & they are so cute!), cloth napkins & utensils.

if we're on the go, i pack our chili up in thermoses & throw everything else in our vintage picnic basket. if we plan to share a meal at home with guests, i set up a little chili bar with all the toppings & invite our friends to gather by the bonfire with their hearty meals in hand!

it's such a fun way to enjoy a warm meal while soaking up the longer spring days! adapt our chili recipe to your liking & it's sure to become a meal plan staple. 

our favorite slow cooker chili recipe
serves about 5-6

- 1 lb ground meat of choice (we prefer turkey or chicken)
- 1 teaspoon good olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 diced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 can cooked black beans
- 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
- 1 small can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 1 small can thick tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon each of cumin, chili powder & paprika (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. in a large cast iron skillet, heat up the oil & add your ground meat of choice. brown the meat until no pink is visible. 2. drain any excess fat from the skillet & add your browned meat to the crockpot. 3. sauté your chopped onions, minced garlic and diced bell pepper for just a couple of minutes & add on top of the meat in the crockpot. 4. add your black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce & seasonings to the crockpot & mix well. 5. cover & cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 6. top with cilantro, salsa, lime & avocado. serve alongside tortilla chips & enjoy on the go or at home with others!


Baking Artisanal Sourdough at Home

This is a guest post from Natalie's husband, Luke, an enthusiastic weekend baker.

Baking sourdough bread has become a weekly ritual for our family. In college, Natalie and I both worked at an artisanal bakery so bread is an important part of our life. It also goes without saying that a crusty sourdough loaf is a pleasure in and of itself.

No doubt that baking sourdough at home can seem a little intimidating at first, but I've found that with a good recipe and the right equipment it is quite doable to consistently churn out amazing bread that rivals what you can find at most bakeries. I hope this blog post is an instructive introduction and gives you the confidence to pursue your own bread adventure!

My first exploration into the world of artisanal bread began with this No-Knead Bread recipe written up by Mark Bittman for the New York Times. For those of you who feel intimidated by sourdough starters, bulk fermentation and proofing, this is a great start. All you have to do is mix ingredients the night before, let the dough ferment for 12-18 hours, shape it into your loaf, let it sit another 2 hours, then bake. The process of baking this recipe in the bread cloche is exactly the same as the sourdough recipe, so you can skip to the end to see how that is done.

The recipe that has become my mainstay sourdough is based on the Country Bread recipe from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Chad Robertson of Tartine is an amazing baker and I would highly recommend you check out his books on bread. But for now I hope this serves as a helpful guide.

Here is what you will need before you get started:
Ceramic bread cloche or dutch oven
Proofing basket or medium kitchen bowl with cotton towel
Dough scraper
Digital kitchen scale that measures in grams
Bread flour (I recommend King Arthur bread flour)
Whole wheat flour (King Arthur or Bob's Red Mill)
Dechlorinated water (leave a pitcher of water uncovered 24 hrs)
Fine-ground sea salt

- The Sourdough Starter -

I would encourage you to find a friend who has a healthy sourdough starter to share. (That's what I did!) But if you don't have such a friend, here is how to start a sourdough culture from scratch.


Roughly 1000 grams bread flour
Roughly 1000 grams whole wheat flour
Dechlorinated water

Mix 50 grams of bread flour, 50 grams of whole wheat flour, and 100 grams of water in a small bowl or jar. Cover with a towel and let sit at room temperature until mixture begins to bubble and puff, 2-3 days. This means that wild yeast have colonized your flour-water mixture and you now have a starter culture! Begin regular feedings, discarding 3/4 of the starter each day and feeding with 100 g of the bread flour / whole wheat flour mixture and 100 g of water. When the starter begins to rise and fall predictably and smell sour it is ready to use.

- The Bread -


200 grams leaven
750 grams dechlorinated water
900 grams bread flour
100 grams whole-wheat flour
20 grams fine sea salt
100 grams rice flour for dusting

Starting Your Leaven
The night before baking, take 50 g of your starter, combine with 100 g of dechlorinated water, 50 g bread flour, and 50 g whole-wheat flour. Mix thoroughly, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow to sit overnight or for 12 hours. It will have grown in size and be full of air bubbles the next morning.

Mixing the Dough
The next morning, place 200 g of leaven into a large mixing bowl and add 700 g of dechlorinated water, mixing the leaven to disperse throughout. Add 900 g bread flour and 100 g whole wheat flour and thoroughly mix. This is where a bread whisk comes in handy. Or just use your hands! When the dough is mixed, cover with a towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. After the rest, which is called autolyzation, add an additional 50 g of water and sprinkle the 20 g of sea salt over the dough, mixing the salt throughout with your hands. You can squeeze the dough between your fingers or fold in the salt like you're kneading the dough.

Bulk Fermentation
Now that you've mixed your ingredients it is time for bulk fermentation. You'll need to stay close at hand for the next 3 hours throughout this process. Find a warm spot (75-80 degrees) to place your bowl of dough. I like to use the inside of my oven with the light turned on. The light alone provides enough heat to keep the temperature around 80 degrees. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set your timer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, uncover your bowl, wet your hands slightly, and reach under the dough, pulling up and stretching each of the four corners of the dough and folding them back over. This stretching helps the chains of gluten to form in the dough giving it the ability to rise and hold its shape. Do this for a total of 6 times over 3 hours and you'll notice how the dough becomes billowy and increases in volume 20-30%.

Shaping the Loaf
Now that your dough is ready to shape, clear off a counter top or large cutting board and generously dust with white flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the surface. Cut the dough into two equal portions keeping your fingers dusted with flour so they don't stick to the dough. Now fold each side of the cut piece up onto itself so that the floured side remains on the outside of the loaf. Use your hands to work each into taut rounds.

Flouring the Baskets
Mix 100 g of rice flour with 100 g of whole wheat flour and generously dust the inside of your proofing basket. If you don't have a proofing basket, dust a cotton cloth and place inside a medium sized kitchen bowl. I love using a wooden proofing basket because it leaves a beautiful spiral pattern on the crust that is traditional to the craft.

Final Shaping of the Loaves
Lightly dust the rounds with whole wheat flour and use a dough scraper to flip them over onto your work surface. Start with one round and pull the bottom two corners towards you, then fold them up into the middle third of the dough. Now do this with the left and right sides of the dough, folding them over into the center. Finally, lift the top corners up and down over the previous folds. Now roll the dough over so that the folds are facing down and use your hands to shape into a taut ball. Repeat this with the other round.

Transfer each round into a floured proofing basket, seam-side up. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise at room temp for 3-4 hours or in the refrigerator for 10-12 hours. A cold proof with give the bread a stronger sour flavor and make it easier to handle when dumping out of the proofing baskets. Place your proofing baskets in plastic bags or wrap in plastic wrap if proofing in the fridge so that the dough does not dry out.

At least 30 minutes before baking place your bread cloche or dutch oven in the oven and pre-heat to 500 degrees. Dust the tops of the dough with cornmeal or the rice-flour mixture while they are still in their baskets. Now very carefully remove the heated cloche or pot from the oven and remove the lid. Turn the loaf out of the basket and into the hot cloche or pot. Next take a razor blade or knife and score the top of the loaf to allow it to expand. Place the lid on the cloche or pot, place back into the oven, reduce the temperature to 450 degrees and allow to bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the lid and allow to bake for another 20 minutes with the lid off. Rotate the pan after 10 minutes to allow for even browning. The crust should be a rich, dark golden-brown color when finished.

Carefully transfer the hot loaf onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Increase the oven temperature to 500 with the empty cloche or dutch oven inside to bring them back up to temperature before repeating the process for the second loaf. 

I wish you success and hope you enjoy your bread! Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. Also, if you need a cloche, proofing basket, or bread whisk you can find them in our shop.

Happy baking!

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