Monday, November 22, 2010

Under Open Skies

Someone commented to me recently that Jeff looked tired at farmers' market. He is in a state beyond tired; driven by the cold nights we've been having and the promise of colder nights to come. A couple root crops still wait for harvest, and a few jobs in the field still to accomplish before the ground freezes solid. This past week we brought in the potato harvest. Have you ever dug potatoes? It is a job that begs for children to join. What fun to paw through dark, cool soil searching for the smooth, pale bellies of hidden potatoes! And then to imagine baked potatoes, potato leek soup, oven fries... Harvest is even more exciting, and easier, when the horses are involved.
While we dug, they pulled an old potato harvester found in a friend's barn. Ruth and Leah joined us in the field, along with Ruth's friend Eben and Django of Swallowtail Farm. Django is 12 and has a passion for work horses. Jeff invites him to the farm from time to time to learn and lend a hand. He has a knack for the horses. Jeff has a knack for teaching and a strong desire for hands in the next generation to pass the reigns to.And me? I rarely have reigns in my hands these days, but a sling... I suppose I am passing a philosophy of working and living together as I pass on the use of a baby sling. I love watching Ruth quickly throw it on before launching into a job, whether its feeding hay to the sheep, cleaning, carrying wood, or baking and selling bread in her imaginary bakery. Her dolls always seem quite content strapped to her side, and Ruth carries them with an air of business, accomplishment and importance.
It is such a thrill to be caring for our animals on our own land. The horses, pigs, laying hens, and sheep are all here now, their hooves and feet pushing their manure and uneaten hay chaff into the soil to become the fertility of future pasture. Our cows, broiler hens, and the first batch of lambs have all gone to the butcher. For me, a sad quietness takes their place. But, I am thankful to be able to provide our local community with pasture-raised, organically fed meats. I much prefer this sad quietness to the racket of industrial agriculture's feedlots and confinement of animals. The spring will again bring the joyful sounds of new lambs frolicking under open skies; my ewes and ram are working hard to ensure the cycle continues...Another mother once told me that when raising children, the days are long but the years are short. So true; somehow Ruth just turned 5! A group of her friends joined her to celebrate and follow the trail of a scavenger hunt. Below they run to "Grandmother Sugar Maple" in search of poor Mama Crow's lost feathers.As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful for the open skies we all work and play under, the color and bounty of harvest, the people and animals that work hard to nourish us, and the friends and family that take the time to join us at the table.

In Gratitude,
This week's Winter Pantry CSA Share includes:
Winter Squash
Pie Pumpkins
Golden Turnips

O-Konomi-Yaki - The Tassajara Bread Book
1/4 chinese, green, or red cabbage (or one mini cabbage)
1 large carrot
1/2 onion (or leeks, scallions, etc)
1/2 C meat or fish pieces (optional)
2 C (or more) whole wheat or unbleached white flour (or both)
1 egg, beaten
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tall can evaporated milk
enough water to make batter

Chop, shred, dice, or thinly slice vegetables (and meat). It is essential that the pieces be small so that the pancakes are not too thick. Mix together the remaining ingredients to form a batter. Fold in the vegetables and proceed to grill. If the pancakes are not cooking in the middle, thin the better some and cook more slowly. These may also be eaten cold on a picnic.

These Japanese pancakes are one of Amy’s childhood favorites. I usually adapt and improvise from the recipe; I have never added meat, fish, or evaporated milk. I usually just use more cabbage, carrot, or other vegetable instead of the celery, and I prefer maple syrup over the brown sugar. You can make them with any combination of veggies (we have even used beets), and kohlrabi is great in it. O-Konomi-Yakis are best fresh off the griddle (cooked in a high heat oil such as sunflower oil); if you want to serve them all at once, keep them warm by spreading them out on a cookie sheet in the oven. They tend to become a bit soggy as a stack in the oven. We love these pancakes with tamari or soy sauce.

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