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Posts Tagged ‘Vermont farm stand’

One thing I love about summer around here is the bounty.  There are so many vegetables available, you can afford just to play with them.  In meals, I mean.

At Killdeer today, I bought bagsful of beans–green and yellow wax.  I had some purple potatoes from the other day, and we had parsley and arugula in the kitchen garden.

The result was a yummy, warm summer salad.

bean salad

Green Bean and Potato Salad

1 handful each of green and yellow wax beans, steamed until al dente
1/2 lb. purple potatoes
homemade mustardy vinaigrette
1 handful each chopped parsley and arugula

Let cooked vegetables sit until room temperature, then dress, mix, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

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nasturtiums

I put myself through another onrush-of-memories experience this morning.  I stopped by the Dartmouth Organic Farm, three miles north of campus on Lyme Road.  There was a space in the dirt driveway, so I parked my car next to the house I lived in senior year, and walked across the yard that, on my graduation morning, was a brilliant swath of dandelion yellow.

house

Things looked pretty much the same—seedling trays in the greenhouse here and there, the dry-erase board marked up with to-do lists and sunshine doodles, cast-off chairs and tables and grills in the garage—except for the plant life.  I couldn’t believe how overgrown the hillside had become.  I took the familiar path down the hill to the garden, (remembering how annoyed we got when people stepped over instead of around the switchback we’d built to keep the hillside from eroding) but what used to be an airy walk through saplings had become a dark walk through forest dense with vines.  Twelve years have gone by.

a freight train goes by now

a freight train goes by now

The garden, though, when it came into view, looked unchanged.  Beds of lush vegetables, some beds of mixed cover crops, stretching down to the grassy bank of the Connecticut River. The valley fog was just burning off.

Scott Stokoe, the farm manager, was talking with the head intern, John, about what had to be done before the CSA delivery to students this afternoon.  He acknowledged the growth on the hillside when he pointed out the shade that was keeping down the winter squash.

shade

John went off to start harvesting, and Scott and I had a long conversation about the farm’s evolution over the past decade, about that first year, when it was a pilot program and I lived there with three friends—weeding, planting, picking, eating well—and about integrating sustainability into the liberal arts curriculum (which I’m involved with at Auburn).

I walked through the fields snapping pictures, and then helped the interns harvest sungold tomatoes for the afternoon delivery.  They were ripening nicely, but the vines were sparse because of the hungry deer who come for a nightly meal.  The students recently erected a fence, which will hopefully keep the deer away from everyone’s favorite crop—the unbelievably sweet sungolds.

sungolds

I looked up the hill to the north, where we used to swing from a rope into the river and swim upstream as far as we could go until we got tired.

There was another familiar sight: crew practice.

crew

onions

onions

John, who lives in the house now, said he didn’t mind if I peeked in.  The year I lived there, 1996-7, was the first year it was used by the College as “the farm house.”  It had been a long time since it had been occupied.  It’s a solidly built old farmhouse with sturdy hardwood throughout.  I moved in with three girlfriends—Amy, CJ, and Christine—and we brought just a few pieces of furniture and kitchenware.  It was spare and neat.  After twelve years of both female and male undergrads moving in and moving out, let’s just say the house looked lived-in.  I opened the solid wood door to the screened-in porch out back.  You used to be able to see the river.  I remembered the first time I invited Peter—now my husband—over for dinner.  We cooked vegetables harvested that day on the fields below, and ate on the gray-painted floor of the porch (we had no chairs).  I also went up to the room that used to be mine and looked out the windows at the familiar view of the river.  I remember sitting at my desk—a door on cinderblocks with a batik tapestry on top—and writing a poem about the ice on the river breaking up in the spring.

That was a good year I spent there.  I’m glad I went back.

tassels

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We drove to Cedar Circle Farm, in Thetford, Vermont, this morning, to pick raspberries and blueberries.  The bushes were lush.

J picking

The best strategy for finding juicy berries, we found, was to mimic Jack’s height: crouch down, go in deep, and look up.

rasp. bush

Many of the blueberries were just getting blue.  The season is late this year, because of all the rain.  We picked three pints, though,

Cedar C. blues

and found a little nest in one of the bushes.

nest

Cedar Circle operates their self-service picking patch on the honor system.  There is a sign with the prices per pint, and a little money slot in the wall of the the shed, where pickers can deposit their bills or a check.  Jack loved watching the money disappear…

money slot

Jack's cousin, Jeremiah

Jack's cousin, Jeremiah

Now, it’s raining again, and I’ve been making buckle.  What is it that happens to blueberries when you warm them up?  They become gorgeous taste-bud luxuries.  I guess this is the season for this luxury, though, because I had blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and a piece of buckle for snack.  I’d better not start thinking about dessert…

buckle

Blueberry Buckle
from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Batter
¾ c. sugar
4 tbs. butter
1 lg. egg
½ c. milk
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. blueberries

Streusel
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. salt
5 1/3 tbs. soft butter

Grease and flour a 9-inch round (or square) pan and preheat the oven to 375°.

Cream together the sugar and butter, then add the egg and mix at medium speed for 1 minute.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Stir in the milk alternately with the dry ingredients and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon, and salt.  Add the butter, mixing to make medium-sized crumbs.  Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter.

Bake the buckle for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, and cool it (in the pan) on a rack.  Serve the buckle with coffee in the morning, or with whipped cream for dessert.

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Everything was burning yesterday evening.  For the most part, in the best way.

First, I roasted the two bunches of beets–chioggia and golden–and some of the juice oozed out of the foil onto the cookie sheet.  The whole house smelled of burned beet slime.  The result of roasting, however, was delicious: warm beet salad dressed lightly with vinaigrette, sprinkled with chives, salt, and pepper, and covered with crumbled local goat cheese.

My parents’ best friends, the Ashleys, came down the steep driveway from their house for dinner.  Dad mixed martinis and mojitos (for different people–we didn’t mix).  We sat in the sun on the deck.  The tiki torches were flaming.  We snacked on corn chips and hummus, and the tender, nutty Cobb Hill cheese named Ascutney Mountain (for the Green mountain just south of here).

Ascutney chs

Along with a colorful salad made from our farmers’ market haul, we had sweet corn on the cob from Killdeer Farm, and those sausages from Hogwash Farm–Beer Bratwurst and Chorizo–which promptly caught on fire when Dad put them on the grill.  We moved them around, and the flames gave chase (it always cracks me up when baseball announcers use that phrase!).  In the end, there were some spots of char, but not too many, and the sausages were succulent.

This pyromeal was followed by a campfire, up on the hillside behind the Ashleys’ house, at their well-used fire pit.  The grown-ups nursed our drinks and constructed perfectly melted s’mores, while the boys torched marshmallows, pinecones, leftover Christmas candles, anything that would burn.

IMG_0177

IMG_0185

A good time was had by all.

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The morning started out cool and foggy.  I went for a run on the hilly dirt road here, and the air was so chilly and moist in the shade of the tree canopy, that my glasses fogged up.  Turnpike Road follows the course of the Blood Brook, which winds this way and that through culverts under the road (and is named for an old area family, not for early-American battles with Indians).  Normally, in the summer, the brook is just a trickle between dry stones, but lately, because of the uncharacteristically (well, insanely) wet summer, it’s been raging.  The rain has made it hard for all of the farmers around here.  Haying has to happen in the spots of sun between storms.  Vegetables are coming in later than usual.  Sweet corn only just arrived.

By the time we got to the Norwich Farmers’ Market, the fog had burned off, and the sun was getting hot.  We bought an array of goodies from the warm end of the spectrum, from dark new Peruvian Purple potatoes, to pork sausage and rainbow carrots, two kinds of beets, and pale yellow Fingerlings.

bratwurst

The potatoes all came from Hurricane Flats Farm, on the Connecticut River in South Royalton, Vermont, as did the beets.  I bought two bunches: the concentric-striped Chioggias and mango-colored Goldens.  I’m roasting them now, and will quarter them and toss them in some kind of salad later—probably with local goat cheese, again.

As we strolled from their stand, we stopped at Hogwash Farm’s to sample their beer bratwurst. (They raise beef cattle, pigs, and laying hens, and are located here in Norwich.)  It was so tasty, that Jack and his cousin continued to sample while I looked through the freezer and picked out grass fed ground beef and chorizo.  We decided to get a package of the bratwurst too, before the boys cleaned them out.

Hogwash T

From there, we made our way to Your Farm’s stand, and spotted the dazzling rainbow carrots!  We each tried a color.  I’m partial to the purple-skinned-orange-centered kind.

rainbow carrots

After the Farmers’ Market, we stopped at Norwich Square, where all the shops were having a little outdoor fair.    There were musicians, made-to-order crepes, book-signing, and Silkie chickens pecking the grass.

chickens

Jack went into one of his favorite places in Norwich: the little house.  Sometimes, while I drink a coffee and eat an almond croissant from Allechante, Jack brings his snack in there, sits in the rocker, munches, and hums a little hum to himself.

J in little house
I left the boys with my mom in the bookstore, and ducked into Zuzu, where I found the snazziest dress!  Here’s a shot of the fabric:

dress

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Another vegetable with architectural pretensions!

cauli

Like the costata romanesca, this one has classical roots, but its look is more minaret than column.  It’s a green brassica that tastes a bit like broccoli, looks a bit like its white cousin, and is a whole lot more fun than either.

cauli 2

I bought this one today at Killdeer on my way home from the mechanic’s.  Scott, the Farm Stand manager and a wonderful food photographer, suggested roasting or sauteeing the little spirals.  If it weren’t in the upper-80s today, I might roast it with some butter and garlic and a crust of breadcrumbs.  To beat the heat, I’ll just cook it quickly on the stove-top, until al dente.  I’ve also been marinating bone-in pork chops all day.  Mmm… it’s going to be a good meal.

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I am in wholehearted agreement with the motivation behind the New York Times editorial of a few days ago, “Farms and Antibiotics,” and with the legislation it promotes, which aims to drastically reduce the amount of antibiotics used in raising meat.   The figures in this editorial are staggering.  There are so many good reasons to pass this legislation: the overuse of antibiotics leads to super-resistant bugs that can affect human and animal health; the animals are given antibiotics not because they are sick, but to prevent them from getting sick, which surely would happen because of the crowded and confined conditions in which they are raised, and because of the unnatural diet they are fed to fatten them up faster than their bodies can handle; antibiotics in farm run-off (i.e. manure) leach into ground- and open water.

But the problem will not be easy to solve.  It would be simplisitic to think that it’s just a bunch of bad-boy capitalist farmers injecting their animals with too many drugs in the name of profit.   Those farmers are stoking, yes, but are also feeding an insatiable appetite for meat.  The change won’t come with legislation alone but with massive shifts in the American (and first world in general) diet–away from cheap meat–and toward more easy access to healthy, whole foods.  Legislation to limit antibiotic use on factory farms will need to be accompanied by some consciousness raising about the unsustainable scale of the meat industries, and with many more legislative actions. (Michael Pollan had some great suggestions for what these might be, in his pre-election open letter, “Farmer In Chief.”)

The road blocks to changing the first world diet might better be described as an intricate and incredibly strong mesh, made up of socioeconomic inequalities, socioeconomic history, and the history of the food industry and of the first world diet.  A century and a half ago, fresh beef was a specialty food of the wealthy.  That all changed with the invention of refrigeration in the late nineteenth-century.  First came the icebox in upper-class homes; then came ice-cooled warehouses, both of which were unreliable but which led to greater changes .  Then came compressed-air, and electric refrigeration–in homes, in warehouses, on trains, in steamers.  The growth of the refrigeration industry, which was directly related to that of beef, completely changed the culture of meat consumption.  Large-scale cattle farms, slaughter-houses, and warehouses, and the increasing demand they were set up to meet, displaced small-scale businesses of all sorts, and introduced the factory-farming of cattle.  This was when grain-fed beef and the first CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) were implemented.  As supply increased, demand increased, and prices fell.  And now here we are, habituated to a diet of cheap, abundant beef that we are finally recognizing to be unsustainable.  (A compelling and carefully researched description of this history can be found in the new book by Susanne Freidberg, Fresh: A Perishable History.)

The reduction of antibiotic use in cattle will have to go along with a reduction in beef consumption, but because of the socioeconomic realities of beef consumption, this won’t change easily.  We all know that highly processed, “fast food” is cheaper and easier for many to get than fresh, whole foods.  This socioeconomic disparity will have to be addressed as well. (Salmon and shrimp are fast becoming the new beef: the prices are dropping and the antibiotic use is going up.  The Times had a chilling article the other day about antibiotic use by salmon farms in South America.)

If you have the means, switching to grass fed beef is a good idea, but it will only help to keep beef production sustainable if the beef is local and eaten infrequently.  Speaking of which… it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been to Cloudland Farm….

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