Wild sorrel spreading like...wild sorrel
It's almost August, and I find it hard to believe how quickly the summer is passing. By now, there have been some resounding successes in the garden. The radishes bubbled up out of the ground like Champagne fizz; the zucchini continues to reproduce like rabbits.
But there have been some utter failures, too.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
My sister Cecily recently earned her doctorate in anthropology. For years, the quest had consumed her. It began with a thought, a notion, which she planted and then nurtured. She worked hard for a long, long time and now, finally, she is where she wanted to be. And I'll bet she's tired of answering the question of what comes next. Yes, she wants to use her degree for something good, but what that will be, well, she's not quite sure yet.
With her newly minted "doctor" status, I think Cecily may find my comparison of her Ph.D. to the zucchini in my garden to be kind of silly.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I come from a big family. On one side, I am the oldest of 24 cousins. Fortunately, everyone takes a turn pouring sweat into the farm. Christy scraped hundred-year-old wallpaper from the hallway a few weeks back. Ryan planted a fig tree in the barnyard. Leif came up last weekend to line the driveway with boulders that will help prevent erosion. That's the sort of work Leif likes--the hard kind that involves loading and unloading heavy things into and out of a pickup truck. The kind that makes you feel like you deserve a beer or four. Did I mention that in addition to hard work, Leif also likes to party? So it was no surprise that we spent Saturday night soothing our sore muscles with hopped-up suds.
Come Sunday morning, we needed a little pick-me-up: a dose of natural sugar to get our blood running again. Fruit sounded good, so we drove the truck up to the top of the hill where, along the tree line, we found hundreds of wineberries.
Wineberries grow in the woods and along the roads near our farm--and pretty much everywhere else in the Northeast. A wild relative of the raspberry and originally from northern Asia, the wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) was introduced in this country to breed hybrid raspberries, but it escaped captivity and took very well to the climate and soil here. Some people (probably the same folks who call dandelions "weeds") say that it's an invasive species that has taken over the woods. I call it a treat. The berries, which look like polished rubies and taste like raspberry wine, ripen during June and July.
Monday, July 11, 2011
It's been an ongoing fantasy of mine to build an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven here at the farm. It's high on my list of projects, and this coming weekend I'm going to meet John Schwarz and John Hickey at the Smallholding Festival in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. They will be fielding questions and demonstrating how to build an earthen oven. I expect to come home with all the information I need to cross the pizza oven off the to-do list.
(By the way, if you're within driving distance of Ottsville, you should come to the festival this Saturday, July 9; for more information, go to thesmallholdingfestival.com. I'll be there spit-roasting Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced porchetta.)
The impetus behind building a wood-burning oven is not just to take advantage of wood smoke as a flavoring agent. It's to get me out of the kitchen on sweltering summer days. The farm has no air-conditioning. On prickly, humid days, even the thought of turning on the oven leaves me a little nauseous--but not enough to make me want to eat salad for every meal.
Back in the day, my family had a solution for this problem. Just off the back of the farmhouse was a little shack. It had a rough wooden floor and a slanted tin roof. Inside was a washbasin and a cast-iron wood-burning stove they used to cook on. The structure was torn down in the early 1970s, but my aunts and uncles who remember it still call it the summer kitchen.
What a good idea! An outdoor kitchen to use in the summer when it's hot. Huhh.
Monday, July 4, 2011
This pot can also be read on bonappetit.comWeeds? Purslane? What's the difference?
If you keep a garden year after year, you start to notice which plants take naturally to the soil and the climate that are specific to your plot and which do not. Each little pocket of farmland has its own microclimate and the plants respond to it.
Tim Stark is a Pennsylvania farmer who lives and farms about 30 minutes from me. He sells his goods at New York City's Greenmarket every Saturday and penned a funny and moving book, Heirloom, all about his tomatoes, for which he has become famous. Tim's tomatoes are used at many, if not most, of New York's top-end restaurants, including Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where the staff grows many of its own vegetables but has come to accept that Tim's tomatoes are superior.