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

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