Showing posts with label locavority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label locavority. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


My fridge is full of farm--broccoli rabe, rhubarb, whole chicken, ground beef, green eggs, cheese......

My fridge is full of farm, and it's bittersweet.

I stood at the CSA pickup today, and part of me was so happy to be in a relationship with local farmers again.

But then I stood there looking at the honey and the maple syrup, and it wasn't Rachel's honey and syrup. And I walked along choosing veggies that weren't Dale's veggies. And there were no flowers.

And I closed my eyes and saw Dale's smile on the back of my eyelids, and now I am sitting at the keyboard with tears spilling over.

I love my current life in the city. I love the fact that Elder, Younger, and I each rode our bicycles from different parts of town to meet at the CSA pickup after school today and then rode home together. I love that we also could have done this by bus or on foot.

I love the compactness of my current life.

Standing there in relationship with new farmers today, though, I realized that I have walked away from being enmeshed in agriculture, from being in relationship with farmers, twice now. Both times moving toward a more urban life. Both times moving to this metro area, actually.

My fridge is full of farm, and I am so sad-glad about it.

Maybe this will be the time that I learn to be both a city mouse and a country mouse at the same time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

turning chickens into quilts

I recently rehomed our flock of chickens, who are now happily clucking away at Bluebird Farm. They are also laying prodigiously, so we know they've settled in and are happy.

Back in March when Rachel and David took the chickens, I couldn't come up with a cash value number. I really had no idea what they were worth, on the market generally or to me personally, so Rachel offered me three Romney fleeces from the spring shearing. Sold!

Shearing happened last Saturday, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon picking over the fleeces with Rachel, removing balls of lanolin and bits of hay. (Also poop. These are sheep, after all).

Thank you, Lady Baa Baa.

These three fleeces are destined to become quilt batts, the innards between the pieced top and the counterpane bottom, the innards that make the quilt warm. Adam's friend Jen offered to make quilts from his prodigious collection of interesting t-shirts for the girls and a quilt from his button shirts and some of my old clothes for me. There is enough fleece to make batts for these three quilts and also batts for Jen to keep for her own use.

I will have to pay the mill actual cash for processing, but the other exchanges in this chain are forged by friendship, trust, and the barter economy. Each trade is equitable because each party has a surplus of the other's need, and each is satisfied at the end. It's a pretty great way to turn chickens into quilts.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


When I settled in to fairy tales as the main focus of my dissertation, Jeff said, "Well, if you're going to do fairy tales, you have to read German." I rolled my eyes and grudgingly signed up for his Reading German for Graduate Research course.

It turned out to be a great class!

Jeff is an engaging instructor, and German has so many cool words. The title of this post is one of the best. The root 'zwei' is the two word, and a literal translation might be  entwoed. It means something like having doubt, being between two things. Since meeting this word, I've felt that it is an amazing label for my life, because I so often have the sense of standing at a place where two roads diverge.

The standard advice for the bereaved is to refrain from making any big decisions for at least a year, but this was slated to be a year of big decisions anyway. So, as I work on my dissertation and prepare for the academic job market, I've been thinking about the sort of place I would perhaps like to live. I have been happy in large cities, in small towns, and in the countryside, but I have also found each of these wanting.

My travel and return this past week have brought these thoughts to the fore again. Last Wednesday, I walked eight-tenths of a mile to the metro, took the train from Arlington to the heart of the District and then walked eight blocks to a café to meet a friend. It was wonderful to be a pedestrian again. Using your own two feet as a means of transportation is empowering, and this is much more viable in Washington than in Jones. Over our not-coffee, Mark and I had a conversation that touched on my work and his, our mutual friends, the state of the universe, and the finer points of public transportation. The hour in the air-conditioned café was just enough to cool me off from the walk to get there, and I left the café ready for my next adventure.

That day, my feet, in coordination with the DC transit system, took me to meet three different friends, to shops and restaurants, and to one of my favorite places on earth.
It was both exhilarating and exhausting.

By Friday, I was back at Rambling Farmhouse, where distances are too great for walking, and public transportation is non-existent. Having dropped Sofia off at school, I stopped at the abbey for terce and then drove to Bluebird Farm, where I spent the morning slinging shit with Rachel. Ass deep in the barnyard manure pile, I looked at my dirty hands, encrusted jeans, and borrowed rubber boots and saw the chasm between them and Wednesday's linen slacks and leather loafers.

Yet, at the same time, Friday morning had a lot in common with Wednesday morning: the company was excellent, the conversation was delightful, and I was having fun. Just as being a pedestrian is empowering (even when it is exhausting)  through the freedom of movement it offers, I find farm and garden work to be empowering (even when it is disgusting) because it offers an intimate connection to the food that sustains me.

And Friday's scenic drive from Bluebird Farm to White Yarrow took me past another of my happy sights: a soybean field in fall color.
I love the combination of green, brown, and gold against the blue and white of the sky.
This year has not been stellar for fall soybean color, but you get the idea here. :-)
After all this, I'm really no less zweifelt about the sort of place I'd like to find work. I do, however, know that what I crave are good friends, meaningful physical activity, and inspiring spaces.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

bones and water

I'm just sitting down to some lunch on this second day after the third day after, but tonight's supper is already bubbling away on the stove. The scrap and bones and gristly bits of our Easter ham* found their way to the stock pot Sunday evening, and while we walked and watched a movie and enjoyed dessert, the gently bubbling water extracted all the best things left in these unwanted bits.

Just now, while waiting for lunch to warm up, I skimmed the fat and scooped what bits were left into the kitchen compost. The stock is beautiful: slightly viscous when still cold from the fridge, richly brown, and wonderfully aromatic as it warms. Now it's gently bubbling again, but instead of detritus, I've added nutritus. Those little tiny bubbles, so small yet so powerful, will break down the split peas, cubed potato, and grated carrots into delicious soup that even Anna, the Queen of Hating Food Mom Likes, will eat with gusto.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere. I can almost taste it.

* We cooked a fresh ham for Easter for the first time this year, and the ratio of edible to less than edible was not what I expected. I'm not sure if this is the nature of real, uncured ham and the usual stuff in the grocery store is processed into just the right amount of bone in mostly meat or if this is a cruel joke the processors play. "Ha, you want it natural, uncured, and without additives. Here you go. Have your natural. Bwah-ha-ha."

Kate and Anna's laissez-faire split-pea soup

1.5 - 2 quarts ham stock (if you've leftovers from a bone-in ham, simmer the bits in 2 quarts of water uncovered for three hours or so, chill overnight, skim the fat from the top, scoop out the bone and bits)
1 pint split peas
2 potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 carrots, grated
pepper to taste
bay leaf 

Combine ingredients in stock pot. Bring to simmer. Simmer uncovered 3 hours or more, stirring occasionally. You can eat the soup as soon as the peas are tender to the tooth (maybe 45 minutes), but it will be more delicious and wonderful if you let the bubbles do their thing until it all just turns to mush.

Nice served with a dollop of sour cream in the middle of the bowl, freshly ground pepper on the top, and biscuits or soda bread on the side.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Delicious Collaboration Beets

     So, I had this crazy idea for a party where all the guests would go to the farmers' market on their way to my house, buy whatever looked delicious, and then work together to prepare it in my kitchen. When I pitched it to my friend and colleague Erin, (inaugural hostess of Beer in a Kitchen) at our hazing the new kid talking smack about our  professors welcoming our new MA student bar outing, she thought it was awesomely not crazy. Joanna and Chad agreed with the not craziness of this idea. 
     Thus, two Saturdays later, I found myself tidying up Urban Cottage in preparation for Farmers' Market Brunch, and the doubts were assailing me. Would this work? Would everyone show up with watermelon? Was there too much beer involved in the planning of this brunch? But once people started arriving and chopping and frying and baking, things were looking pretty good. Then, Trey called from the farmers' market, 
     "I don't know what to buy. Are we going to cook it at your house? How is this going to work?"
     "Buy whatever looks good. Seriously. This is pot-luck cooking," I told him.
      And someone predicted he would buy beets. Someone else suggested it would be maple syrup. Or sunflowers. 
     "I could see that working," says my husband, "roasted beets with a maple syrup glaze and the sunflower seeds tossed in."
     I had to do it.

Delicious Collaboration Beets
1 3/4 lb beets with skins and tails intact and stems trimmed to 1"
1/3 c. sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter
1/3 c. maple syrup (this is an estimate, I eyeballed it, and then added more for more flavor)
3 T (ish) vinegar (cider or white)
salt and pepper to taste
     Preheat oven to 400 dF. Place beets in cast iron skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, cover and roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. When the beets will no longer burn your fingers, slip the skins, tails, and stems off. Chop the beets into chunks of desired size and set aside.
Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat,  when the skillet is too hot to touch, pour in the sunflower seeds, stirring constantly for two to three minutes to toast. They will be aromatic and begin to brown when toasted. Pour them into your serving dish.
     In that same skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the beets, and boil until the liquid in the skillet has thickened and the beets look glazed, stirring frequently. This may take 4-10 minutes. (The recipe I started from said 4; it took me 10. Perhaps because I eyeballed the maple syrup.) Combine the beets and glaze with the toasted sunflower seeds in your serving dish. May be served hot or cold. Still delicious the second day.

All in all, Farmers' Market Brunch was pretty amazing. There were cheesy, berry muffins, breaded zucchini, maple syrup, 2 cantaloupes, a gigantic watermelon, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and eggs, and bacon. We're totally doing this again.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CSA box supper - week 2

We came home from Europe (I promise to blog about that later) to find the second weekly CSA box in the fridge (Thanks, Mom!). Since we'll pick up a new box tomorrow, we began the Tuesdays-in-summer tradition of making supper out of the bits of last week's box.

This time of year, the 1/2 bushel box is mostly salad greens and early roots like radishes, carrots, and an odd little turnip like a bleached radish. I really enjoy the greens. I missed piles of greens on my sandwiches in the winter, and nothing beats a giant bowl of mixed salad greens with oil and vinegar for lunch (crumbled bacon optional), but I never know what to do with the radishes and mini-turnips. Today, I had a stroke of brilliance:

Radish Turnip Slaw

3 radishes
3 mini-turnips
2 carrots
top of one green onion
(rice wine) vinegar
(sesame) oil

Grate the radishes, turnips and carrots into a bowl. Mince and add the green onion. Add pinch of salt and splashes of oil and vinegar to taste. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust.

Delicious! The anti-radish faction even ate it without complaining.