In the blink of an eye, or rather the long, cramped blink of a shuffle through airport security, some hours in an improbably airborne metal device, and another set of shuffles (is that my bag?), we have gone from winter wonderland to tank tops. This is blessedly disorienting. It has been quite some time since my last vacation, Father.
As always, the period before departure gave me cause to wonder if in some earlier episode I have angered the gods of vacation. There were the snowstorms, which of course we could not take personally. Our dog ruptured a tendon in his knee. Our sheep began lambing two months before such an event was anticipated, and into deep snow and freezing temperatures. And to drive home the point, one lamb was rejected by her mother and left to our attention. It’s a tall order to find good care for such an impressively precarious house of cards.
It is also tough to feature how a creature fitting the description of the teeny lamb (winsome, petite, fuzzy, floppy-eared) could be rejected by any mammal with a beating heart and/or shred of parental instinct. But she was one of a set of twins and her sister was far more lively and strong. However much I’d like a sheep to think like a person (‘let me spin this forward: no, I’d be lambing right when they want to go away. We’d better not’), they are hardwired to think like sheep, which means like prey animals. Things are starkly practical for them. ‘This one looks like the winner; that one can’t support the cost/benefit math,’ goes the process, I think, though in another dialect.
We often have a lamb that needs a little warming or other attention to get it going on the right path, but this one was really in the red. Half the size of her sister and barely strong enough to stand, she was not up to the hunt for a teat she could hardly even reach. We spent two days trying to reunite baby with mama, but mama was having none of it. A large part of that time was also spent milking said mother so the baby could eat, which sounds bucolic and charming but was more like a bar fight. A friend described trying to milk a fully-coated sheep as “hunting for a button in a pile of sweaters,” which is accurate as far as it goes. It’s just that it’s an unwilling pile of sweaters with hooves and a very heavy, hard head, and you (perhaps equally unwilling, and thinking quizzically of your college degrees in subjects quite at odds with the circumstances) are flailing around with her in a small space littered with sheep crap, your enthusiasm further compromised by the thought that you see your vacation receding over the horizon line.
We called a truce and parted ways with one lamb apiece. If you have ever wondered, I am here to assure you that yes, you can fashion a lamb’s diaper out of an old pair of ballet tights and some cut-up towels.
Of course all these events made everyone very hungry. The lamb's needs were met with a bottle every three hours, leaving me with half a carton of buttermilk, among other collateral effects. I woke up one morning last week with buckwheat and blueberries on my mind, and ended up making these muffins three or four times, partially to get the recipe written down but mainly because I wanted to keep eating them. There is something very satisfying about buckwheat—good for you in a palatable way. The blueberries get all jammy in the muffin, which is sweet but not terribly sweet, and it’s all very fueling. I made them with GF flour and regular with equally happy results. Because the good buttermilk (no gums or stabilizers) that I could find was non-fat, I added ¼ c of cream for a richer & more tender muffin, but you could certainly use all buttermilk instead.
buckwheat blueberry muffins
- 1 ½ c AP or GF flour
- ½ c buckwheat flour
- ½ c sugar (white or coconut)
- 1 t baking powder
- ½ t baking soda
- pinch of salt
- ¾ c buttermilk + ¼ c heavy cream OR
- 1 c buttermilk
- [1-2 T of additional milk or buttermilk; see below]
- 1 egg
- 4 T butter, melted and cooled
- 1 c frozen blueberries
Heat the oven to 400 and lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients well. Beat the egg into the milk or milk + cream. Lightly combine the dry & wet mixtures with a few strokes, then add the butter and continue mixing just until just incorporated. If the batter seems very tight (the GF flour was more prone to this for me), add a T or 2 of milk along with the blueberries and stir both in. Do not over-mix.
Divide the batter among the 12 cups, and smooth the tops a little. Bake 12-15 minutes at 400, and turn the heat down to 350 to finish baking until lightly golden and springy on top.