Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Rhythm

Yesterday the whole family (my mother and step-father included) spent the day in the sun stacking freshly-milled boards to dry for my mother and step-father's house. The boards glowed fresh and clean, surrounding us with their singularly sweet smell: earth, sun, sap, snow... wood. Sunday has become an especially treasured calm family day since the start of the Portland Winter Farmers' Market in early January. Now every Saturday Jeff and Rich wake early to pack the truck for Brunswick (Brunswick Winter Market) and Portland (Portland Winter Farmers' Market) markets. Jeff drops Rich and a collection of our veggies, meats, eggs, yarn, and lambskins and my aunt and uncle's apples and cider in Brunswick, then heads to Portland with the rest of the goods to sell. The kids and I join Rich after we drop off my sister at her basketball practice. Although market makes the week just that much busier, we love interacting with our customers, bouncing to the live music, eating Penny's freshly-baked potato buns with maple butter, and socializing with other farmers. The rest of the week holds a steady rhythm for me of the kid's routine and cooking and for Jeff of animal chores and horse-logging. We treasure this small window of the year when a routine can be had; soon lambing, and then the variables of sun, rain, and crop demands will dictate our time.

Below is a glimpse of the horses in action:

Andy hooks a chain around the log that Jeff felled, makes the horses stand patient, then, "Come up Team!", and the horses eagerly lurch into action.The trick with driving the team is to get them to go slow and steady. We apply constant pressure to the reins while twitching a log. As the horses pull, the log first bounces over the snow, and Andy dances around it, jumping back and forth over the log, like a wood sprite. Once on the main trail, the trunk glides steadily in a well-worn trench in the snow.

Back in the log yard, Jeff and Andy work together with pole and peavy to hoist the logs onto the pile. The horses must again stand and wait. Mike Reed, a sawyer with a portable mill, has now turned all the logs below (and more) into fine boards.

Since I last wrote, Andy has left the farm for travels (and a bit of farming) in Ecuador. As he packed to leave, I watched him leap over the child's safety gate at the base of the steps (the one I always dutifully open and close), his mandolin under one arm and a caribou hide he acquired in Alaska under the other. Hosting farm apprentices never ceases to entertain us, and watching their life path's unfold is a joy. Although I may sometimes feel like I am still 21, watching Andy leap that fence reminds that I am certainly not. Rich is settling well into farm and yurt life. Below is a note from him, and you can learn more about his experiences on the farm in his blog. I think his blogging has some of his city friends and family worried that the fella is cold, based on the number of packages of warm clothing that arrive in the mail for him!

"Hi, my name is Rich Lee and I’m glad to have moved from New York City to Wiscasset! I’m enjoying the change of pace, weather, nature, and the food of course here in Maine. So far my favorite things to eat here at the farm are the carrots, kim chee and the tomatillo salsa.

Before I came to work at Buckwheat Blossom Farm, I was an environmental educator on eastern Long Island for an alternative education program based at a farm; my first job after graduating from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse New York where I earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies. The program I worked for is called Project SOAR and was administered by Cornell Cooperative Extension. There I taught environmental and agricultural studies to 13 to 17 year olds on probation. I miss working with them and trying creative curriculum ideas, but as I continued to learn more and experience the ins and outs of growing food, farming began to call me.

I found the MOFGA website and listings for farms and decided to do an August tour of farms I was interested in apprenticing at. When I met the Burchsteads last but not least, it was love at first site. Horse-farming and logging during the winter presented special experiences that I could not pass up and are inline with my own environmental and agricultural values.

Since I’ve begun working here in the beginning of January my time here has passed quickly. I’ve already learned a lot about working the horses, shoveling snow, and keeping the yurt warm among many other things. I’ve met many great people already and look forward to seeing and meeting more of you at the farm as the year continues along!"

February 15 CSA Share

winter squash: delicata
fermented dilly beans
tomato salsa
frozen peas
frozen summer squash
dried hot peppers

Below is one of my favorite turnip recipes; it can also be used for other root crops or a mixture of root crops (if you are needing to clean out that produce drawer before the next CSA pick-up!) The onions caramelize as they bake with the butter, and the result is a sweet and tender turnip dish!

Turnips Anna
From a long-time CSA member

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (olive oil is good, too)
4 turnips (about 1 pound) very thinly slices
1 shallot peeled and minced (I use onions, about 2 large))
freshly ground pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Melt butter in pan, saute turnips just until coated in butter and partially cooked (about 3 minutes)
  • In a 8” round cake-pan (or any available pan) arrange a layer of overlapping turnip slices
  • Sprinkle over the turnips the shallots, onions, salt and pepper
  • Repeat layering with remaining ingredients, ending with a turnip layer
  • Bake until crisp and golden, about 30 minutes

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ode to Basement, Bacon, & Bread

The sky is only hinting at first light this morning, and I find Jeff where he is every morning these days, studying the seed catalogs over breakfast. Yes, the seed order is almost done, launching our minds into another season. January brings one of Jeff's favorite farming activities; logging with the horses. The logging is now in full swing. Jeff, our old apprentice Andy (who is staying with us in the farm house), and our new apprentice Rich, head into the woods daily with chain saws. About 4 days a week the horses join them, hauling out logs that we will have milled into lumber for my mother and step-father's house. A new horse joins our team this winter, Carl. Carl belongs to Django, our 12-year-old friend of Swallowtail Farm, who apprentices with Jeff. Django is boarding Carl here, and our old mare Mary is happy to have his company. We have the two of them separated from the other horses so we can give Carl's feet the extra attention they need, and so we can feed Mary extra grain and oil to help her gain wait until the pastures green up. Just before logging started, after the harvest was all in, and after the holidays were adequately celebrated, Jeff captured a bit of time to organize and set up the basement. We moved here just over a year ago, when Leah was only 3 months old, and have slowly been establishing order and systems, stealing time away from family and farm to do so. And how beautiful the result! You may prefer to see pictures here of the rosemary flowering in the greenhouse, or the horses nobly pulling a log out of the woods among pine boughs laden with snow, but indulge me here a few pictures of my basement, yes, basement!

Above the basement, and not too far from the wood stove, is where I dwell these days. Our wood stove is a wood cookstove, and I have been putting it to good use. Tonight it is chicken soup, made from a couple of stew birds who once graced our farm as laying hens. Cubed rutabaga is great in chicken soup (along with lots of other veggies) if you are looking for another way to use them up. I must practice restraint not to cook up the "Bengali Lentil Soup" recipe (shared with you below) every-other-day. Another family and apprentice favorite was black-eyed peas with carrots, chard, onions, garlic, celeriac, and our own farm-smoked bacon. Jeff and one of our pork CSA members processed our own pig here on the farm, then cut and froze most of it, and cured, smoked and froze the rest. The smoke and salt flavor of the bacon is wonderful but a little strong alone. It is a great addition to a soup. Jeff sliced all the bacon on our mandolin. Ruth has been busy in the kitchen as well, learning to spell her name! Luckily her name is only four letters; my oven could not fit another loaf. We bake bread every Wednesday, a very fine smelling anchor to our home-schooling week. I asked her what she wants to spell on her loaves tomorrow. "Dad", she answered. Jeff asked what we would put on our fourth loaf. A heart, of course.

January 18 CSA Share
white turnips
winter squash: butternut
daikon radish
tomatillo salsa
frozen broccoli or cauliflower
frozen colored peppers

February 1 CSA Share
golden turnips
winter squash
kim chi
sun-dried tomatoes
sweet relish
frozen chard
frozen green peppers
dried parsley

Below is my new favorite lentil soup recipe. It calls for red lentils, but I have used french (the small black ones) and the regular green, not the red. Both were totally delicious! I also add carrots (for what is lentil soup without carrots?) and chopped chard. I triple this recipe, to make a full pot for the hungry farm family and a bit for tomorrow's lunch.

Bengali Lentil Soup
from Hope's Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe; serves 6

1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. yellow or black mustard seeds
2 tsp. jalapeno pepper (1/2 small), seeded
4 cups onions (2 large), finely sliced
5 tsp. garlic (3 to 4 cloves), sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I don't have these handy in the winter, so I added a bit of coriander instead with great results)

Add lentils to water in a large saucepan. Add turmeric and stir. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook for a few minutes longer. Reduce heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and saute until fragrant, for just a few minutes. Cook at a low heat and be careful not to burn the seeds. Add jalapeno, onions, and garlic, and cook until golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Add onion mixture to lentils and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Add fresh cilantro leaves to the lentil soup and cover to steep for a minute. Serve while hot. For a final touch, scoop a dollop of fresh yogurt on top.