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Journey To A Life Of Our Own

Baking Bread and Other Things!

A photo of Tricia MillixSo, I had finally conquered bread making 101 and was progressing to level 2 when the unimaginable happened! My beautiful Kitchen Aid Ultra Power Mixer had enough! I was so engrossed in what flavor I could whip up next that I don’t think I even heard the warning sounds my mixer was sending me. I had made a very yummy Salted Sweet Basil Bread and was feverously working on a Garlic Butter Bread when it all happened, the hook stood still and the clicking began. I stood there in disbelief, I wasn’t done yet, now what do I do? I was only about one minute into the kneading process when this event occurred and I needed about four more minutes before my dough would be ready to pop into the greased pans that were ready and waiting.

I knew what I would do; I would give the mixer a rest and try it again. Needless to say that was not what it needed; the hook still stood still and the clicking almost sounded like a persistent “NO, NO, NO!”

I was at a loss when I figured out that the only real tool I needed was right there attached to the end of my flailing arms, my own two hands. The way my father used to make bread, and the way my mother still to this day makes bread. I was quite frightened by this whole idea of going it alone with out good ‘ole Mabel (the mixer). Like I said before this is a task that has long eluded me due to failure. Had I actually come this far and had success to have it all just slip away so quickly? There was only one way to find out, I’d have to give it a try.

The kneaded ball of bread dough.

I grabbed a handful of flour, dusted my counter top, slipped the dough off of the silent still hook and began kneading. It felt right, like I was doing it correctly and the way my mom had always shown me. I continued for exactly five minutes, per the recipe, split the dough in half and placed them in their respectful loaf pans. Now all there was to do but wait and pray! Well, after forty minutes they were touching the rim of their pans!

The dough rising to the rim of their pans.

I had succeeded, now I just had to bake them and give them a taste. They baked up very nicely, and I have to say they were the best I had made yet. I guess I just needed an excuse to make it the “real old fashioned” way, and although I am deeply saddened that my mixer has bit the dust, I am so very happy that I was able to make that bread 100 percent by hand, and I will continue to make it that way from now on!

Bread baked to perfection.

Farmers Market Joys

A photo of Tricia MillixThe farmers’ market is one of my favorite places to go. Every Sunday we have a date with the die-hard market goers at the Coventry Regional Farmers' Market! I remember packing up the family and heading to the only place to get the freshest produce and best local products  you could ever find! I now pack up my baked goods and eggs to join the elite group of vendors, an honor to say the least. I am surrounded by the most amazing people I have ever met. They spread their tables with the most gorgeous array of fruits and vegetable’s you will ever see, they offer it to you with a smile and usually at least one way to prepare it.

I am new at the “vendor” side of the market, but the people I join feel more like family than co-workers. I have been blessed with the best neighbors, if I were asked to pick a spot to set-up every week I would without a question pick the exact spot I am in right now. I had come to love and look forward to their produce, I was a regular. We had our routine, coffee at Bean & Leaf, French pastry from La Petite France, and always, always, always something from Abby and Bruce at Bird Song Farm.

You have to get there early because they usually sell out of just about everything; with good reason it's the best – quality that shows their dedication and love for what they do. I love to see what they have when they start unloading their van each week, it is like a surprise box, each thing they take out is just as good if not better than the last! They are always full of smiles, good conversation and words of encouragement. They are a driving force behind keeping your head up and reminding you to never get discouraged. They are wonderful and are always telling customers about all the wonderful vendors that surround them.

The best part of the market is when I get to trade with them, I offer a pie or some truffle brownie bites and I get the best veggies in return.

Vegetables from the Farmers Market 

From that moment on my mind is turning with ideas for dinner and how I will prepare my little treasures. Will they share the spotlight or will one be the star of the dish; grilled, bakes, sauteed or just they way they are?

Soup fixings from the farmers market 

You will never go wrong with anything from Bird Song Farm, how could you when you start with something that truly needs nothing!

Soup with farmers market goodies

Another of my absolute favorite people and vendors is Winter from Sleepy Moon Soap. I owe much of my current success to Winter, she is an incredible cheerleader. She will stand behind you from the moment she sees your potential and she will make you see that you CAN do it and do it well. When she sees your “niche,” she has an uncanny way of showing you what you are meant do.

She puts all that and more into her scrumptious line of soaps. They deserve a much better title than just soap, lets call them candy bars for your skin, because you just know that is what your skin is thinking every time you use one of her bars! You can smell the sweet aroma emitted from her booth even before you can see her, you just know when she arrives. When you finally make your choice of bars that will go home with you, after much deliberation because it is nearly impossible to choose.

Sleepy Moon Soap

Once you reach your house you are then faced with the dilemma of which to use first! They are beautiful, almost too beautiful to use.

Sleepy Moon Soaps

I had the pleasure of visiting her home, which is one of the most beautiful properties you will ever see, one that just makes you feel all warm and cozy – like home. As you make your way along the stone path up to the front door you are greeted with smells of soap, fresh and clean, they make you smile and so does Winter – every time you see her.

I could not imagine anywhere I would rather be than right where I am at this very moment. I have spent so much time looking for what I have been missing, and I believe I am finding it all. I have these amazing people that have shown me to believe in myself, to stop and see that everything I have been looking for is right here all around me. I love the market and everything that comes along with it. I strongly urge you to make it a tradition to spend your Sundays with all the wonderful people that encompass Coventry Regional Farmers' Market-ville, it’s a great place to find some really good food and to find your true self!

Bread Making Accomplished

A photo of Tricia MillixI have longed for years to master the art of making bread. Like gardening it has eluded me for quite some time. I have tried numerous times to no avail. It has always seemed to make me so nervous, how to get the yeast to “bloom,” what is luke-warm water anyways, how and for how long to knead the dough, has it really doubled in size??? The questions would send my nerves into a tizzy and that is why I think I just couldn’t do it – or so I thought! I have found a recipe that has given me the courage to try again, and at last SUCCESS!

I followed the direction to a tee, using exact measurements and preciously timing my every move. I watched in amazement as my dough rose perfectly, filling the pans that held it. When the final timer signaled that the bread had completed its baking time, I cautiously opened the oven door and what to my wondering eyes should appear but two loves of perfect bread. Had I really accomplished this feat, had “I” really conquered this thing they call bread making? Indeed I had.

I had to make sure that this was not just a fluke thing, that I could actually do it again. So began the process and timing again, and the end result matched my previous success, and I have to say it was the best bread I have tasted.

I think the reason it was so tasty is because I had finally made bread that both my parents are masters at making. My mother can whip up loaves of bread without a recipe, only by look and feel. She has spent many, many nights trying to teach me. The bread was okay, but nothing like hers. I can vividly remember my father mixing up bread in a huge yellow earthenware bowl that had a blue stripe around it with the biggest wooden spoon I have ever seen. He always made the process look effortless, which it is not, it takes some strength to stir that last cup of flour in and then the kneading process is a whole new set of muscles. The smell would reach us kids all the way out in the fields and it always stopped us in our tracks. We knew what was in store for dinner and we could not wait.

I became adventurous and added some dried basil and used olive oil.

So on this journey I have begun, I can now cross Bread Making off of the list. I am by no means a master, but I can most certainly put a warm loaf of bread on our dinner table. I will share the recipe because it is just too good to keep to myself!

Sixty Minute Bread

2 cups of luke-warm water
4 Tablespoons of sugar
2 Tablespoons yeast
2 Tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 - 51/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place water, sugar and yeast together in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir oil and salt into yeast mixture. Add flour by 1/2 cup full until the dough forms a ball. Turn out on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes. (I actually do this in my stand mixer.) Divide the dough in half and place into greased loaf pans, set aside to rise for 30-40 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes, let cool, and then ENJOY!!

I hope everyone who tries this recipe has the same success I have had, because there is nothing like a piece of homemade bread.

Living in Farm-urbia

A photo of Tricia MillixI believe I have discovered where I truly reside! Our dreams of hundreds and hundreds of acres, barns and rolling pastures filled with livestock are just that a dream. We would love to someday have all that, but for now we have about three acres and I think that is a good place to start. I call it farm-urbia!

Peanut, our new goatWe live in a quiet little town that still has a few large farms and quite a few open fields, but we are not primarily "farm country." I had to change my way of looking at where we are. I was becoming angry because we didn't have enough land, not enough barns and definitely not enough area to put all the animals we wanted; but we do have plenty of all of those things to get started! We have our little flock of chickens, we are getting two little goats, we have a medium size barn, a small barn and plenty of ambition. In our lives right now that is just what we need.

Stormy, one of our new goatsI want to be ready when we get the opportunity to have bigger, but I have reconciled with myself that if we "bit off more than we could chew" we would end up hating everything we had worked towards and and wanted for so long. We are as you would say "Green-horns" at our life’s little venture. I grew up on a beautiful little farm but have spent the bulk of my adult life enjoying the easy or, as I like to call it, lazy way of life.

I am tired of living lazy, I want to be a participant in every single aspect of my existence, and I want my children to see the rewards that can be had from making your own life, not just living along with everyone else. I want to be part of that group of amazing human beings that can tell you how, who and where every item they have comes from. I want to feel proud when I sit down with my family and enjoy a meal that "we" farmed, raised and made with our own two hands and hard work. I believe that we can get our feet off the ground and get our start right here in our little piece of "farm-urbia" for now; at least until bigger and better comes our way!

Open fields that line our property.

The Garden Is Ready for Some Growing!

A photo of Tricia MillixSo, we have the plan for our garden. We know what we want to plant and where. Our raised beds are all ready, we received our dirt delivery, mixed it all with our compost gold and now we need our plants.

I always have such a hard time deciding where to get the best plants, actually that is not so true, I know the best place is from our farmers' markets! I just have to get there and get them. That also is somewhat of a fib seeing how I have just started going to a new market on Saturdays about an hour away from our home to sell our bakery items, so I am already there, I just need to get them!

I think I was waiting until we had our garden beds all ready for those beautiful little plants, I would not know what to do with them if they had to wait to be planted for too long. I don't think I am an awful gardener but I could definitely use a class or two. I would love to feel more confidant in my abilities to actually get big, beautiful, plentiful plants to grow in my garden. I have not had the best of luck in the past two years when it came to getting a decent – okay even any – harvest from our garden.

Every year I am so excited to plant one and see just how much we can grow, I would love to have so much from our garden that I would have enough to give some to all my friends and maybe even have a little stand out front. Unfortunately that bliss has eluded me for years now and there has always been a reason. The willow tree fell smack-dab in the middle of it one year, and last year we had more of a floating garden than anything else! But, like I said, we have a plan!

These new raised beds will be the answer to our gardening dilemmas; we will achieve a garden that friends will envy. Actually we will be happy with a garden that we can be proud of ourselves, and hopefully we will be able to share with our friends, but only after I have canned 'til my hearts delight!

I think, above all else, that is my driving ambition behind wanting this darn garden so bad! I want those rows upon rows of filled glass gems lining my basement shelves, the same shelves that have sat barren for years. I want to taste the garden goodness well into the winter months, when your not supposed have those goodies available to grace your plate.

So, here we go again for another try at our garden, with high hopes for an overflowing garden full of all the veggies we could possibly imagine!

The Sunny Side of the Path

A photo of Tricia MillixSome days are just full of life and beaming with sun! Those days are the ones we all look forward to, the ones that are just easy to breeze through with no real hang-ups! I have begun to find those days are more and more prevalent. I find my mind is more at ease with decisions my husband and I have made pertaining to our future and what we see in it.

We both currently work “off farm” jobs and that is a new venture for me, I did not work a Monday through Friday 9-5 job for over twelve years. I did have a few part time evening jobs here or there, in between our children. I stayed home with the kids and would provide daycare for a few friends for extra income.

You may be asking, How did I get myself where I am today? Well, it all began when my parents moved back home from Iowa over a year ago! They were moving into a Senior Housing Facility, it was just too much for my parents to take care of everything that went along with living in a “house.” They decided to move closer to family and find an easier living arrangement. It is a brand new, state of the art, 32-unit building. We all had our doubts about how they would fare; Mom cried, Dad worried he would be losing his independence and we were all SCARED!

They settled in, and in no time Mom has become the Mother Figure even though she is the youngest person there, and Dad, well, let’s just say he is the Watchman. They have become “Everything to Everyone” that they come in contact with at their new home.

I was the closest sibling and was not working, although I was very pregnant, so I took on the role of making sure they were okay. I stopped in every day and sometimes would be there from morning till night. I began to know everyone on a first name basis, including the property manager. So when she asked me if I would be interested in being her assistant I was intrigued. I could work and still have my kids with me, well, actually with my parents right around the corner but nonetheless with me.

Tricia's youngest son Tyler

I felt up to the challenge, even if I was due to have a baby in eight weeks! It all seemed like the perfect situation, my parents, my kids and a job all rolled into one. I thought it was exactly what I was looking for, hum, maybe not! I love seeing my parents every day and more than anything I love seeing my children spending time with their grandparents. There is nothing like seeing my one-year-old son walking hand-in-hand down the driveway with my 74-year-old father or the smile that emanates from my mother’s face as soon as she sees Tyler running to her. Those are priceless memories that I will hold dear to my heart forever.

Tyler leading the way.

I am at a place in my life when change seems like the only way to go, like I have said so many times before, to help me find my way to the life I am meant to be living. I have had a few new opportunities offered to me that would inevitably force me to choose, to stay working where I am or to allow our little bakery to grow?

This shoe no longer seems to fit, so I am ready to try a new pair. I believe I am ready to kick off the heels and put on my baking shoes! I keep thinking of that little saying “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.” I have nothing to loose except this wonderful opportunity.

It will not be easy to leave all the people I interact with on a daily basis, but I will be there often to see my parents, and I will still be able to share this little boy that they have all come to love so much. He is the sunny side of the path for every life that he touches, and I am ready to be a little selfish, I want to spend time with him and watch him and our business grow. So with my little bundle of sunshine in my arms and the beautiful path ahead of me I will take these steps with a sense of excitement for what lies ahead. This brings us one step closer to where we want to go and even if there may be a cloud in the sky there will always be a ray of sunshine by our sides!

Farmers' Market Planning

A photo of Tricia MillixI attended our annual "Vendors" meeting this afternoon and I was so happy to see everyone. It wasn't just the people that made me happy, it is also the impending excitement of the upcoming season.

I have the unique opportunity to be a part of one of the best and the largest markets in our state. Opening day last season brought us a whopping 5,000 guests, yes just on opening day! We had people who waited in traffic for over an hour just to get into the parking lot! To say that I am honored to be a part of this group of amazing people is an understatement. There is such a strong feeling of community every Sunday when we are standing at our booth visiting with all the people who travel by. They are looking for the best they can find and they will most certainly find it there.

BluleberriesI was a dedicated customer of the Coventry Farmers Market for years before I joined the ranks of Vendor. I faithfully packed up the car, grabbed my father and headed out to make the twenty minute ride to Coventry. It was always well worth the drive. The tables were lined with the most beautiful colors you can imagine. Produce I had only heard of in abundance and the vendors were happy to give you excellent ways to prepare it.

I went because I felt a sense of belonging as soon as I walked through the entrance to that little world of Market-ville. It was a place to join others who felt the same importance of community, farmer support and just plain ol' great food. It is a place to bring your family, a place to reconnect, a place to relax, walk a little slower, meet some new people and run into others you haven't seen in years.

StrawberriesWhat I gained each and every Sunday at the market has changed my life in so many ways. It has made me a better person, a better mother and has led me to a place that brings me great pride; the other side of the table. I now have the opportunity to connect with people, even if they do not purchase a single thing from me I am still part of someone's Sunday; every week. I now have the chance to give people the same exact gift that I received at the market, and that is a gift I am willing give. I am ready for June 7th to arrive and bring the beginning of a new season to share with all who grace my table; I am so thankful for every second of it.