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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trail Blazing

This fall marks the end of the first season in our new home and on our own farmstead. Our farm has seen many transitions since we began over eight years ago. We started small as a newly married couple, farming the ground at Old Stone Farm, living modestly in a yurt with no running water or electricity, marketing mostly wholesale. Then came the running water, electricity, marketing at a farmers market, a baby, moving to lease The Morris Farm, and expanding our business there to create a summer and a winter CSA and raise more livestock. At the end of December we loaded up our truck and trailer, and the trucks, station wagons, and mini vans of friends and family, and moved our home and farm business to our own house and land. Of course, the move had to be somewhat horse-powered. Pictured here horses Bill and Perry (driven by our winter apprentice Josh Sullivan) haul the wagon full of sheep to their winter quarters at the new farmstead.We still farm the beautiful soil of Old Stone Farm, but the center of our family and farm life is now here. Settling in, with two daughters and Amy's sister, we are getting to know this brand-new home (where to dry the garlic, where to hide when I need to be able to hear on the phone) and this land (where to range the pigs, plant the perennials, and where to start cutting the trees to clear pasture!) We still have a lot of figuring, finishing, setting-up, and tree-clearing to do around here. This season was one of trail-blazing. The newness is indeed thrilling, and the promise of a smooth trail broken ahead keeps us trudging on the hard days.
And the humor keeps us moving along as well. No one can accuse Jeff and Ross of being too serious when working together. Here they don garlic dresses to haul the harvest in one load to the attic to dry.
Now the garlic pictured above is trimmed and nestled in boxes for winter eating. This time of year all other projects are put on hold as we harvest and preserve food for winter. The summer's harvest is now all either dried, canned, frozen, or fermented. It was a bountiful season, making for late nights at the canning pots for the farmers!Much of the winter root crop harvest still waits for us in the field, and we are currently harvesting cool-weather hardy crops for our winter CSA and for our booth at the Brunswick Winter Farmers' Market. The onion harvest is dried, cured, and in storage, thanks to help from our friends Keena at Little Ridge Farm and Ken and Adrienne at New Beet Farm. We are doing a work exchange with these other farms, one of the only ways for farmers to be social during harvest season! We had a great time helping Keena harvest, and will soon be heading to Ken and Adrienne's for a work day.
The other great help during harvest has been our summer apprentice, Leah Erlbaum. Leah just finished her stint here, but luckily still lives close enough to come and help on the farm from time to time. A couple of her friends will be working on the farm a bit until our winter apprentice arrives in January.
Yesterday we welcomed our Winter Pantry CSA members to the farm for the first time this season. We missed that connection over the summer. I had forgotten how much fun it is to have folks come to the farm for their food, to listen to families share recipes and children begging to munch on a carrot or a chard leaf! The share included:
Salad Turnips
Watermelon Radish
Red Onions
Sweet Potatoes (!)
Buttercup Squash
Chinese Cabbage
Mustard Greens

CSA members, if you ever have questions on how to use some of your produce, don't hesitate to call or email. Recently I have been in love with winter squash soups. I usually just make up the recipe (leeks are great in a squash soup, if you are wondering how to use them, apples, too!) But a couple times recently I have had squash soup at a friends' house who actually followed a recipe. So, I gave it a try, and found this winter squash soup that the whole family loves (I used Chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, and no cheese.) It is also a good use of your parsley.
Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
2 1/2 to 3 pounds winter squash
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for the squash
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly milled pepper
2 quarts water or stock
1/2 cup Fontina, pecorino, or ricotta salata, diced into fine cubes

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, stuff the cavities with garlic, and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes (or more, I usually bake 45 min - 1 hr.)
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the squash flesh into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more water to thin it out. Taste for salt.
Depending on the type of squash you've used, the soup will be smooth or rough. Puree or pass it through a food mill if you want a more refined soup. Ladle it into bowls and distribute the cheese over the top. Garnish each bowl with fried sage leaves, add pepper, and serve.

Your Farmers,
Jeff, Amy, Ruth, & Leah