Friday, June 22, 2012

miss b's garden

This is the garden I dream about.

It belongs to the dearest little lady who often puts her nearly white hair up in pigtails. She lives not far from me, on the edge of town. For years I walked by her garden and would only peek in. Finally, a few nights ago, I got to see it all from the inside.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

on my own

Today I was on my own.

Jean and Ruby greeted me when I arrived at 7:00am and Ray was around for a while, mending the greenhouse. But usually I work with Devin the whole time I'm there. Today I had to go along and work on my own. I wheel hoed. I weeded. I picked Colorado Potato Beetles off the potatoes, dropped them in a dish of water to make most of the drown, and then buried them in a mass grave (Devin I joke about this being genocide; but I feel no remorse because they really are nasty little things). I weeded and weeded and weeded some more. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

looking forward, looking backward

This week has been and will be different. Devin is - as I type - on his way to a little island in the Bahamas.

Yesterday morning, Devin, his friend Ray and I harvested nearly everything needed for the third week's shares: carrots, lettuce, scallions, kale, parsley, and extra bok choy for those who want it. Today, Bryce came; he lives down the road. He, Jean, Ray and I packed up the shares and transfered them to the spring house. Everything went smoothly. 

Tomorrow I will be all on my own. 

I'm very nearly half way through my internship.

A few days ago I was talking about the farm with both of my grandmothers and one of them referred to it as "work." "It's not work," I said. "It's play." That's not completely the truth, of course. I come home dirty, aching, hot and perspiring. But when children play they are really truly concentrating, they are within what they are doing and outside of themselves (Madeleine L'Engle writes about this beautifully in her book A Circle of Quiet). That's how it makes me feel. That's what I mean when I call it play. And it's a feeling I've gotten away from - because of school, because of new responsibilities. 

The week before last, Devin and I put stakes in between the tomatoes and then wove twine from one stake to the next, all the way down the line. We had to shift the cumbersome spool between us, always keeping the loose end taut. After doing several rows we got into a rhythm. The sun beat down viciously, my legs and back were quickly tired from bending over, and I was hungry. But that day, tying up those tomatoes, was incredibly enjoyable. I felt something like a child - like the little girls who live next door to us who one day helped my grandfather weed his garden. On their way home my grandfather heard the one remark to the other, "Well, that was something, wasn't it?" And then they promptly went and weeded their mother's garden. 

This work is worth doing. It calms me. It inspires me. And Devin is constantly teaching me. As we weed, he explains to me what we're pulling. We talk about different methods of planting, of land conservation. He was a history major in college: we've had discussions about that. We cook, we plant, we wrangle chickens.

Everyday when I'm about to go Devin thanks me for my time. And I never say it, but always think: "Nonsense. I should be the one thanking you."

Friday, June 15, 2012

all about garlic scapes

I had no idea what a garlic scape was before working at the farm. After tasting one I learned the truth: they're twists of gold at the top of garlic stalks.

Garlic scapes only come from hardneck garlic. They're the immature flower stalks that are cut off so that the plant can send of all its energy into the bulb. Scapes are milder in flavor than the cloves (but still pretty potent) and can be eaten raw or cooked. I prefer them cooked.

There are basically two parts to scape: the bump that will become the flower (which you do not use) and the long, twirly stalk (that you do use).

And this is how I've mainly been cooking with them:

Chopped and sauteed in olive oil. Then I'll toss in some greens (in the above case, beet greens). I threw all that onto a pile of rice, topped it with some egg and crumbled feta. I've also done a similar thing with chopped kale and have put it all onto a wrap with goat cheese instead of rice. Really, scapes, greens and eggs have been staples of my lunches lately.

We've also included scapes in salads and soups.

Here are two right and proper recipes:

Garlic Scape Pesto
10 garlic scapes
1/2 cup basil
1/2 cup parsley
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cups parmesan cheese
1/3-1/2 cups olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine everything in a food processor and blend until a paste. Adjust to meet the satisfaction of your taste buds: add more salt, pepper, basil, etc. Eat immediately, store in fridge for a few days, or freeze for several months. 

Garlic Potato Salad
(from Simply in Season)

6 cups new potatoes, cubed
6 garlic scapes, chopped
1 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes in water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine scapes, green onion and rosemary in food processor. Blend until everything is in small pieces. Pour into bowl with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add potatoes and stir until combined. Adjust as needed. 

Chill for about 3 hours before serving. 

More recipes using scapes:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

packing the shares

Wednesday was the day of the second share. It included: lettuce, chard, spring garlic, basil, beets, celery, and sugar snap peas.

The process of packing the boxes for the CSA members starts early in the morning. Devin and a helper from down the road, Bryce, were already harvesting when I arrived. They had three crates of lettuce which Jean (the owner of the farm) and I soaked and cleaned.

This is the washing station. It's somewhat strange and makeshift but it does the trick.

We picked the peas, harvested the basil and garlic and returned to the wash station. Leafy things like lettuce and basil are soaked in cold water before they're packed. Peas are rinsed and run through the salad spinner. Beets are hosed off and bunched.

As we go, we snack. Yesterday we ate sugar snaps peas while we picked and later Devin wrapped slices of tomato in a pieces of lettuce with a leaves of basil.

When there is minimal dirt left on everything, it's all carefully put into the boxes, which are then transfered to the spring house. CSA members arrive throughout the day and following days to pick up their share. Each arrival is marked by Ruby's high pitched yap.

I enjoy harvest days. I like seeing everything come together. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

rainy day supper

Yesterday was chilly and very, very wet. It was a good day for curry and cornbread.

Roasted Vegetable Curry
(adapted from An Everlasting Meal)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small garlic scape
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
a pinch of cinnamon
1/2 red pepper flakes
1/2 cup canned chickpeas 
1/2 cup to 1 cup coconut milk
1 cup other liquid (stock or water)
2 cups cooked vegetables (I used roasted carrots, roasted broccoli and peas)

Cook onion and scapes in olive oil in pot. Add spices and pepper flakes. Once spices are fragrant add the beans (liquid and all), then the liquids. Cook, stirring from time to time, at a slow simmer until the beans are very tender. Add vegetables and cook for 15 minutes or so, until everything is well integrated.

Skillet Cornbread
(adapted from 101 cookbooks)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup buttermilk (or fake buttermilk)
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, frozen and brought to room temp

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and pour into a 9-inch cast iron skillet or equivalent baking dish. Place in the hot oven.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined. Very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven. Fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

lemongrass and sad news

Today we filled in the empty row in the upstairs greenhouse - previously occupied by pea vines - with lemongrass plants. There were three of us - Devin, a new helper and I.

The rest of the day was spent plodding along in the rain, preparing for the CSA share tomorrow. Beets and celery are ready and waiting to be packed up.

And I have some very sad news. Do you remember these little dears? I wrote about them last Thursday.
I'm very sorry to say, they are no more. Something - possibly a rat - slipped into the chicken tractor and ate them up.

Terribly, terribly sad.

Monday, June 11, 2012

an everlasting meal

Admittedly, I'm not much for cookbooks. I'll peruse them when I'm at the library or in a bookstore, but there are very few I own and very few I want to own. You could blame it partly on my age: like many other things, I get most of my recipes from the interweb. But it also has something to do with my high expectations. A proper cookbook must have good pictures. It must use ingredients that I can actually buy. It must spell everything out clearly yet simply.

But An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler is even better than all. It isn't a cookbook, per se. It's a book about cooking, eating and living well. And it's beautiful. 

The subtitle explains it completely: Cooking with Economy and Grace. It's divided into chapters ("How to Stride Ahead," "How to Teach an Egg to Fly") that outline and address different aspects of cooking: working with eggs, with vegetables; creating salads; rescuing meals from what seems like ruin; how to make one meal fold into another. There are recipes scattered throughout (like the end-of-the-week vegetable curry on page 51) but it isn't just recipes. Because recipes aren't everything when it comes to cooking. 

Every part of it is delightful, especially the prose. Tamar Adler has more than just a gift for cooking; she has a gift for words. 

If I were only going to own three books about cooking, it would be these: Simply in SeasonGood to the Grain and An Everlasting Meal. I cannot recommend it enough. 

Visit Tamar Adler's website for more about her and about the book. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

inside the first share

Inside our first share from Side by Side:
sugar snap peas 
garlic scapes 
sprouted lentils 
bok choi 
The peas were used in a stir-fry with string beans (from our garden) and ginger root. The lettuce, lentils and arugula is being put on wraps, sandwiches and salads. I'm planning to turn the kale into a kale and feta crustless quiche. I'll probably throw in some sauteed garlic scapes too (a post all about these little treasures is coming soon). The bok choi we consumed after roasting it (the general consensus being that it would probably be yummier cooked some other way). 

For more information on CSAs, read this post. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

moving the chickens

There are two broods of chickens on the farm: one affectionally called Guantanamo and another whose area is moved around the fields. Nomad chickens who prepare the ground and eat wild things. Today, Devin and I shifted the nomads several yards over, to a new patch of turf.

At night, the chickens are tucked up in house carts (above). So transporting them was fairly straight forward. We took down the temporary fencing, moved it, and then moved the two carts. But in the process, four little brand-spanking new peeps escaped. We gathered them up in Devin's hat while the momma hen went berzerk. 

Everything was put back in order, the chickens were let out, and the peeps reunited with their mother. 

Along with dreaming of a garden, I dream of having a brood of my own chickens. Just a couple, enough for eggs for myself and my family. Already I have a few names picked out: Penelope, Odetta, Maude, Scarlett, Honoria...