The Essence of Autumn

Although it’s hard to tell here in Virginia, Autumn has officially arrived! In an effort to jump start my favorite season, I decide to bake something pumpkiny a few days ago. My first thought was pumpkin muffins, but– let’s face it– a pumpkin muffin is really just a cupcake without icing. I decided that it would be hypocritical of me to make cupcakes and call them muffins, so I started searching the internet for pumpkin recipes.


I googled pumpkin + cake + easy, because I have a five-month-old excuse not to engage in anything too difficult/cerebral/time consuming. I was looking for a seasonal version of the classic Southern Wine Cake that your aunt used to make if you grew up where I did. (I have two aunts that make it. My Aunt Cricket makes the classic version but Aunt Shirley is a strict Southern Baptist so she substitutes white grape juice for the wine. We call her’s Baptist Cake.  Both are really good but Aunt Cricket’s might just barely have the edge.)


Nothing I found was exactly what I was looking for, so I did a bit of combining of recipes, some improvising and threw in a tried and true hook that I was sure would throw this cake over the top. The result was magical. So good that my husband and step-daughter said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked. (I went to culinary school and I don’t happen to believe this was true, but still.) So good that we devoured it before I could take a picture. So good that I decided I need to make another one to refine the recipe and photograph it. This cake is as easy as it gets. If you can pour something from one vessel to another, you’ve got this knocked. There is one step that is time consuming but it’s the most important part, so I urge to you to give this a go. And it’s not hands-on time consuming. It just takes a bit of planning.


Autumnal Equinox Cake

Autumnal Equinox Cake


1 gallon apple cider (Yes. 1 whole gallon)

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

2 or 3 cloves (optional)

1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (or 1/4 cup sugar with a tablespoon of cinnamon mixed into it)

1 box Spice Cake Mix* (Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker will do nicely)

1  15 ounce can of pumpkin

4 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter or canola oil

1/3 cup greek yogurt (unflavored, of course)

2/3 cup sugar


Pour the entire gallon of apple cider into a large pot and add the cinnamon stick and cloves if you are using them. Bring to boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and then find something to do of the next hour or so. (Your house will smell heavenly during this process, BTW.) When the gallon of apple cider has reduced to about two cups, it’s done. The apple cider reduction will be syrupy, although it may be hard to tell until you allow it to cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves and set aside. Pat yourself on the back– you just made liquid gold.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Grease a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray and “flour” the pan with the cinnamon sugar, tapping to coat the pan and discarding any excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the remaining ingredients plus 1/4 cup of the apple cider syrup you just made. Mix slowly until combined and then on medium high for a couple of minutes.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake at 350 until done. (In my convection oven, this took about 50 minutes, but every oven is different so start testing for doneness at about 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of apple cider syrup over the cake while it’s still hot and in the pan. Wait about 30 minutes for the cake to cool, the ever so carefully invert the pan onto a cake round or large plate. Now pour another 1/4 cup of apple cider syrup over the top of the cake as evenly as you can.


Serve with whipped cream, because if you’re going to eat all that cake, why act all high and mighty when it comes to what is essentially a garnish? Drizzle with yet more apple cider syrup and devour the essences of Autumn.

Store any remaining apple cider syrup in a tight jar and store in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for however long you freeze stuff. For ideas on how to use it, see this post, but definitely try it on salmon.

* Once, many moons ago, I did a post about making chicken soup for a house full of people while we were all sick with a nasty cold. In that post, I conceded that homemade chicken stock was always preferable to boxed broth but admitted that we were so sick and so short on time that I was using the boxed. Not long afterwards, I noticed we were getting thousands of hits that were coming from a famous (actually notorious might be a better word) website. I clicked the link and found that someone had posted a link to my soup recipe and the entire forum was outraged (OUTRAGED, I TELL YOU!) because anyone who cares about food would never use boxed chicken broth. Anyone with the slightest taste would rather go hungry than use it, in fact. It was actually pretty funny, now that I think about it, that total strangers were ready to burn me in effigy because I made soup in my own house for my own friends with an ingredient that they didn’t approve of. It’s a funny world we live in these days.

Anywho, I say all of this to say, I get it. Boxed cake mix is the WORST. You would never DREAM of stooping so low as to feed your family boxed cake mix! How could you possible inflict such a plebeian and base concoction on the refine and sensitive palates of your family?!? I should be locked up for even suggesting such a thing, etc. etc.  I wish you peace and send you on your way.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here eating cake.

Summer’s Sunday

I’ve been seeing a meme on both Facebook and Pinerest lately about how August is summer’s Sunday, and I quite like it.  It’s appropriate this year, given the changes I’m already seeing.

Though, to be fair, it isn’t always like this.  This summer (and last, too) was pretty mild.  In Augusts past we’ve had brutal days and nights where it’s still 90 degrees at 10:00 at night. Now may days are bracketed by farm chores completed in downright comfortable temperatures.  Three years ago I had to be out by 8 am to beat the awful oppressiveness of it. Evenings I would just sweat through it.

But these last few……..

It’s been perfect.  My friend Lisa and I agree that we can put up with frigid “polar vortex” type winters if it means we can have these summers.



The stream is totally overgrown, but it’s a lot of wildflowers and color.  It’s so difficult to properly photograph.


See that wild morning glory in there? It’s that time!



Alabama, in our pasture wasteland.  The grass (not that we had much to begin with) is all gone for the year.


Happy Sabine.


Roquefort is so “majephtic”.


Sweet Keswick




Basil, who has never lost his cuddliness.



Chicken watering hole.

Our curriculum for the school year is submitted, plans for share dyeing are in the works, Emily the shearer has been contacted about shearing the Angora goats. Our first tentative steps toward fall have been taken.

Scenes From the Farm, Mid-Summer















Where have three months gone?

Scout and I have been having a fantastic time getting to know each other.  He is– bar none– the happiest baby I have ever encountered.  From the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep at night he is all smiles and laughs.





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More soon…

Introducing Scout

The last two weeks have been such a whirlwind of change that I completely forgot to update the blog until Fran mentioned our newest lamb in the comments of Amy’s last post. It’s so hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks and one day since Scout Thomas arrived, two weeks early thanks to a wicked and fast acting case of pre-eclampsia. We are completely, utterly, hopelessly in love and nothing will ever be the same again. 11037180_10206053626837502_9028858308409763832_n For those of you keeping score at home, Scout weighed 8 lbs 1.5 ozs, was 19 inches long and was born very suddenly at 9:05 p.m. on April 13th. IMG_0131 IMG_0155 IMG_0221 IMG_0315 IMG_0318 IMG_0333 IMG_0337 IMG_0364 IMG_0385

Mom, Dad, big sister and baby are all doing well– exhausted but very happy.

More as soon as I figure out how to juggle all this.


Shear Bliss

Too corny?

Ah, well.  Yesterday the flock finally was freed from their heavy fleeces (just in time for temps to plummet and rain to fall all day today). But yesterday. Yesterday was glorious.  Later in the evening there was much more frolicking than I have seen since…..well, last spring.


I love watching Emily work, and I love seeing the wool coming off to reveal the little bodies underneath.


Wembley’s fleece came off in a solid, felted clump, not unlike a rug.  Poor thing. When a sheep has been as sick as she was, it’s no surprise.  I’m sure the three or four baths I gave her didn’t help. But, now she’s well and free of the old fleece and can start a new, healthy coat.


Now, this. This is what I love to see. The colored flock. The sun-bleached outer layer, the darker layer at the skin, and all the variation in between.


The pure Border Leicesters were mostly silver underneath; the Border Leicester/ Cormo crosses were more black underneath.


Our friend Amy came and helped out with hooves, while Emily’s dog watched (and snatched hoof clipping to chew on).. Seriously, she was a HUGE help. And unsurprisingly, Emily can easily manage a sheep one-handed while Amy and I struggled tag-teaming them.


The goats were surprisingly well-behaved for her.


Neve helped out, too, of course!






Ursa – who is seriously the tiniest thing once you get her out of her coat!


Wembley the Wonder Lamb.

I know everyone is sad we were unable to have a party for shearing this spring, but trust me, we had a great reason (BABYBABYBABY) that Susan will update y’all with soon enough.

In the meantime, I hope all of your steps are as light and carefree as the flock!

Yesterday In Pictures

We are SO reveling in the spring weather!!!


Yes, hello. My name is Adelaide. You show me a fence and I’ll show you a stuck goat!


She does this every. day.


It’s been warm enough the last few days that the dogs have started their summer ritual of hanging out in the stream.


The peas are growing well!


The peonies are going to bloom any second.


The lilacs are blooming now and busy attracting bees and butterflies with their heavenly scent.


The strawberries are flowering.


The broccoli is sprouting.


The Monarda is shooting up fast.


The raspberry bush is taking over!


The azaleas are about to pop.


The dogwoods are showing off.


And Ursa is looking mighty tired of that fleece!

Evening In Pictures

Every day seems to be gaining ever more momentum toward summer. I took extra time this evening to appreciate the new flowers, the new bits of green popping up everywhere, and the wooly creatures who will be freed of their heavy winter fleeces in the next week or so.



The apple trees are starting to leaf out.








This broody hen is very unhappy that I keep taking the eggs from under her.





A different kind of lambing season…

For the past ten years of my life, early Spring time has been about waiting. Waiting for the pastures to turn green again. Waiting for the mud to dry up. Waiting for shearing time.

But mostly waiting for lambs. I’ve probably spent a hundred nights or more waiting for ewes to give birth, sleeping in my truck or in the barn, or in my bed with a baby monitor propped up on my pillow. Year after year, I experienced the same excitement and anticipation waiting for the very first lamb or kid of the season to be born. Sometimes it felt like it was never going to happen and then, suddenly we were up to our elbows in knobbly knees and pink noses.

Juniper Moon Farm lambs

I am happy to say that lambing never lost it’s magic for me. No matter how many babies I saw born, no matter how many sleepless nights, no matter how many moments-old lambs I saw take their first wobbly steps, it never stopped being an amazing miracle.

Juniper Moon Farm lambs

Last year, we decided not to breed the ewes for lambs this spring. Mostly because our flock was at capacity and we didn’t want to have to make any tough decisions about any of the older ewes. When you have a no-kill flock, there is always a trade-off to be made between the old animals and the new.

Juniper Moon Farm lambs

We also held off lambing because I knew that this year, I would be awaiting a lamb of my very own during lambing season. I am 37 weeks pregnant today, eagerly anticipating the arrival of my very own knobby-kneed miracle.

Juniper Moon Farm lambs

I am feeling all the things you might expect a very pregnant first time mom to be feeling. Excitement. Anticipation. Trepidation. Discomfort (my empathy for the ewes has increased greatly!).  I can honestly say that I have never been so happy– or so content– in my entire life as I am right now.

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But in spite of that, I will miss the lambs this year. I just keep reminding myself how incredibly lucky I was to have that experience so many times.

No one in this world has ever been luckier than me, that’s for sure.

An Easter Lamb Miracle

Hopefully you are all having a lovely and relaxing Sunday.  The weather here is beautiful, if windy, and the kids are about due to crash from their sugar largesse left by the bunny.

I am enjoying the newly blooming flowers and the pea plants which have begun to sprout.



But the BIG news we are happy to share is that Wembley the wonderlamb has made a full and complete recovery.


When I found her downed several weeks back with a thiamine deficiency, we were pretty worried.  When we brought her home from the vet that evening, we were unsure how she’d do through the night.


She lived in my tub for two weeks before I felt like I could move her out to the sheltered front porch.  But after a few days I was still pretty worried. She was still crooked, and could barely stand on her own. When the nearly three week mark hit and she was walking sideways, unable to lift her head completely, I was really worried. But then, suddenly one day, she decided she’d had enough, and walked around the gate and off the porch.  I took her down to the other lambs (lots of bleating was to be had) and worried yet again how she’d do through the night.

But now? Holding her own at the feed trough and hay bale. Walking straight, no head tilting or any indication of illness other than being a bit skinny still.


The only difference between her pre-illness self and now is that she got used to us being her food-bearers, and consequently is very friendly and cuddly now.

I’m pretty comfortable calling this turn around nothing short of miraculous.

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