Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
I spent the last several days at play with my nieces, brother and sister-in-law, and my parents. You know how you might tend to worry about a recent retiree—that they might feel lost without the work, that they might petrify. Well I learned long ago from my father, who retired early at 55, that play is powerful. I watched him thrive in retirement because of play. He lives for play. And so did I these past days.
In the words of Jill Vialet, founder of Playworks, a non-profit company that works with schools to design curriculum and activities that offer play opportunities during recess, lunch and after school programs, “play gives us a brief respite from the tyranny of apparent purpose.” Ha! I love that. By this point in the season, with the intensity of the season behind us, farm work can indeed feel like tyranny. And so the arrival of play in my life was well timed.
Baby Bok Choy slaw
3 pounds baby bok choy, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon safflower oil
2 chile peppers, such as Fresno or serrano, thinly sliced into rounds, ribs and seeds removed for less heat if desired
Toss together bok choy, vinegar, both oils, and chiles in a large bowl. Season with salt. Let stand until bok choy collapses to half its volume (it will darken slightly), at least 20 minutes. Toss again before serving.
I’m not an every day coffee drinker. You see, I need coffee to be effective for me on those 4 a.m. Saturday mornings and if I drink it every day, it will be less effective. Or at least that’s my theory. But days like yesterday and today (and tomorrow) increase my coffee need: Heavy days that push on your eyelids so you feel like you’ve never fully woken up. Days where time is tracked only by clocks instead of the movements of the sun. It’s days like these where I need to drink coffee just to exist in the world- the chemical sunshine.
Japanese pickled ginger (Gari)
· 9 to 10 ounces young ginger
· 6 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
· 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
· 9 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
· 2 squares of dried kombu (kelp), each about the size of your thumbnail (optional)
Use an inverted spoon to scrape off the thin, paper bits from the ginger. Use a mandoline or very sharp knife to cut the ginger across the grain into super thin pieces. They should be nearly see-through. Toss the ginger with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to reduce its harshness. Meanwhile, partially fill a small saucepan with water. Ready a fine-mesh strainer and 2-cup (.5 liter) glass jar. In another saucepan, combine the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, vinegar, and kombu (if using). Set this stuff aside near the stove. About 10 minutes before the ginger finishes mellowing out, start the water pot going on the stove. When the ginger is done, add it all to the boiling water, stir and blanch for 20 seconds to further reduce the harshness. Drain in the mesh strainer but don’t rinse. Shake a few times to expel water, then put into the glass container. Bring the mixture of sugar and vinegar to a boil, give things a stir to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Then pour into the jar of ginger. Push down with chopsticks or a spoon to submerge. Cool, uncovered, then cap and refrigerate. Depending on the ginger, it may be ready to eat in 1 to 3 days. Taste and see. Store refrigerated for months.
It's time to register for the Fall Harvest Share program! Registration closes as soon as we fill up so don't delay (we're already more than half way full). It’s just 7 weeks this fall, with the first fall share delivery next week September 26th and the last delivery November 7th. It’s a one size fits all share at a $20 value and will include the last of the summer bounty of sweet peppers, lots of lush leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and plenty of salad fixings. The total cost of membership is $140. you can register here. For more information, check out the website or give us a holler!
The days ooze by like oil. Viscosity alone moves me through the day. After months and months of intense farm management—trying to hold all the little details in my periphery, I’ve eased into a bit of tunnel vision. My long term and big picture visors have gone up and all I can see is the immediate task list. I just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. I just float along on the liquid days.
Turns out, there’s been a lot of liquid in these liquid days, which doesn’t inspire me to move more than my slow plodding pace. The seasons are going to change, the farmily will scatter, the heavy clothes will come out of their closet to wrap themselves around me…all regardless of me. I’m simply trickling along the oil slick of time.
This time of year brings us fresh baby ginger and lots of lush leafy greens like kale, which makes it a great time to make
Honey-Ginger Kale Salad
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (10 ounce) bunches kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
Whisk together vinegar, juice, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a small bowl. Add oil slowly, whisking constantly until incorporated. Put kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing, and mix well. Using your hands, massage kale until softened, wilted, and reduced in volume by about half.
It's time to register for the Fall Harvest Share program! Registration closes as soon as we fill up so don't delay (we're already more than half way full). It’s just 7 weeks this fall, with the first fall share delivery on September 26th and the last delivery November 7th. It’s a one size fits all share at a $20 value and will include the last of the summer bounty of sweet peppers, lots of lush leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and plenty of salad fixings. The total cost of membership is $140. you can register here. For more information, check out the website or give us a holler!
It’s September! Nobody even told me! Do you know how I found out? I began to lose focus a little bit. With more or less all the fall planting done, management of the farm switches to mostly harvesting, washing and packing and disassembly. We begin to prepare the farm for hibernation.
Aside from the harvesting, washing, packing and markets, the schedules and deadlines get a little fuzzier. Well, that trellis needs to be disassembled but it doesn’t absolutely have to happen today. So I find my mind wandering. I start to read more, hang out with friends more, watch football, think about vacation… I’m just not completely focused on the farm like I am the rest of the season. It was these signs that clued me in to the fact that it is September.
This September means green beans. Which means Jason's easy Tamari green beans
Tamari Green Beans
Peanut Oil (or other oil that tolerates a high temperature without smoking)
Clean up green beans. Snap in half. Heat a wok or large skillet until it is very hot, add peanut oil. When the oil is just beginning to smoke, add the green beans and stir fry for about three minutes. Add Tamari and continue to stir fry green beans while the Tamari reduces to nothing. Reduce heat and continue cooking green beans until desired tenderness. Add additional Tamari or water as needed.
Shiloh's now famous Food Lion frozen spinach pizza with black olives and sweet Italian peppers
When my grandfather passed away many years back, we discovered things that my grandmother was unable to do simply because she hadn’t done them in 50 years. She didn’t know how to drive or write a check. Little things we take for granted. I remember thinking to myself that I was never going to let that happen to me. I was going to be self sufficient. There would be nothing that I relied upon a partner to do.
15 years down that road, it seems quite the lofty goal. The reality is, we have partners for more reasons than love and companionship. We have partners because there’s really too much work for one person to manage alone. This is true in running a household and running a business, but it’s especially true for the running of both. Last week, with Jason off hiking in the Smoky Mountains, I found myself in a similar situation to my grandmother’s all those years ago.
Each day of his absence I found myself in awe of all the little things my partner does that I barely even notice. I find it daunting to tackle the mountain of tasks that the two of us take on every day. The first to go, for me, is cooking. Jason spends at least a couple of hours each night preparing real food from real ingredients grown here on the farm, not to mention breakfast and lunch. I’m lucky if I manage to stuff a handful of lettuce in my mouth and chase it with a pepper.
So that brings us to this week’s “recipe”:
Food Lion frozen spinach, fontina and mozzarella pizza with whole California black olives and sweet Italian Pepper
Food Lion frozen pizza with spinach, fontina and mozzarella
California whole black olives you found hanging out in the fridge
1 large sweet Italian pepper
Slice the pepper crossways, place the slice on the pizza with the whole olives. Bake as directed on box.
We’re happy to announce that we still have a bit of space left in our Fall Harvest Share program! It’s just 7 weeks this fall, with the first fall share delivery on September 26th and the last delivery November 7th. It’s a one size fits all share at a $20 value and will include the last of the summer bounty of sweet peppers, lots of lush leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and plenty of salad fixings. The total cost of membership is $140. you can register here. For more information, check out the website or give us a holler!
A humbling harvest day indeed
You know the joke about people who do cross-fit, right? Something like “how do you know if someone does cross-fit…don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” But have you ever seen a cross-fit session? I have. And I totally don’t blame anyone for telling us they do cross-fit. It’s insane!!! If I did anything like that, I’d want to brag about it too! At least I would the first time I was able to complete a session rather than crawl (no way I’d be walking upright) out of there early in tears. I mean, it’s humbling to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the humbling nature of challenging activities. After all, I farm for a living. As I write, the rain pounds down upon an already saturated earth and all those poor sensitive crops outside. Those glorious peppers with all our hopes. Just when you think you’ve got a crop figured out, a new disease/insect/other random problem arrives on the scene, lest you think you were in control.
This is the incredible humbling nature of agriculture. To put you in your infinitesimal place in the grand scheme of the universe and remind you that you are not in control.
But you are in control of your kitchen and we are still harvesting the crops of late summer, so what better time than now for some Robust End of Summer Spaghetti:
Robust end-of-the-summer spaghetti
1 1/2 to 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced a scant 1/2 inch thick
2 red or yellow bell peppers, or one each, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for eggplant
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 anchovies, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup kalamata or gaeta olives, pitted and chopped 3 TBS capers, rinsed 1 TBS dried oregano sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmigiana-reggiano cheese
Preheat the broiler. Brush a sheet pan lightly with oil, arrange the eggplant on it, and brush the tops with more oil. Broil on both sides until browned, 12 to 20 minutes per side. Remove and cut into wide strips. Lightly oil the peppers, then broil, skin side up, until blistered. Stack them on top of one another to steam for 15 minutes, then peel and dice into small squares. Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, anchovies and the parsley. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onion and peppers are softened, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and add the eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano, and 1/2 cup water or juice from the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until don, then drain. Place in a large heated bowl. Present at the table with the vegetables spooned over the top and showered with the cheese and extra parsley. Toss before serving.
Recipe from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison
Is it strange to whistle in public? I don’t mean whistling at someone, or at a show or sporting event, but to just whistle a tune. Because yesterday, I got a strange double take or two while whistling a tune in the grocery store.
I spent most of the day in Jason’s kitchen canning and had run out of jar lids so I ran down to the local grocery store to pick up some more. I wasn’t even aware that I was whistling until the gentleman in front of me turned his head around to look at me. I caught his eye, so he felt like he had to explain that he thought I might be a friend of his who “will do that”.
It occurred to me then that whistling a tune in public might be a bit unusual. This is not the first time I’ve found myself traipsing around in my own little world while actually in public. I lived alone with my cat in college for a bit and my cat, you see, was very social (wink wink). He was interested in absolutely everything I did so I would tell him what I was doing all the time. Or so I told myself.
One day I found myself in the cafeteria with a baked potato, which needed sour cream. So I said “I’m going to get some sour cream” as I did so. I glanced up at some point to find this student had completely stopped what he was doing to stare at the wonder that was me. I didn’t have to ask. I knew I had just told no one in particular that I was going to get some sour cream out loud.
Alas, old habits die hard I suppose.
This week's recipe of the week is inspired by a lovely Romanian customer who purchases lots of eggplant to make an old family recipe for "salad" or dip. She brought me some already prepared to try out. Everyone, even the kids! loved this eggplant dip. She had the recipe painstakingly written down for me but I don't yet have it up on the web. It is, however, a lot like this Baba Ganouj so here's the recipe for Baba Ganouj:
Makes 4 servings
This popular Mediterranean dip is generally served with pita bread or crostini, but can also be a main course served with pasta.
2 small eggplant
A little oil for baking
2 medium sized cloves garlic or more, to taste
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sesame tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red chili pepper or chopped fresh cayenne pepper
Preheat oen to 350°. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, and place the halves open side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until very tender. Cool to the point at which the eggplant can be handled comfortably. Scoop all the eggplant pulp from the skins. Place in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, along with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and salt. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, and season to taste with black and red pepper. Serve with pita bread or crostini as a dip, or with pasta as a main course.
From Still Life With Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
I have habits. You have habits. We all are creatures of habit. Even hoses have habits. Ever try to wrestle a garden hose? It ought to be a Olympic sport (mental note for next year’s farm Olympics). Our lives seem to physically mold around our habits and wrestling our way out of old ones or into new ones can cause just as many frustrated tangles as hose wrestling.
I’ve wrestled a hose or two in my time. Depending on how long ago a hose habit was formed, changing it might even cause the hose to spring a leak! That’s why I’ve never tried quit biting my nails. It’s a habit nearly as old as I am, and changing it now seems downright dangerous! It doesn’t seem worth the risk.
Here's a habit worth the risk: eating seasonally (your taste buds will thank you!). We're in the peak of tomato and pepper season and nearing the end of cucumber season so it's time for gazpacho!
· 2 cucumbers
· 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, or 3-4 red, orange, or yellow Italian peppers
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· 3 scallions, sliced
· 1 small tomato, diced
· 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
· 1/2 jalapeno chile, chopped
· 2 1/2 cups vegetable juice
· 4 teaspoons olive oil
· 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
· Salt and pepper
1. Peel, seed, and finely dice cucumbers and bell peppers. Place in a bowl, and combine with garlic, scallions, tomato, parsley, and jalapenos.
2. Add vegetable juice, oil, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper; stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days.
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Summer produce rainbow (I didn't take a picture of the air hose--it just wasn't as pretty)
The Kawasaki Mule has been misbehaving recently. We hemmed and hawed and wrung our hands and googled. It’s the throttle body! It’s dirty gas! It’s the fuel injectors. By now, its gas tank is probably more additives than gas. Still the problem persisted.
Yesterday, I had a couple of minutes and actually looked at the engine compartment. Right there before my eyes was a very obviously cracked air hose. I stuck my finger over the crack and lo and behold, the engine began to idle normally. I had simply not thought about actually looking at the engine.
I’ve been looking for a life lesson in that ever since. “Don’t forget to look in front of you”? “Just put your finger over the hole and everything will be better”?
Perhaps the life lesson is just as obvious if you just look before you just start adding stuff to make you feel better.
It's pepper season y'all! My favorite food. So this week's recipe of the week is a perennial favorite around here (easy and SO delicious it could be called dessert but we get to call it a vegetable)
· 6 Large Sweet Peppers (I Used 2 Yellow, 4 Red)
· 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
· 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
· 1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
· Salt & Pepper
· 1/3 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
1. Wash and dry the peppers, then remove the seeds, stems, and membranes.
2. Cut the peppers into 1 inch strips.
3. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet and add the peppers, stirring well to coat in the oil.
4. Cook the peppers over medium heat until they begin to soften and brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.
6. Add the balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and mix well. 7. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes until the peppers have absorbed all of the vinegar.
7. Toss with the fresh chopped parsley and place on a platter to serve.
The fruits of the Julyvalanche
You’re swimming. Your head is above water. But the current is strong and is sweeping you downstream faster than you want to admit to yourself. You’re fatigued, but know that until you reach calmer waters, you need to keep paddling just to keep your head above water. So you just keep paddling.
This is what the weeks feel like now. I heard a farmer friend call it the Julyvalanche. Everything is happening now. At the end of each day, I think the end of the week will be a break in action—a moment to relax and breath, but when Sunday arrives, there are always still things to do—house to clean, okra to pick, laundry to wash. And then Monday whirls around again like a riptide and we’re off again.
I know the shore will come. It always does. We never actually drown. By now, we are intimate with the cycles of farm life. And now, well, now is the Julyvalanche.
The fruits of Julyvalanche make the chaos worth it. For out of the chaos comes my favorite food: peppers. Peppers of all kinds. Sweet, hot, tangy, not. The chiles tend to be less hot at the beginning of their season (now), which means it's the perfect time for Poblanos Chiles Rellenos!
Poblano Chiles Rellenos
The filling can be improvised with whatever you have on hand. We always stuff them with cheese and whatever we find--often I put chopped sweet peppers in the cheese, whole corn kernels, but I've been told that they are excellent stuffed with mashed potatoes.
4 medium poblanos, roasted and peeled
2 oz sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican melting cheese (we also really enjoy Fontina cheese for this application)
2 oz soft, mild goat cheese, at room temperature (if I don't have this on hand, I just use the fontina cheese alone)
1/2 cup drained hominy, coarsely chopped (or fresh sweet corn kernels cut from the cob)
3 cups peanut oil or corn oil
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 TBS water
3 TBS unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Cut a vertical slit in one side of each chile and, with a fingertip, scrape out as many seeds as possible without tearing the chile. In a small bowl, stir together the cheddar cheese, goat cheese, and hominy (or other ingredients you choose). Stuff one-quarter of the cheese mixture carefully into each chile. Gently press the slits closed.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, separate the eggs, transferring the whites to a medium mixing bowl and the yolks to a wide shallow bowl. Whisk the egg yolks and water together. Whisk in the flour and salt. With a clean whisk or beater, whip the egg white to soft peaks. Thoroughly stir one-third of the whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites; do not overmix.
Dip a chile into the batter, coating it thoroughly. With a pancake turner, carefully lower the chile, slit side up, into the hot oil. Immediately baste the upper side of the chile with hot oil (this seals the slit and prevents melted cheese from oozing out). Repeat with the remaining chiles.
Recipe from Chiles by W. Park. Kerr