Thursday, December 25, 2014

Solstice and Squash Soup (recipe!)

Tortuga Thursday 
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Playing with ribbon can be tricky

Christmas Day. Of course I wrote this in advance since we’ll be in Phoenix at my mom’s celebrating the holiday with family. Most of us have multiple stops today. Frank and I don’t so we’ll hang out at Mom’s and visit as the rest of the family wanders in and out.

Four days ago, we had our Solstice celebration on the farm. It was
The Solstice Fire
even more meaningful, and certainly more fun, with nearly two-year-old Sadi. We didn’t get through the entire fire ceremony since by that time she was overwhelmed with all the day’s activities. No problem. The day had tired all of us.

Sadi's first roasted marshmallow
Part of our Solstice celebration is to have as much of the food we grow ourselves as possible. By December, the choices are fewer. So in addition to a great Irish lamb stew that Frank cooked, Christie made butternut squash (from our fields) soup. The recipe is below. It’s excellent!

Lance is getting some veggies growing in the greenhouse again after the
Still working on it
early hard freeze practically wiped us out. So far we have chard, onions, collard greens and the carrots are still hanging on. It’s not very pretty right now, but it’s a work in progress.

The crows disruption
The garlic has started sprouting, and the crows are a menace. Apparently, they have yanked some of the tiny sprouts from the ground. Whether they are doing it as they dive for bugs or purposely going for garlic, we aren’t totally sure, but two rows are a bit torn up. We invested in a bb/pellet gun. When they come around early morning, Lance pops one with a bb and it clears them out for that day.

We’ve moved the RV to our home away from farm in Tonto Basin. I’ll save that story until next week. I have some good tips if you want to retire on limited funds that you might find interesting.

Butternut Squash
Christie’s Butternut Squash Soup
(this fed four adults, one child, and we had leftovers-our butternut are large)


Two large butternut squash, cut in half and seeds scooped out

½ large onion, diced

(note here: If you want to include some other veggies you may. Christie added a small amount of fresh spinach)

Rice milk (or any milk product you prefer) as needed for a soup consistency

5-6 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

Spices to your taste:


Curry powder


Black pepper

Bake squash at 400 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes. Baste with butter occasionally. In a pan, cook the onion and any other veggie you might like in a couple of tbs of butter. Puree cooked butternut in a blender adding the milk of your choice to the consistency desired. Pour into a pan, add seasoning and bacon. Heat for at least ½ hour to blend the spices. Enjoy!

Some Santa's in the RV

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snap, Crackle, Pop

 Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.
We've been trying to move the RV to Tonto Basin for a few weeks but it's been one thing after another. First the garlic took longer to get in. Then came the three day rain. The area we pull out and turn around in is next to the garlic crop and all dirt. Or mud when it rains. It's still pretty wet but Frank thought he could make it. The trailer jackknifed a bit too much and broke the rear window out of the truck. Loud pop! The soonest we could get it fixed was the next day. Then it had to set for a day. Thanks goodness for auto glass coverage. No cost to us.

We might actually get away today. We'll barely get it set up, and I'll have to go to Phoenix tomorrow for three days of book signings while Frank will head back to the farm for the Farmers' Market on Saturday. Never a dull moment.

So here's to having glass coverage. I'm not sure what it costs us on the policy because Frank is the insurance man but it can't be much or he wouldn't have added it. But it's worth it. That's my money saving tip for you today. In the long run, you'll save a bunch.

The green house plants were hit hard with the freeze. Lance cleaned it out yesterday and will plant some varieties for the winter. More to come on that progress.

We're a bit concerned about the garlic. Since we're new at planting on such a large scale with ten varieties, we're not sure how the wet ground will affect the seeds. And it appears we already have weeds or at least grass. It's not easy to tell. Some of it could be garlic shoots. The hay we used as mulch could've had various grass seeds in it. If that's the case, we're going to have to do more research on hay next year and possibly have to go further for our supply. This first year will be a learning process - something we do a lot of on Tortuga Flats Farm. Lance the farmer will figure it out. He always does.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rain and a Recipe for What Ails You

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Last Tortuga Thursday I complained about November being a discouraging month. That'll teach me to whine. A bug hit me on the last day, and it's still hanging on. No sooner had I kicked the two day virus when a head cold settled on me and then morphed into a chest cold. A triple thriller to start off December. I don't care. This is my favorite month of the year, and I can't be bothered.

We're into our third day of rain here on Tortuga Flats Farm. It should move out tonight. We need a little rain every month for the garlic. If we get the rain, we won't need to irrigate with the drip system. Rain is so much better for crops.

Luckily, I felt good enough between the virus and the head cold to get the tree up. I even managed a few other decorations. We went simple this year with a smaller tree since Sadi is at the age she likes to redecorate the tree a few times each day. She is so much fun this year. When she saw the outside lights Pa Pa (grandpa) put up, her excitement overwhelmed her. She ran into his arms and gave him a gigantic hug.

Made from our t-shirts by a customer
I'll end with a recipe I shared on our Facebook page. When Frank and I lived in Germany, I fell in love with German sauerkraut which is nothing like the canned stuff you get in the states. It isn't really sour, more of a sweet-sour, and so flavorful. This recipe comes close to that flavor. I think the trick is the pressure cooker. Years ago, I had a pressure cooker. It was the old rocker kind that had to be monitored and timed. We just got this digital one and love it! It can also cook like a slow cooker and does rice too. Be warned, I am guessing at the amounts of herbs. I tend to just sprinkle it on without measuring.

One head cabbage, cut into strips
Two pound pork roast
one tsp celery seed
2 tsp dill weed
1-2 tsp cumin
Himalayan salt to taste
1/4 cup vinegar
1 1/14 cup water
3 carrots, sliced

Cabbage goes in bottom of cooker. Pour vinegar and water over it. Sprinkle all  herbs and salt. Add carrots. Place roast on top. Follow the directions for your cooker and cook for 40 minutes.

We had this last night and could be the reason I feel better today!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November...Forget About It

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

It's Thanksgiving Day as you read this. And if you're reading this then you over indulged in turkey and pie and needed a break from the festivities. Or maybe one of the relatives was boring you to tears so you escaped. Whatever, I'm wishing you the best of Thanksgivings. I wrote this in advance since we'll be feasting with the families in Phoenix this year. We'll have dinner at my mom's early then Lance and Christie will travel across town to do it again with her family.

Thanksgiving is a happy ending to a month I could've done without. I am more than ever happy to see December, which is my favorite season. Yes, I know it's technically a month, but to me it's more of a season.

Row 8 planted a few days ago
Here on the farm, October hung on to warm weather so long that the garlic planting lapsed into November and was finished just yesterday. I had planned a trip with my mother the first week of the month and had booked myself at book sales and signings for every weekend in November because I assumed garlic planting would be done or near done. Taking me out of the mix prolonged the planting and gave me a guilt complex.

Barely a week into November, Christie ended up in the hospital. She is still recovering from a flare, as it is called. She's been diagnosed with a life long condition that luckily can be controlled but will require some work. She's been so very ill. A huge knock against November. Her illness taxed the garlic planting schedule, but more importantly had us all worried.

Add my mom into the mix with a few medical mishaps and all I could do was give up on November.

But...only two days left in this month and the garlic is in the ground, my
sweet daughter in law is home and feeling better, Mom's tests show nothing wrong beyond her age, and I still have some book events to go to without guilt. Let's jump into December with a wonderful Solstice celebration and a beautiful Christmas time!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Teaser and a Taste: Book Two


Writing murder mysteries is all in a day's work until an obsessed fan brings Phoebe's stories to life.

My long awaited (to me anyway) release date for book two in my Love and Murder Series is right around the corner. Southwest of Love and Murder will release worldwide on January 7, 2015. You met Phoebe Anderson, best friend of Lacy Dahl, in The Art of Love and Murder. She and Lacy seem as different as night and day so I think you'll enjoy a deeper tread into Phoebe's life as a mystery writer. You heard mention of Chance's twin brother, Mason, in book one. What happens when Phoebe and Mason come together with murder right behind them is the story in Southwest of Love and Murder.

Mystery writer, Phoebe Anderson, owes her success to killing her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier. Now, someone has actually done it. When she decides to take a few days away on the ranch of her best friend’s brother-in-law, she doesn’t expect romance to find her...or murder to follow her.

Mason Meadowlark is happy with his wild cowboy ways, avoiding love since the death of his baby and the end of his marriage twenty years ago. When Phoebe shows up, he fights to control his emotions, but soon wonders if she just might be worth the risk of opening his heart again.

With an obsessed fan close on her heels, Phoebe is thrown into her own murder mystery…and the next target on his list is Mason.


Phoebe shuddered and stilled.
Like the aftershocks of an earthquake, trembling overtook her body. Her knees wobbled, but Mason caught her before she collapsed.

“What’s wrong?” He hugged her briefly then brought his face even with hers. “Phoebe, tell me. Why are you shaking? What’s happened?”

“Oh my God, Mason.” She spread her hands on his chest and glanced back at the bathroom. “Tell someone to call an ambulance. Hurry!”

He took a step toward the ladies’ room, but she grabbed his shirtfront. “No!” She peered around him and shouted. “Someone call nine one one.”

Mason touched his pocket. “My cell’s in the truck.” He grabbed the shoulder of a male customer, the closest person to them. “You got a cell on you?”

The man nodded and pulled a phone from his pocket.

“Call nine one one right now. There’s been…” His face questioned her.

“Someone’s badly hurt in the bathroom. Oh hell, hurry!” She thumped her palms against his chest.

The man pulled out his cell as he raced into the ladies’ room.

Phoebe wrapped her arms around Mason, tipped her chin upward, and found the words. “It’s that
waitress, Mason. Carla.”

His expression went blank, from concern for her to no comprehension.

“There’s so much blood.” She stifled a gag, the sweet, copper penny reek still heavy in her nostrils. “Her throat.” A shudder rippled the length of her body. “I think she’s dead.”

If you've put off reading The Art of Love and Murder, make it a holiday treat for yourself. You can order print or eBook on line everywhere but here are a couple of quick links for you: