Friday, August 31, 2007

Get ready, get set ...

Tomorrow the month long Eat Local Challenge starts and I thought I would do a trial run tonight at dinner - and what a delicious dinner it was !
Both hamburger and accompanying vegetable were inspired by Emlyn, who is an inventive and imaginative cook who combines sometimes odd ingredients fearlessly and comes up with surprising new creations.
The hamburger was mixed with chopped onions and a generous scoop of black bean sauce with garlic, a Chinese sauce. The patties were cooked on the grill by Mr. T while I made the following :

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-size slices

1 zucchini, sliced the same way

5 small, mildly hot, red peppers,diced

1/2 onion, sliced

Bunch of chard, washed and cut into ribbons

garlic, minced

olive oil

1/4 c white wine

Saute the squash in olive oil until slightly caramelized and soft, add a generous sprinkle of garlic, salt, pepper and 1 t sugar . Stir gently, cook a few more seconds and reserve.

In the same large pan, saute the zucchini in some more olive oil until slightly soft, add peppers and onions and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender. Salt and pepper and reserve.

In yet the same pan, heat some more olive oil, add the chard and saute until it turns dark green and looks cooked. Add garlic and salt and cook a few seconds more. Finally add 1/4 c white wine and boil down until wine boils away. I used Riesling, which is slightly sweet and combined really well with the sweetness of the butternut squash.

When ready to serve, arrange chard around the rim of a serving platter, place zucchini mixture in the middle and top with the butternut squash.

This is such a pretty presentation - too bad we dove right in and ate it up before I had a chance to take a picture.

The dinner was judged to be delicious. I have a feeling we will not suffer by eating locally ! All the vegetables came from our garden, the rest of the dinner was food that was in the pantry or the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thoughts while cleaning up the corn patch

" Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..." that's the poem that comes to mind as I head out to the corn patch very early to take advantage of the coolness before the sun burns off the mists.

While I pull out the spent corn stalks , I think about all the buttery ears of corn this patch has provided for my family this summer and the stack of packages of corn in the freezer. I notice the carefully spaced rows which were planted by my daughter while we were away this spring during planting time. She placed each kernel by hand and was so proud her work - her first corn patch !

Even though the plants are no longer useful to us, they continue feed someone. Buster, the pony, is snacking on the leaves and hoping to find a small corncob which sometimes forms after the big ones have been harvested.

The rest of the stalks ( and weeds ) are going to be chipped and composted, to nourish the garden in the form of compost and to enrich the soil for next year's crop of vegetables.

It makes me think of a passage I read just this morning in Making it Home by Lars Nordström.
" I remember a floor mosaic in the ruin of a Roman villa I once saw on Cyprus. There, a seated Dionysus, crowned with a wreath of grape leaves and holding clusters of grapes,has handed the recling nymph Akme a bowl of wine.There is no doubt in my mind that the ancients knew the gift was sacred. Living here I am beginning to understand that I have always wanted to touch the flow of life symbolized by that image, that what I htought were mundane things like food, shelter, and daily routines actually belong to that sacred river that flows below us. When you start eating and drinking out of your own hands, you gradually discover that you are flowing through something much larger than yourself, that something is holding you, carrying you as you hold it. "

" Eating and drinking out of your own hands " - what a lovely image for us as we prepare for our month of local eating and drinking ,becoming aware of who produces our food and where it comes from, and as we plan and prepare each meal, connecting to that river of life that sustains and carries us.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's local ?

Hurray, Emlyn ! I'm so glad you are joining me in the Eat Local Challenge . Here's a dandy little tool to help you figure out what is local for you.

Partying, local style

Live in the city? Think you can't eat local, support local farming and be extra cool just because you don't have 40 acres and a mule? Think again! Not only did I join a CSA (that's Community Supported Agriculture) Saturday morning, but I used my newly procured bounty to make this AMAZING salad. The only thing in this beauty that came further than 40 miles was the dressing. Does anyone have a local (to Maryland) source of olive oil?

We served this salad to 25 people Saturday night to rave reviews and few leftovers. It was so delicious! Am I imagining that it tasted better than Supermarket salad because I am so excited about eating local? Who knows? All I know is that I am hooked and can't wait to claim my fruit and veg next Saturday at the market.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Eat Local Challenge

I just joined the Eat Local Challenge for the month of September. I am going to try to eat locally produced food as much as possible for the whole month. The challenge will be to keep it up while traveling to Maine for the last half of the month and while entertaining house guests for at least 3 weeks in September.

I don't think it will be too difficult while we are all still at home ; after all, the garden is producing copious amounts of vegetables and the apples and other fruit should be ripe by then. The difficult part will be finding ethically and locally produced meat and sources for flour, oil and those oh, so convenient ,cold cuts .

I'm doing lots of homework right now, so that we will have a list of restaurants in Maine which serve locally produced food when we are traveling. When in doubt, there's always lobster, right ? How we shall suffer ....

The Eat Local Challenge is a nationwide effort to make people more aware of where their food comes from, how many miles it travels before it gets to the table and how much more delicious it is to eat locally. And who knows, it just might send a message to agribusiness that we don't wish to support some of their practices.

Why don't you consider joining us ?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Look Ma - no hands !

T and Don, mechanic extraordinaire, spent many blissful hours installing and tinkering with an automatic gate opener, involving many trips to hardware stores and some custom made parts by Don.

The gate is powered by solar panels and a mere click of the button opens and closes it. No need to get out of the car any more !

But not to worry, despite all this new-fangled high tech stuff, things haven't changed all that much here at the farm.

Our neighbor has moved his cows into the field next door and the apple trees are heavy with ripening fruit, pointing the way to the next season, and the promise of a bountiful harvest.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thoughts for a rainy day

I talked to a delightful lady this morning whose mother is 104 years old. Her parents took her on a trip around the world on the Cunard Line when she was a young woman in the early Twenties. Just imagine what pictures and stories this old lady must have stored in her head !

This led me to think about the kinds of pictures and stories we are storing in our heads every day. What will we be able to draw on when we are old ? Look closely at something today and really see and experience it and then put it away carefully so there will be a rich store to draw on some day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back from Vacationland, USA

I am back from the wilds of Maine, more specifically Moosehead Lake and my in-laws. Paul and I, the children, as well as two visiting German girls (both Luisa!) and our dog Nellie all drove up in one car. We split the drive up, spending the night in Kennebunk, ME and pressing on toward Moosehead Lake the next day. Moosehead Lake is one of a series of lakes in the region and is surrounded by a deep wilderness that stretches North to Canada. Being there always reminds me of how powerful nature is, and how small I really am.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Glimpse of Fall

After many days of high heat and humidity, finally a cool, dry morning with a fresh breeze ! Suddenly we can see the farm across the valley again which had been hidden by the heavy, oppressive haze which accompanies high humidity.

We are full of zip and energy and have a list a mile long of things to do, which we have put off because it was just too hot. T is up on a ladder clipping the ivy on the house, Jonesy is splitting wood which will feed the woodstove this winter and I am off to the garden to pull up the cornstalks to make room for a fall garden.

What are you up to this almost fall morning ?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Country Amusements

I just watched a chicken lay an egg ! She gets sort of a dreamy look in her little eye and if you try to handle her , she becomes very soft and gentle. Clearly, there's something going on ...she wiggles around a little bit, stands up, and - Ta Daaaahhhh!! - out rolls an egg and lands between her feet.

And here it is. Isn't it a beauty ?

What wonderful thing have you seen today ?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blackberries - now picking

The sign said " Blackberries - now picking " and we couldn't resist. T and I drove in the lane of a lovely little farm complete with pond, cows, hayfield and a field full of berry bushes.

And what tremendous berries they were ! I had never seen such huge blackberries. In no time at all we had picked two pans full, plus a bonus pot of raspberries .
We took the berries to be weighed under an apple tree and learned from the old farmer that the blackberries are called Triple Crown , which grow particularly well in our area.

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours in the late afternoon sun, storing up the summer sights and sounds, to be remembered when the snow is blowing around the house and we are making a pot of tea to go with our toast and blackberry jam.

Mystery soved

The bee mystery is solved thanks to a nifty website , ,which will answer all your insect questions. Apparently my bees are male bumblebees which are out looking for a queen to mate with - sort of like a bunch of guys hanging around the local WaWa, hoping for some action.

Here's a neat hint from the BugGuide people : look for insects early in the morning when they are sluggish from the cool night time temperatures. It makes them easy to spot and observe and easier to photograph, too.

This little guy isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I found him this morning on a tomato plant - if you are squeamish, don't look !

This is a tomato hornworm and a parasitic wasp has laid eggs on, or rather in, his back. The rest I leave up to your imagination, but I think I hear tiny little sucking noises....

Life in the tranquil countryside is anything but, eh ?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Bee Mystery

As you may know, bees have disappeared all over the country. When beekeepers opened their hives this spring, most of their bees had simply vanished - there was no sign of sickness, no little corpses, nothing. CCD, or colony collapse disorder, is being studied by scientists, but noone has figured out yet what could be causing it.

Imagine how excited I was this morning when I saw this :

lots of bees clustered inside a butternut squash blossom at 10 in the morning, when all good little bees should be out foraging and collecting nectar !

None of the bees had pollen on their legs, which probably means that they they spent the night inside this blossom rather than in their hive. And why are they huddled together all alone, without a queen ?

I wonder if there could be a clue here to solve the mystery of CCD ?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday night NYC

It's a warm summer night and I'm posting my first entry to our blog! Yahoo! I just finished teaching my 6:30 - 8 yoga class here at the condo - all of the students were very low energy today. Perhaps they were baking by the pool all day? Rolando and I are winding down - I had my chicken salad and am ready to go to sleep soon. The next few days are going to be a big push preparing for my Megayoga retreat up in Lenox, Mass. I'm very excited and also nervous for the retreat. Are you going to stay up past midnight to see the meteor shower? Tell me all about it - I'm not gonna make it.
That's all for now!

Eating locally

After reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , we are thinking about eating more food which is produced locally.

You can't get much more local than this - the blueberries next to the house are ripe
and ready for a blueberry pie. This is grocery shopping at its finest !

And I like all the other customers, too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beekeeping adventures

I just completed a beekeeping shortcourse and despite the scorching temperatures, we worked outside in the apiary. Even the bees were hot ! Here they are, hanging outside the hive, trying to stay cool.

Some of us tried to stay cool by wearing only a bee bonnet, others suited up from head to toe.

I opted for bonnet and bare legs and didn't get stung, however, when the bees became annoyed by all our attentions, they started to buzz around and bumped into us rather hard as a warning , but no stinging.

Once the hive is opened, the frames can be inspected. If you look closely, you can see a queen cell at the upper left of the frame.

I am proud to report that I handled a frame for the first time with live bees crawling over the front and back. I was able to see eggs in the cells, as well as cells with larvae , which will be capped by the worker bees when they start to pupate and turn into an actual bee. The capped brood can be seen at the lower right of the frame.

Stay tuned for further adventures...