Charlie’s Chocolate Bundt + Lavender Vanilla Glaze

Lately, I have been craving rich, yummy comfort foods. Especially sweet ones! I’m currently trying to break that habit because my jeans don’t really like it, but man! do I love a good slice of cake or decadent pastry. And my passion for baking has only shown itself more in the past few weeks.

I wanted to share this recipe because is a refreshing take on the typical chocolate cake, but it’s also very moist and indulgent. Kudos go to my daughter, or this recipe would have never been born- so it’s named after her. She requested a chocolate butterfly cake a while back, which I obliged with this recipe. However, her cake was slathered with vanilla buttercream and then decorated with a trillion sprinkles.

After making her cake, I started thinking about ways I could make it again, but in a more sophisticated, simple, and elegant way. I have also been trying to use as many unexpected herbs in my cooking as possible, recently. While chocolate and vanilla are classic flavors (and what my daughter picked), I wanted a twist and ultimately decided to add lavender.

I also made a large batch of lavender lemonade to serve with it. YUM! Which my husband eventually turned into a cocktail with gin and ginger beer. Basically, we’ve been living in a lavender heaven!

In my opinion, this is a wonderful cake to bring to a spring or summer gathering or share with family on a special occasion. However, in my case this was just for fun, and I ended up sharing it with my sister-in-law and family. I was glad they loved it- enough to even enjoy it for breakfast! Haha! ( I apologize for not having more photos!)

If you decide to try this out, I truly hope it brings you as much happiness as I had making it.

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 cups flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cooking oil (I used coconut)

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 pkt instant chcolate pudding

1/2 cup sour cream

Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp dried lavender buds

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. For the Cake, mix all dry ingredients, by hand or in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine pudding mix, eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and 1 tablespoon vanilla. In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients and wet, by slowly pour in the wet ingredients while whisking with electric mixer on low/medium speed for up to 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Pour into greased bundt pan.

Bake on 350° for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 20-30 minutes. Invert cake onto wire rack or plate. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, Bring cream just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, in a small saucepan over medium. Remove from heat, and stir in dried lavender; let stand 10-15 minutes.

Pour lavender milk through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, and cool completely, about 20 minutes. 

Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, 1/4-1/2 of the lavender milk, and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice. Whisk in up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. (However, because I didn’t want the lemony taste to take away from the lavender I ended up adding a little bit of water instead, to thin out the glaze. Don’t add so much water, though, that you dilute the taste or make your glaze so thin it sinks into the cake.)

Sprinkle with dried lavender buds, if desired. Enjoy!

Hopefully you whip this up, post a picture, and tag me on social media @lone_birch.

Hello, July! Happenings + Haul

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had an amazing weekend. Maybe it’s still going? My hubby has off of work today and tomorrow… then, it’ll be back to the grind. But, for now, we’ll pretend like it’s Friday eve all over again!

This week was JAM PACKED with my parents being here. And, I have to hand it to my dad and Jon. They stayed out in the heat day after day to work on putting in a new door from our room to the outside and started on the porch we will be able to enjoy. My dad was also going to expertly apply wallpaper to our statement wall in the bedroom BUT, by the time Thursday evening rolled around, we opted for some family time that didn’t involve construction.

Our fishing adventures weren’t very successful, but it was nice to finally spend an evening doing something other than laboring on the farm til dark. Seems like most of May & June were spent doing numerous projects and tying up loose ends (figuratively and literally). While not all of the tasks I wanted are 100% done, it feels like maybe we have moved into the slower part of the summer. Plus, we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful night to spend hanging out at the pond.

On Friday, we ventured down to our local flea market + auction to take a look around. We brought our masks [the kids struggled a bit], but BOY was it HOT and there were SO many people!! We did the best we could to social distance and sanitize. How are you guys doing with that in your areas? Are you finding a lot of people don’t want to wear masks or stay six feet apart?

Didn’t find much at the flea market, this weekend, which was a bummer. I’m a sucker for antiques. But, the Fourth of July drove everyone out and I don’t know if we just got their too late or what. Somehow we always end up there in the heat of the day. Next time, I’m gonna show up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6 AM and clean house! Haha

Our favorite part lately, though, has been the livestock auction. It’s been hosted online, but if you get there early in the afternoon & throughout the evening, you can survey what they are going to have up for grabs. It was fun seeing the kids pick out all the animals they wanted to add to the farm… all the while not knowing exactly what we would bid on.

Saturday morning came as a surprise, especially to the girls who didn’t get to go with him to pick up the “gifts” we bought. Jon pulled up with two rabbits and two goats, and their faces lit up with excitement. So, please meet… Oreo + Peach. The Holland Lop (black/white) and Mini Lop (chestnut) that have completely stolen our children’s hearts!

Fortunately, they are both does, so we won’t have baby bunnies running around any time soon! They are both silky soft, cuddle buddies and love their fruits and veggies! They are only 8 and 9 weeks old so I really can’t wait to see their little personalities develop more as they grow. Right now, Oreo seems to be the more laid back one. Peach is very lovable, but is also the one who tries to make a mad dash for the woods!

Now, I’m pleased to introduce you to Leia (light gray/brown) and Rey (dark brown/black) our Nubian goats! Of course, Star Wars names just came naturally to our family of nerds and seemed to fit these two sister so well. We aren’t sure yet of their age, since that information wasn’t listed at the auction. So, I’m looking forward to having our livestock vet come out and give us an estimate when he gets around to their vaccines.

Originally, two goats wasn’t on the agenda for this weekend. But, I couldn’t separate these babies! And, I swear our seven year old son is a goat whisperer! These little loves were just chatting up a storm to him at the auction. Leia is a bit more outgoing and playful. Rey is a little more cautious and independent. But, they are both like little puppies and are content to romp and follow us around when we have them out in the yard.

Sunday rolled around and we needed to go out and get some more supplies to make a temporary pen for the goats in the pasture and a few other odds and ends. We walked into Tractor Supply and, as usual on weekends, the kids ran to see the chicks for sale. Of course, this particular Sunday, we went to a different Tractor Supply than we normally do and they had Olive Egger chicks!

I have been looking for an Olive Egger hen [on the DL] for a few weeks, but haven’t found any. I’ve posted ISO’s on Facebook and checked auctions, but with no results. I haven’t “officially” posted anything about our chickens or our coop because we are still in the process of refining our flock. I cannot seem to find Black/Blue Copper Marans ANYWHERE! And I’m all about having a variety of egg color.

We have a few “slots” available right now to round out our flock and, even though these Olive Eggers won’t be laying for a few months at least, I am willing to wait for a good, well-raised hen. So, I talked my hubby (with the kids’ help), against his better judgement, into getting 6 Olive Egger chicks. Our plan, right now, is to raise them and keep one or two. Then, I’ll sell the rest.

If you don’t know by now, I’m actually terrified of chickens. Our [almost] 14 year old does most of the feeding, watering, and changing out the bedding in the coop. He expresses how “cool” he thinks they are very openly. I, on the other hand, can barely open the door to the coop and just hurry to fill up the feeder; even wearing boots up to my knees. My job, mostly just consists of making sure the eggs are collected and/or that our two year old doesn’t smash them on the way back to the house. Which, seems to be her specialty.

I’m hoping that by having these little buddies around, and not being afraid of their fluffy little selves, I’ll be able to train myself to be less scared as they grow into adults. I honestly, fought the whole “Let’s get chickens!” movement as long as I could. But, now that we have them, I couldn’t imagine them not being here. Just need to get past my bird phobia issues!

Side note: I am, oddly, not afraid of ducks. There were two lots of amazingly adorable ducklings, yellow and fuzzy, at the auction. Alas, I couldn’t talk Jon into getting them. I’m crossing my fingers for next summer when we have the pond dug out for the rest of our animals. Help me find convincing arguments! Because I’ve heard that they are loud and messy!

Aside from all the awesome animal shenanigans, the kiddos passed the time fooling around spraying each other [and my parents] with the hose, and jumping into their bathing suits to play and get crazy. I’ve been begging Jon for a pool because these summer days with no A/C, are by no means unbearable but, could definitely be made a little more comfortable with an evening dip! Haha!

Until then, for the past couple of years, our girls have been more than happy to chill out in this galvanized tub. True country gal style, they fill it up and have a “bath” in their “pool”. Or, at least that’s what the littlest sister says! And this weekend, we livened things up a bit by adding some Tubby Todd to the party!

I’ve heard some great things about Tubby Todd Bath Co. over the years. Having four kids, people are always recommending what they have used. Not to mention, I’ve seen a ton of influencers use Tubby Todd on their children. So, when I saw on Instagram that the company had recently released a limited edition watermelon scent for summer, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it!

I bought the summer gift set so we could try out all three products; bubble bath, hair + body wash, and everyday lotion. When they first arrived, I was surprised by the subtle scent and reassured by the plant-based ingredients. I’ll be honest, as with any product, I was skeptical, curious, and excited to give them a try!

When I added the bubble formula to water, that’s when it really started to shine. The smell came through beautifully as the foamy suds started forming. But, I was pleased to find it wasn’t overwhelming. Because of the natural source of the fragrances used in Tubby Todd products, the delicacy of the scent is exactly what it should be. And, I found that you really smell all the notes of each component. I also loved that the bubbles stuck around the whole time. They didn’t just fade away once the kids started splashing.

The hair + body wash was amazing. It’s probably the first time in history that my little Tulip babe has ever enjoyed having her hair washed! She is usually screaming for me to get the soap off her head and stop fidgeting with her. Also, she rinsed her hair (aka dumped a ton of water on her head) and the soap never burned her eyes. I really appreciated that because many of the brands we have tried in the past that have advertised things like “tear-free” have bothered my children anyway.

Last, but not least, the lotion. It’s substantial and not watery. Smooth and buttery, not sticky. And it absorbs without leaving any slippery feeling on the skin. Leaves my babes soft and smelling good enough to eat! I’m very happy with our Tubby Todd experience so far. I can’t wait to keep using these products and I will definitely order from them again. Have you ever used anything from this brand? What are your thoughts?

That’s a wrap for our weekend and the haul of farm animals we added to the homestead over the last three days! Can you believe it?! Sometimes I wonder how we are gonna take care of all this! But, somehow, it always works out. And, these experiences are literally making the lives of our kids so fantastic- especially since COVID came and ruined everything.
What are your summer plans?

*this post was not sponsored*

My Favorite Homemade Cocktail

So, I know a lot of you will be hanging out (hopefully, somewhat socially distant) with friends or family this weekend. I thought it would be a good time to share my favorite homemade cocktail recipe with you. It’s not complicated, and it’s absolutely delicious!

I haven’t served this to one single person who hasn’t loved it. And, I won’t lie, it’s pretty strong. But, the mix of ingredients is super refreshing and great for front porch sippin’, or passing out at your backyard barbecue.

Personally, I think the best way to serve this is in a copper mug. But, putting it in a mason jar was just so aesthetically pleasing- I just couldn’t help myself. Also, jars (or something similar) might be more practical + cheaper, if you are having several people at your home. Even cooler cups, like an Arctic or Yeti, would work fine!

I came up with this recipe back in the winter, when my best friend was visiting me and I had basically no ingredients in my house to make drinks. We wanted to sit and relax with a cocktail, but my supply was so random… I wasn’t sure what to make. No matter what I Googled, I never had all the components. So, I decided to mix and match what I had based on a couple different ideas I had come across.

Since COVID, especially, this has been put in the regular rotation. It’s a great drink to sit and wind down with after a long day of work on the farm, and sitting around an early evening bonfire.

One thing I want to mention before I go ahead with the recipe is, for measurement, I use a tall shooter glass. However, you could also totally use a jigger like THIS ONE I found on Amazon. So, let’s get to it!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 oz lime juice

1.5-2 oz gin (depending on how strong you like your drink)

1.5 oz elderflower liqueur

sprite

ice

optional: lemon or lime slices for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put ice into a shaker and pour in the lime juice, gin, and elderflower liqueur and shake vigorously.
  2. Transfer mixture into a copper mug (or glass of choice) and top with sprite. Stir, garnish with a lemon or lime slice, if you wish.

This is snappy, refreshing perfection. A great drink year ’round, but especially for summer leisure time. Enjoy!

Bottle Babies, Growing Up

This weekend on the farm was pretty relaxing. My parents are in town. Pretty much the only people we’ve hung out with since covid… we haven’t seen them in almost 8 months! The weather has been fantastic and, even with the threat of rain, the breezes and mild temps have been something to be thankful for. Making s’mores with the kids and spending the majority of the time outside was just what the doctor ordered.

Here are some very candid iPhone pics 😂

Otherwise, we were very excited and nostalgic because we have weaned our bottle calves!! Seems like only yesterday that we picked them up and brought them home, even though it was mid-April. Back then, we were still wearing toboggans and Carhartts; trudging out to the barn in the cold and [sometimes] snow.

Today is actually the first day that they have been completely off bottles and [so far] it seems like they don’t even notice that we haven’t made the journey out to the barn with their regular milk bar + have only supplied them with feed and hay. They have been doing well during the transition the last couple of weeks but, of course, we have been keeping a close eye on their progress. A part of me will miss playing the part of mama to these babies and seeing the bond that the kids got from caring so intimately for them.

Before committing to the task of raising calves, we (aka hubby) joined a lot of Facebook groups, read books, and did a whole bunch of online research. One of the most important things we learned, starting out, is how valuable it is to get your calves from a reliable source. So, if you get your calves from an auction, you have no idea usually if they have had colostrum from their mother, what bacteria’s they have been exposed to, if they have scours…etc. However, if you get them from a local farm, they will be able to provide you with information regarding their health and wellness.

So, we got in touch will some farms in our area and, fortunately, found one (dairy) that was basically willing to give us as many calves as we wanted for a price that is so low it’s not even worth mentioning. Their bull calves were, obviously, not useful for their field, so we gladly accepted- at first- one. Being that they were about 5 minutes away, it was good for the calf and us because of the low transport time and easy transfer. Within one day, we knew we were going to get more.

Cows are social animals and I couldn’t bare the thought of having one lonely calf. Especially, since we haven’t yet expanded our pasture enough to have other larger animals, like horses…etc. Also, we are still contemplating what species we would like to include here and can reasonably care for. That being said, we knew that several bull calves would be available within the week. And within that time, we acquired two more. Now, I have to insert that, in our livestock vet’s opinion, it is wise to get all of your calves from the same place/herd because each farm/group of cows has its own strain of bacteria and germs that it carries with it. If you calves are all from the same homestead, they are less likely to get ill and contract viruses.

Every person/family decides to do things differently with their calves. If there is anything I’ve learned from reading online feeds it’s that hardly any person does the exact same thing to care for their animals. So, you have to find what works for you.

We started out giving ours two bottles a day; one in the morning and one in the evening. The formula we used was DuMOR milk replacer from our local Tractor Supply, and we accompanied the morning bottles with DuMOR probiotics. We did struggle with a little bit of diarrhea at the beginning, sometimes tinged with blood, and, being newbies, we didn’t really know how to handle it or if it would truly be considered scours. So, we began giving the calves Theracaf electrolytes but, when that didn’t work, we reached out to the farming community to find out what other solutions may be better. An overwhelming amount of people came back with the response to use Spectogard Scour-Chek. That made a HUGE difference, and our calves recovered [almost] overnight. We never noticed them suffering from loose bowels again.

They started gaining weight quickly, although one of ours is a runt. And they are still fattening up pretty nicely. I guess I should’ve mentioned before now, but we have Jersey calves. If any of you have Jerseys, perhaps you have had others comment on our “skinny” or “sickly” they look. If you’re new to bottle calves, like we were/are, don’t let that get to you. If you’re concerned about your calves being too slim or their rate of growth, my best advice is to find a livestock vet you feel comfortable with (ours was recommended by the farm where we got our calves) and have them give the calves a once over. We had some comment on the fact that our calves seemed to be very bony, but the vet had told us already that they were doing 100% perfectly. Also, TRUST YOUR GUT. Just because you might have not done this before doesn’t mean your a dummy. A first time mom still intuitively knows what her baby needs, and shouldn’t listen to unsolicited advice. Neither should you when it comes to your calves!

Whiskey (left), Reuben (middle), Hiccup (right)

Early on we started leaving sweet feed and hay/alfalfa out for them to munch on, to get used to the idea of more solid food. They took to it pretty regularly around month two. As well as chomping on pasture grass. Now, these babies are ready to be eating more substantial food full time. We will definitely, however, be providing them with treats. I don’t think the girls could stop feeding them dandelions, if they tried. These calves would wait all day at the fence for just one of those.

Of course, baby cows are mischievous. We’ve had one get caught in the fence and turned upside down, we’ve had them break out of the fence, and they have certainly tried to drag the elderberry bush into the pasture to devour. But, all in all, raising these babes from just days old to, now, three months has been a rewarding experience. Especially for the kids. They have learned a lot of responsibility, a lot of compassion, and a lot about how the ‘circle of life’ works.

Our intention is to take three to the butcher when they are somewhere between 18 + 24 months. I never used to think that I would be able to accept that fact. I always just wanted to have a cow as a pet. But, the longer we have them, the more I realize that to have a sustainable lifestyle on a homestead, it’s just not practical to have three cows chillin’ out on your land for their whole life; 18-22 years! (Now, if I ever get my Highland, that’s another story! haha)

For now, we are just enjoying the process and acquiring a lot of knowledge along the way. If you all have any tips for us starting out this ‘adolescent’ phase with the calves, I’d love to hear them! As well as anything you would do differently at the start. We will definitely be getting more calves after these ones so I’d really appreciate any opinions or ideas.
Happy Monday!