Notes from Rabbit Hill | SUNDAY BROCANTES
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It's SPRING! 

At last.  It is.  Even if the weather doesn't indicate that it is, and I have to say not a whole lot is in bloom yet.  But nonetheless, it is official.  I am excited!  Are you?  There is so much happening around here at the house and farm that I am going to get right to it.  There is also a 'plot twist' that occurred literally after I thought I had written the last paragraph in the 'News on the Farm' section.  It's a very busy and slightly overwhelming time -- but I am so excited and grateful for all of it.

Thank you for reading ... and HAPPY SPRING!
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The French Market ...

The French markets are a longstanding and thriving tradition.  The market is an integral part of the French life as both a social event and a standard errand.  When we first moved to France, the market was the first place that I felt 'at home'.  It was the first place that I felt comfortable trying out newly acquired French vocabulary (I am fluent in all things food!) Vendors, in general, were and are friendly and helpful... and kind when I ask about such crazy things as 'kale' and 'dill' and celery in the summer ...

The markets are definitely responsible in a large part for my love of France. I adore the vibe and the energy as much I love returning home with a basket or two of beautiful, fresh ingredients. It's also a place to observe a culture so very different than what I have known for most of my life and you cannot help but eavesdrop on the conversations and observe the exchanges between the vendors and those that frequent the local markets as a daily activity.

At the market you not only find produce, you also can purchase from the butcher, fish monger, 'fromagerie' cheese seller, find freshly made bread and pastries and even a selection of home goods or live animals (like chickens and ducks and geese for consumption or your farm).  I soon learned what to expect in the stalls during which seasons and I also learned the difference between the tables hosted by 'traders' versus the ones staffed by the actual producers of the fruits and vegetables.  Now I gravitate towards the producers, small farms and artisans.  (Unless I am craving an organic pineapple then I go to the 'traders' who represent large produce distributors.) 

A word about 'organic' in France. The European government seal for organic products is “AB,” an acronym for Agricultural Biologique and is used throughout most of Europe. Although France was an early pioneer in organic farming, less than 5% of farms in the country are 'certified' organic.  As in many places, the certification process is complicated and long (it takes an average of three years to convert a farm to meet the certification criteria). Many farms grow and produce organically but do not have the certification status.  The only entirely certified "AB" market that I am aware of close to us is in Honfleur on Wednesdays with a few local farms represented and one very large commercial organic 'supplier' (which is competition for the small farms -- but that is another issue). 

If you are interested in learning more about organic growth in France, here is a great factual document by the ESDD  for France.

Almost every town has a market of it's own, even if only a small one.  Markets range from large covered pavilions to simple lines of tables in open parking lots. Most are one time a week in smaller villages or two times in large towns, and many become daily markets in the summer months. Normally they open quite early and close-up and entirely disappear between 12 and 1PM.

I am often asked about the markets in our 'hood' and here they are:
France was an early European pioneer in organic farming. By the 1980s, organic agriculture in France was more developed than in other European countries - See more at: http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/france-will-double-organic-farming-by-2017#sthash.m0jiZyHI.dpuf
France was an early European pioneer in organic farming. By the 1980s, organic agriculture in France was more developed than in other European countries - See more at: http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/france-will-double-organic-farming-by-2017#sthash.m0jiZyHI.dpuf
France was an early European pioneer in organic farming. By the 1980s, organic agriculture in France was more developed than in other European countries - See more at: http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/france-will-double-organic-farming-by-2017#sthash.m0jiZyHI.dpuf
 
  • Monday: CABOURG (July&Aug only), FALAISE, SAINT-PIERRE-SUR-divES, VIERVILLE-SUR-MER
  • Tuesday: BALLEROY, CABOURG (July&Aug only), COURSEULLES-SUR-MER, DEAUVILLE, FALAISE, GRANDCAMP-MAISY, THURY HARCOURT, VILLERS-SUR-MER,  VIRE
  • Wednesday: BAYEUX, CABOURG, CREULLY, FALAISE, ISIGNY-SUR-MER, THAON, TROUVILLE-SUR-MER, VILLERS BOCAGE
  • Thursday: CABOURG (July & Aug only), CAEN (La Guérinière), CAUMONT-L’ÉVENTÉ, CONDÉ-SUR-NOIREAU, FALAISE, HOULGATE, LE-MOLAY- LITTRY, LISIEUX, TROUVILLE-SUR-MER (July & Aug only, night market 17:00 to midnight)
  • Friday: CABOURG, CAEN, COURSEULLES-SUR-MER, DEAUVILLE, FALAISE,  TRÉVIÈRES, VILLERS-SUR-MER,  VIRE
  • Saturday: AUNAY-SUR-ODON, BAYEUX, BEUVRON-EN-AUGE, CABOURG, CAHAGNES, DEAUVILLE, divES-SUR-MER, FALAISE,GRANDCAMP-MAISY (except July & Aug), HONFLEUR, ISIGNY-SUR-MER
  • Sunday: CABOURG, CAEN, FALAISE, GRANDCAMP-MAISY (July & Aug only), LE-MOLAY- LITTRY, NOYERS-BOCAGE, PORT-EN-BESSIN, SAINT-MARTIN-DE-TALLEVENDE, TILLY-SUR-SEULLES, TROUVILLE-SUR-MER
I adore the markets ... if you are visiting France your trip will not be complete without visiting a traditional French market! And don't forget! -- SPRING Foodie Workshops at Rabbit Hill are starting up!

So if you have a trip planned to France this year or next and would like to add a day, a weekend or several days of going to the market, shopping at cookware shops and epiceries, searching for French vintage goods ... and cooking with me at Rabbit Hill -- I would love to host you!
 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Hope to see you in 2016!

News on the farm ...

I woke up on Good Friday full of anticipation of a very special weekend.  If you know me you know that I love Easter almost more than Christmas.  My heart is full and my faith is strengthened by the glorious celebration of God's greatest gift to us -- his Son.

Friday morning I decided to go out and check on the girls earlier than usual.  Right after the kids (human type) left for school, I went to the barn to check on Olive and Phoebe who had been moved only the night before to their 'maternity stall' and the other gals; Ella and Ivy and our little black sheep Juniper, had been moved out a few stalls down.  Everything looked normal although I noticed that Olive was not eating.  I watched for a minute or two as she went to the back and laid down.  I called the 'handsome French farmer' and we both agreed that labor was starting, so he ran into the house to change clothes. I realized that a shower was not in the plans for me as Olive quickly progressed. I noted that it was 9AM ... 10 minutes later she was huffing and puffing and a foot and nose could be seen.  I called the house in a bit of a panic thinking that I would be on my own with Olive to deliver the baby-kid... I almost was.  At that same moment the postal truck came up the drive and French guy literally tossed the parcel into the house (no worries, just a box of GLASS Weck jars for goat milk).  I am sure I was hollering that the kid was coming out at that point and at exactly 9:18AM -- 18 minutes after we noted signs of labor -- baby Fern was born (Witnessed by me, the French farmer and the postal lady). I literally held my breath as we checked the gender knowing that if it was a buckling, he would not be staying on the farm.

Needless to say we are thrilled to add Fern to the Rabbit Hill Farm family.  She is an unusually dark faced French Alpine kid that looks a lot like her father (He would be proud.  Maybe we will send him a postcard).... Olive is a great first-time mom, never letting Fern move more than a foot away.  We are all ---entirely-- smitten with Fern.

Still waiting on Phoebe, mes amis.  She could be anytime from now until Saturday... stay tuned!

________ UPDATE! ____________________

After finishing the sentence above I thought I should let Izzie (our Corgi) out and headed over to the barn to check on Phoebe.  When I entered the stall there stood Phoebe happy and relaxed and curled up in the corner was a sweet and tiny kid.  As if nothing had happened Phoebe had given birth on her own, without assistance.  But hold -on... there is more.  Admittedly I was a little frantic -- slightly thrown off by missing the entire thing and my first thought was to run back to the house and get latex gloves (For what?  I have no idea, as we have a box of supplies in the barn) and of course I wanted to get French Guy to verify that I hadn't dreamed it all.  As I was about to leave the barn in the corner of my eye I see a SECOND identical kid!  Phoebe had TWINS!  It must have been a few hours since the births as everyone was calm and dry.  Needless to say my legs almost gave out as I ran to the house yelling "there's TWO new babies in the barn!!"  Honestly -- it was the most crazy surprise I had ever witnessed (or not witnessed as it was.)

So now we have baby Fern (Olive's daughter) and Fergus and Poppy (from Phoebe)... and that 's all for now.  I am sure.  If you are keeping score -- that's currently two mama's, three babies and in total SEVEN goats on the farm. Hopefully more pics of the new twins next time. Or hop over to Instagram to see current photos of all of the Rabbit Hill farm family.

April Shop NEWS ...

The April shop opening is just a few days away! 

The most important news is an UPDATE about the opening date and time.  Due to all of the excitement on the farm this week, I have chosen to bump the opening to SATURDAY, APRIL 2nd instead of the 1st which gives me an extra day to set up and open. The opening time will be 10AM PST / 1PM EST. (7PM in France).

In other news, I am thrilled at the response to the Rabbit Hill moisturizing skin 'BAUMES' ... and very excited about the addition of a lip-gloss balm in a tube for this month's opening.  The new balm is super moisturizing and has a slight gloss -- and is lightly scented and flavored with my favorite citrus-y Bergamot. (Think Earl-Grey tea!)  These new 'baumes' are so lovely and light and perfect for spring.  The lip gloss balms feature organic ingredients like shea butter, sweet almond and avocado oil.

For more info, find the page for BAUMES here.

I hope to see you on April 2nd!  The April opening will feature additional beautiful colors of cotton market scarves, new lifestyle essentials, swoon-worthy copper pots and kitchen items ... and plenty of charming French vintage pieces!

Click HERE for more information about the shop!

Apricot 'Clafoutis' ...

This is my gluten-free interpretation of the classic French desert from the Limousin region of France, that normally features black cherries. A claftouis (pronounced "kla-FOO-tee") is made by baking fruit in a moist batter.  This version is made with almond meal so it has a rustic texture and is lovely served warm with creme fraiche.  I love this recipe because of the bright apricot and orange essences that go so well with the almond flavor.

You will need:
½ tbs pure vanilla extract
½ tbs almond extract
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tbs. grated orange zest

2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup of almond flour (almond meal)
1/2 cup of raw unrefined sugar
1 cup of heavy cream or whole milk
2 tbsp of cornstarch
1 jar of conserved apricots or 6 fresh apricots cut in half (skin on or off - your choice).

Combine melted butter, orange zest, vanilla and almond extracts, the lightly beaten eggs and cream or milk in a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl combine almond meal, sugar and cornstarch and mix well until combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix or beat until well blended.



Pour the batter into a very well buttered baking dish.  Normally you add the fruit half way though baking, but this particular batter is thick enough to hold the apricot halves in place. So I put them into the batter right off. 

Bake at 375F for 30 minutes (more or less depending on the dish you use).  The desert should be moist and not too brown so keep an eye on it.

Let it rest for a few minutes but serve warm.  You can dust it with powdered sugar or serve with ice-cream, yogurt (for breakfast!) or creme fraiche.

Lavande  ...

My life is a testament that small things can bring great happiness.  Farming lavender has been that way for me.  Last year I had planned an expansion but we were still getting the hang of having goats (read - lavender eating goats) and thought a better effort would be to improve the fence around our 40 plants.  It was a good decision as just having around 60 plants in total was a lot of work last season and I have to admit that by end of August it had gotten a bit out of hand. 

People ask me if growing lavender is easy and in general it is.  But having a profitable harvest is tricky if you are not in the ultimate growing area or climate.  Normandy is not the best for lavender.  Our summers can be very wet and lavender doesn't like that.  We also do not get long stretches of heat.

But nonetheless, I am passionate about growing it. The biggest bulk of work each season, after the plants are established is the weeding.  Last season the weeds won.  Another good reason to start-fresh, clear and re-till the entire field this spring.

Over the past month we doubled the size of the field and transplanted 30 lavender plants to the sides of the drive up to the house and then added 60 'baby' plants to the new area.  Our first challenge after clearing and tilling (and removing enough stones and rocks to build a small cottage) is that our new fence is not exactly rabbit-proof and they have over the last few nights, gotten in there for a little 'tasting party'.

But all of this is such a small price for what I love the most about it, which is having my feet in the dirt, coffee cup (or wine glass in the evening) in one hand and snipping stems to dry in the barn... and then sharing it all with you!



Look or lavender sachets, bags and bouquets in the online shop in June or July.

...  the most beautiful things in life are not just things. They're people, and places, memories and pictures. They are feelings and moments, smiles and laughter.

-Unknown

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your kindness and support.  I cannot express enough how much I enjoy the friendships and connections that I am able to make while doing and sharing what I love.

M  E R C I.
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