Hearth Warming


If a Tree Falls in the Woods....

With winter upon us, we set about doing tasks outside that are more pleasant in the cooler weather. Clearing debris and over grown areas, building structures that are on our infrastructure to-do list and chopping wood. We are lucky that for the most part we have mild winters here in North Carolina with the occasional snow storm and/or below freezing temperatures. This allows us to get a great deal done before the heat and humidity set in during the summer. Chopping wood is part of our regular routine so we can keep our hearths warm for ourselves and visitors and it is great exercise.  We have 11 fire places and all but 2 are in use. Matt and I love a fire roaring in the fireplace. In fact, the day we arrived with our U-haul from Seattle on a balmy May day, Matt immediately cranked up the A/C and started a fire in our snug hearth. Just a little gesture to re-awaken the old house after being uninhabited for awhile. We chop a couple cords of wood each winter to season and be used the next. We usually get logs from a local timber company but on occasion a tree falls in our little woodland area and we take advantage of the on farm resource to add to our stock pile.


The Cold Earth Slept Below

We had a lovely snow fall this year and luckily enough Matt was able to be home to enjoy the whole thing. It is never long lived which makes it a welcomed arrival. After a half of a week the temperatures warmed up and we were back to mild weather. Such peace when the ground is blanketed. Shady Oaks is especially magical and I always awake and feel as if I'm in Narnia awaiting the arrival of Mr Tumnus at the lamp post.


“There is no place more delightful than one's own fireplace.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Our winter evening routine. Matt is the master of the hearth. In 30 seconds he has a roaring fire going while I pour drinks and prepare dinner for ourselves and, if we are lucky, a group of friends. The animals are all tucked-in to their shelters and we let the house embrace us for the night.


Chicken Pastry

chicken Pastry.jpg

The first time I had Chicken Pastry was at our Harvest Feast when our neighbor Cliff cooked it in our 1812 winter kitchen in the fire place. You can enjoy that story here. Since then I have been hooked. It is the perfect soul soothing and heart warming pot of goodness you can give yourself and your family. It is best when you use an old hen since the chicken flavor will be much stronger. This is how the recipe was in its origin. Every culture has its chicken recipe. This is America's southern version of the french Coq Au Vin. Same principles. Old hen stewed for hours in broth and seasoning to create a large pot of wholesome goodness, cheaply. A young bird will do just fine though, especially if it is a farm raised bird like ours. I kind of made up my recipe based on what I had on hand and basic soup making principles. I'm sure there are others to use out there but this turns out damn good.

Shady Oaks 1812 Chicken Pastry

1 whole old hen or farm raised chicken

1 medium onion chopped

5 carrots (or as many as you like) chopped

5 stalks of celery (or as many as you like) chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 cups flour

salt, pepper to taste


Place entire bird into a large stock pot of water filled to about an inch below the top and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for several hours. I like to really cook it down so you can get a really rich broth. Add a bit water if it evaporates below the inch water line over time.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add flour and one teaspoon of salt. Sift together. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the ¾ cup of the chicken broth. Mix together until you have a slightly moist dough ball. Generously flour your table, counter top or large cutting board. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut the dough into strips about 1 inch wide. Cut each strip into sections about 2 inches long. Let the dough pieces rest for about 30 minutes to dry out some.

Remove chicken and bones from pot into a large bowl and let cool to handle. With broth still simmering add pastry one at a time letting the broth return to boil before adding the next. After all are added let simmer 10 min. Then add vegetables slowly allowing broth return to boil before adding more. Cover and simmer while you remove meat from chicken carcass and add back to pot. Let simmer for 45 min to an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly before serving.