Big news! We decided to put in an offer on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin! The best thing about the property is that it’s right outside a progressive town with a friendly community, a great school, plenty of employment opportunities, and lots of beautiful recreational areas nearby. I feel like it would be a wonderful place for our son to grow up, plus it’s only a few hours away from family.
The farm we’re considering was previously run as a group home and is foreclosed. The farmhouse is unusual because it has seven bedrooms! They’re very small bedrooms, mind you, and we would most likely want to create space by taking down a minor wall or two, reducing the total number rooms. It also has three bathrooms, complete with paper towel dispensers. It would definitely take some work to turn it back into a cozy family home, but if you squint your eyes and use your imagination the potential is definitely there. There would certainly be enough space to put guests and WWOOFers (volunteers with World Wide Workers On Organic Farms). The kitchen also needs a major overhaul. That’s actually not a bad thing in my mind because I would love to customize a kitchen and have very specific ideas about what I want. I can just picture myself picking out the big, deep kitchen sink of my dreams!
The property has about 60 acres, partially wooded. That’s exciting because it would give us tons of space for a variety of crops, orchards, and greenhouses. The soil is gorgeous, deep, dark loam. The tillable portion of the property is currently in alfalfa which is a bonus because, like other legumes, alfalfa fixes nitrogen (i.e., adds nitrogen to the soil by converting atmospheric nitrogen to a form which is usable by other plants).
Unfortunately the land has been treated with herbicides. That means we would have to wait a minimum of three years before we could get organic certification, not a huge problem because we were planning to spend at least 2 years on setup before trying to seriously launch our farm business. We don’t know exactly what chemicals the corn farmer across the street is using, but I would put my money on glyphosate (Roundup). Hopefully herbicide drift wouldn’t be a problem for us, but we could possibly plant a windbreak at the edge of the property to minimize the risk.
We’re thrilled that the property includes some woods, but the downside is they’re choked with large amounts of tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tataria), an invasive shrub. It would likely take several years of cutting followed by glyphosate application to the cut stems in order to get the honeysuckle under control. That’s a lot of work! It’s hard to see how deep into the woods the honeysuckle goes because it forms an almost impenetrable wall at the forest edge. I had a baby strapped to my back the last time we were there; otherwise I would have charged in to get a better look. If the seller accepts our offer we may go back again for another look, and if we do we’ll have to do some serious bush-whacking to see the whole property!
The farm we’re considering is not perfect, but I’m convinced that a little love and some hard work could whip it into shape. The question now is whether we can get the seller to agree to a lower price. With the amount of renovations and extra work needed we can’t spend our whole budget up front. We’re expecting a response any day!
Meanwhile, we’re enjoying our time in West Virginia. Spring is in full bloom and our baby is just beginning to walk (I guess this makes him a todder now!). The rhododendron and purple irises in front of our house are resplendent and the lettuce in our back garden is crisp and perfect. The asparagus from our local farm market is at its peak.
Did you know that fresh asparagus, like many freshly-picked herbs, is still alive and keeps best on the counter in a small amount of water?
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of asparagus 11 months out of the year, when the grocery store stalks are woody and somewhat flavorless. But this time of year, when fresh, tender asparagus is available, I never pass up the opportunity to enjoy it. When asparagus is freshly picked, it’s so sweet and delicate you hardly need to cook it at all (and I generally do munch on at least one stalk raw while I’m busy preparing it).
To make this recipe for Asparagus, Mushroom and Avocado Crepes with Lemony Cashew Sauce, you need to plan ahead a bit and get your cashews soaking in the morning so they have at least 6 hours to soften. If you don’t have that kind of time or forethought, you can speed things up by submerging them in boiling water and letting them soak for about an hour.
The crepe batter should also be made ahead of time because it needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can use this time to make your sauce and get all your other ingredients together, or just chill out and drink a glass of wine.
Once the batter has rested, heat an 8-inch pan over medium-high heat and let it get good and hot. Melt a dollop of coconut oil or butter, then add a couple tablespoons of batter to the pan. Right away, lift your pan and carefully swirl it so the batter coats the whole bottom of the pan. You want a nice thin, even layer. Keep a close eye on it and flip it as soon as the center looks dry, then cook it a quick 20 seconds on the other side.
If you’re cooking alone you can set your finished crepes aside on a cooling rack, or you can actually make them ahead of time and store them with sheets of wax paper in between to prevent them from sticking. I prefer to make these as a team an do them assembly line style, with one person cooking the crepes and the other person adding the filling and rolling them up.
The filling is simple, just sautée some mushrooms and asparagus and roll them up in the crepes with sliced avocado. I included goat cheese in this recipe but they taste delicious without any cheese at all.
Tip for getting nice avocado slices: cut your avocado in half, then use a butter knife (not a sharp one) to cut the flesh into strips while still inside the shell. Carefully scoop out with a large spoon and, viola! Lovely, even slices of avocado.
Asparagus, Mushroom and Avocado Crepes with Lemony Cashew Sauce
For the Crepes
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Lightly grease an 8-inch nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, ladle about 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Tilt the pan, swirling the batter so that it covers the skillet in a thin, even layer. Cook until the batter appears dry in the center, then carefully flip with a large spatula and cook the other side about 20 seconds more. Repeat with remaining batter.
For the Filling
- 18 stalks of asparagus
- about 3 cups chopped portabellini (mini portabella) mushrooms
- 2 avocados, sliced
- 1 small package (4 ounces) goat cheese – optional
- In a large skillet, melt oil over medium heat. Sautee mushrooms about 3 minutes.
- Add asparagus and continue sauteeing until asparagus is tender but not mushy (about 4 minutes longer). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Lemony Cashew Sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 4 hours in water and drained*
- juice of 1 whole lemon (or about 1/4 cup)
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
DirectionsProcess on high in blender until very smooth, adding additional water as necessary to thin.
- On each crepe, carefully spread about a tablespoon of goat cheese if using. Top with 3 asparagus spears, a handful of mushrooms, and several avocado slices. Carefully roll and place in an 8×8 inch baking dish.
- Top with Lemony Cashew Sauce and bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 10 minutes or until heated through.