Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kentucky Oaks

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks happens this week at Churchill Downs, 5:45 on Friday to be exact. You may recall that we are hosting our own version of the Kentucky Oaks here at Farm Dover.

Back in February, I planted a dozen or so acorns that my friend Lynn Kunau brought me from a Garden Club of America meeting. Here's what they looked like three months ago:

And, I'm pleased to report, here is how three of the Northern Red Oaks look now:

I haven't seen any signs of growth from the other seeds that I planted. I've moved them outside and continue to water them regularly. But I must say, I'm pleased with my little oak trees that have sprouted. I've transplanted them twice already to larger and larger pots. My plan is to keep them in these pots until they go dormat in the fall and then to plant them along our drive. That way, everytime we see them, we can remember that they came from a tiny acorn and will someday be a giant oak.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cooking up a spring tonic

Earlier this week, I made asparagus and sorrel soup. Both main ingredients came from my garden. I threw in a left-over leek, some dill, and some homemade chicken broth. It was quite tasty.

Ed and I are meeting Mary in Frankfort tomorrow night for dinner and I wanted to take her some soup, but didn't want to drive into Shelbyville for groceries. Instead, I headed out the front door and foraged for what I needed.

I started in my garden, snapping off a dozen or so asparagus spears before moving over to my raised bed and snipping off a handful of lemony sorrel. The sorrel comes back year after year and I have to work hard to figure out how to use it all. As soon as I cut it down, it comes back – and lasts deep into the fall. It's the first thing that comes up in my spring garden.

While in the garden, I realized that I needed to thin my pea shoots. Rather than throw them on the compost pile, I added them to my soup ingredient list.

From there, I headed down to the creek where I spied some ramps last week. Ramps are a perennial wild onion that usually grow along creek banks. I think these are the ones that Maggie transplanted a couple of years ago. There are only a dozen or so plants and I want to encourage them to spread, so I took only a few of the leaves, leaving behind the bulbs and roots with the hopes that they will send up new shoots and come back bigger and better next year.

I also picked some wild garlic to add to my soup.

Once my "shopping" was done, I headed in and sauteed an onion, diced up potato or two, added a carrot, a celery stalk and a bay leaf. Then added some vegetable broth, the diced up asparagus, the wild garlic and the ramp leaves. Once the vegetables were tender, I ditched the bay leaf and used my immersion blender to blurr-rr-rr it up. I turned off the heat and added the pea shoots and the sorrel and then blended it for a minute more. After tasting it, I decided it needed a bit of salt, some white pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

Voila! The perfect spring tonic – and made without a trip to Kroger.

Say "hello" to the newest Farm Dover residents

There's a very protective mama robin that sits on her nest for 23+ hours a day. Her nest is tucked into one of the bushes just outside our front door.

I've been following her maternal pursuits since April 11, when she laid the first of her beautiful blue eggs. (I can't seem to find the photo I took of her nest with its lonely egg). For the next three days, she laid another single, perfect egg. And then she sat, and sat, and sat, keeping her eggs warm and rotating them with her beak every day. Only flying off for a moment or two to grab a bite to eat.

Today when I checked on her, she was out finding worms for four very hungry chicks. Her mate is always close by, keeping watch over his flock and warning the mama if anything threatens to harm her or her little ones.

Welcome to Farm Dover. May you spend many happy days here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

27 Years Ago

Twenty-seven years ago something very nice happened to me. My Maggie was born.

Unlike this rainy morning, the Tuesday that she was born was one of those sparkling spring mornings.

I had worked full-time at Capital Holding until the previous Friday, helping it get ready to sponsor the Derby (Pegasus) Parade. This was the year that they were introducing a new mascot, a huge Pegasus-shaped hot-air balloon, which would be floated down Broadway, held down with ropes by a dozen people. I had worked for months to get the balloon designed, manufactured up in Canada, and inflated for a trial run in Louisville. It was the first large balloon to appear in Louisville's Pegasus Parade – and I was planning to go to the Parade on Wednesday to help ensure that all would go smoothly.

Ed left for work that morning, catching the bus downtown. I had a bowl of Cream of Wheat cereal, (that I craved for my entire pregnancy). And then, without warning, my water broke. There was no guessing about whether I should find my way to the hospital. I called Ed at his office to tell him to hurry home, except he wasn't there. He and his boss had slipped out to watch the Blue Angels air show, one of dozens of Derby events. This was years before cell phones became ubiquitous, but the receptionist somehow tracked him down.

Next thing I know, Ed and Fred (his boss and dear friend) show up at the front door. Fred had driven Ed home and wanted to offer congratulations even before our baby was born.

We immediately headed down to Norton Hospital, where the long wait began. We had taken a Lamaze class, so we breathed together -- Ed coaching me on. Every time it got a tough, Ed assured me that I was tougher. It was the Galloway-way. For the next 15 hours, he was at my side (except when he raced to McDonald's for a burger and shake). Finally, just before midnight our baby was born. We didn't know beforehand if we were having a boy or a girl. We were delighted with our new baby girl and an added surprise was that she had the most beautiful red hair.

The hospital where she was born was located on Broadway and I was able to watch the parade the next afternoon from the window of my hospital room while rocking my new baby girl. At that time, there were some strict measures in place that only allowed "family" to visit a newborn baby and mom. Soon after the parade was over, a large and rather loud group of people came up to the maternity floor claiming they were all the family of the Galloway baby. It was the people from my marketing department that I had worked with on the Parade and they all wanted to meet this new Derby baby.

And that is how Maggie began her life, and how I began my life as a mom.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Finding Spring

“The most beautiful springs are those that come after the most horrible winters!” 
– Mehmet Murat Ildan

Spring has been elusive for me this year. So very slow in coming; but beautiful upon arrival. Here are some photos that I've taken over the past couple of weeks. As you can see, it was worth waiting for.

A bouquet of Farm Dover daffodils, picked before a late frost. 
Pear blossoms
Why the color is called "Robin's Egg blue"
Dinner tonight. Straight from the garden.
Helping check on Maggie's bees (that's me all zipped up in a bee suit)
An afternoon at Keeneland with girlfriends
Two turtle dove eggs
Wisteria at our friends' home. I want some! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Conversation Piece

Since last October, not one person has walked into our home and failed to comment on the huge vegetable that sits on the kitchen counter. What is that thing? Is it a football? Did you grow it? What in the world are you going to do with it?

That thing is a giant sweet potato. It is the size of a football and weighs at least as much as the largest bass I've ever caught. Yes, I grew it. And until today, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

Just to give you a sense of the size of this thing.
The conversation piece is now history. Actually, it is not quite history yet; rather it is the foundation for some Ginger/Miso/Sweet Potato soup that is simmering on the stove for lunch.

The snow is still coming down a bit and it seemed like a good day for soup. I've been enamored lately with using miso as an ingredient, so I paired it with the sweet potato, an onion, garlic, ginger and coconut milk.

The soup needs to simmer for a bit and then I'll take my imersion blender to it, turning it into a silky smooth pot of golden sweet potato goodness. I'll have enough soup to feed a crew, but since it is just Ed and me for lunch, I'll freeze some to share with Maggie and Mary – and have some in the freezer for if it snows in May.


Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger and Miso
adapted from the Kitchn

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 2-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced - about 1/4 cup
3 large sweet potatoes, about 2 1/2 pounds - peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons light miso
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1 cup whole milk (I used coconut milk)
Salt and pepper

Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Raise the heat a little and add the ginger. Fry until the ginger is fragrant, but don't let the onions and garlic brown at all. Add the sweet potatoes and miso and continue frying a bit, then add the broth or water. Bring to a simmer then cover, turn the heat to low and let it cook for about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Take off the heat and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.

Return to the heat and warm, whisking in the milk and salt and pepper to taste. If it's too thick, whisk in a little extra milk until you get the consistency you want.

CRAZY: Snow in the middle of April

Monday, April 14, 2014

Foraging for Dinner

I went out the front door this afternoon and came back 20 minutes later with dinner: dandelion greens, two dandelion flowers, a handful of violets and a couple of four-leaf-clovers thrown in for good luck.

I made a salad of the greens, flowers and clovers. I added a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and plopped a poached farm-fresh egg on top. It was a Farm Dover version of a Salad Lyonnaise. The warm egg yolk slightly wilting the peppery greens, mellowing their bit of bitterness.

I was quite happy to think that I could feed us by foraging for our dinner. And it was nice to know that our dandelions are perfectly edible since we don't spray our lawn/fields for weeds. Instead, we change our perspective, and think of dandelions as pretty yellow flowers. Yes, pretty yellow flowers with tender green leaves that make for a lovely dinner salad.

Turns out, dandelions are nature's richest green vegetable source of beta carotene, from which Vitamin A is created. They are also particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine and riboflavin, and they are a good source of protein to boot. And – one more thing – they are plenty of them, just outside our front door, free for the picking!

Staying One Step Ahead of Mother Nature

Snow is predicted for tonight and a low tomorrow night of 28. I've covered my strawberries, pea shoots, radishes, lettuce, monster fern, and one apple tree that is flowering. I've got my fingers crossed that the rest of the fruit trees will survive the freeze. I brought some wood up to the porch so that we can have one last fire before we clean out the ashes for the season.

On my walk today, I picked a huge bouquet of daffodils. I was worried the cold and frost would snap them. Most of the blossoms were ones from the bulbs that Maggie, Jack and Mary helped me plant even before we moved to Farm Dover. Like the oaks leaves that I collected last fall, I was amazed at the variety that blooms in our woods and along the lake bank.

Not only are they beautiful, but their fragrance has filled our home. I don't like the smell of paperwhites, but the combination that sits on our dinner table smells lovely.

These daffodils seem to bloom late in the season and, once picked, last for days and days. I'm hoping these will stay fresh for our Easter table. So even if it turns to winter outside, we've got spring blasting inside.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Just tell them it's "burnt" granola...

The day before we left for China I saw a recipe for Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola that sounded irresistible. Instead of waiting until we got back, I stayed up late and made a batch. I ate some, and then ate some more. Then I left a jar for John who was house-sitting for us and packed the rest into a baggie to take on the plane. It was gone before our first plane took off.

This stuff is seriously good. However, it is not a contender to replace my Olive Oil and Maple Granola that I made every other week and will never, ever, tire of. This one is more of a snack granola, best eaten out of hand, every time I pass the jar. It doesn't last long.

I found the recipe on Sarah Britton's My New Roots blog. She claims her recipes are all about making healthy choices everyday. I'm so glad she considers this granola healthy, as it tastes like a dark chocolatey sweet treat to me. She also admitted to telling her husband it was "burnt" granola and she was only eating it so as to not waste food. I love that. I made a batch this morning and I think I'll use the same line with Ed.

The recipe uses buckwheat groats, which, despite their name, are not related to wheat and therefore are gluten-free. Buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb and produces triangular seeds. I'm on the lookout for other recipes that include them.

A little research revealed that buckwheat is a short-season crop that does well on low-fertility soils. I'm thinking it might be an ideal crop to grow in our side field that suffers terribly from poor soil and hasn't supported anything that we've tried to plant there. I'm also thinking Maggie's bees might like a close-by field of buckwheat, as the nectar from their flowers makes a dark-colored honey.

I hope you will give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. And don't be shy about using that "burnt" granola line. Leaves more for you. Enjoy!


Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola
Makes 8 cups

This recipe is adapted from My New Roots blogsite. I substituted walnuts, for hazelnuts. The first time I made it I used brown sugar – instead of coconut sugar. Turned out fine either way.

3 cups / 300g rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary)
1 cup / 200g buckwheat
1 ½ cups / 65g coconut flakes
1 cup /125g hazelnuts (walnuts are also delicious)
¼ cup / 30g chia seeds
½ tsp. fine grain sea salt
¼ cup / 35g coconut sugar
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup cocoa powder (organic, fair-trade if possible)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut flakes, chia seeds and coconut sugar. Roughly chop nuts and add them to the mix.
3. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, melt coconut oil. Add honey or maple syrup, vanilla, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk to combine until smooth.
2. Pour liquid ingredients over dry and fold coat.
3. Spread mixture out in an even layer on a lined baking sheet and press firmly with the back of a spatula to ensure that the mixture is compact. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, flip granola in large chunks, and place back in oven to bake for another 10 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes until toasted and fragrant. The dark colour of the granola makes it hard to tell if it is cooked or not, so go by smell. Another good way to test it is by tasting a hazelnut, which takes the longest to cook – it should taste nutty and pleasantly roasted.

Monday, April 7, 2014

She is such a tease

Spring has been slow in coming to Shelby County, slower than I'd like. The trees have yet to bud out, the fields are still a dull brown. The garden a muddy mess.

This morning I woke up to gray skies and a 100 percent chance of rain. To cheer myself, and to remind myself that Spring will surely come -- she is just being a tease -- I combed through some photos I took last week. I thought I'd share them with you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

And I thought I was the only one...

She’s like the anti-Martha Stewart. It’s not about perfection.
- Ruth Reichl

You may remember that I wrote of my devotion to Laurie Colwin in a post last fall. I sang the praises of her collection of food essays in Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. Ms. Colwin died (way to young) more than 20 years ago and I (wrongly) assumed that I was the only non-family/friends-person who still remembered her and reread her essays over and over again.

Yesterday morning my friend Karen sent me a link to a New York Times story about a new "cultishly devoted generation of readers." The article read, in part:

During her life, she gained a reputation first and foremost as a novelist and a composer of delicately calibrated short stories. But in the years since her death, at the age of 48, her following has only grown, and her highly personal food writing... has attracted a new, cultishly devoted generation of readers. Her musings, anecdotes and quirkily imprecise, not-altogether-reliable recipes show up with regularity on food blogs. Which only makes sense, because even though Ms. Colwin expressed wariness about technology and cranked out her essays (most of them for Gourmet magazine) on a mint-green Hermes Rocket typewriter, there is something about her voice, conveyed in conversational prose, that comes across as a harbinger of the blog boom that would follow.

I would agree, her writings come across as conversational, often-times funny and idiosyncratic. In fact, in one of her essays in More Home Cooking she talks about her love of roasted beets. Back when I first read this essay (1980-something) I had never tasted a beet. Her writing about them gave me the courage to try one – and I never looked back. I love beets: roasted, pickled, raw. Not only did I want to try one, I wanted to grow one. And that perhaps is the seed of an idea that made me want to move to a farm. Yes, I wanted to grow, and roast, and eat beets – just like Laurie. So, I thank you, Laurie, for my life today here on Farm Dover. May generations to come find your passionate writings...and learn to love beets. 

Beets from Farm Dover garden, summer 2013

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Token from our Trip

We didn't see much in China to purchase as a souvenir, a keepsake from our trip. We walked through markets in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Bangkok, but saw mostly knock-off Louis Vuitton purses or Hello Kitty luggage tags or cell phone cases. Plus, one must "bargin" to settle on a price and I had a hard time figuring out just how to do that in a language I could not speak. (Although with some fancy sign language, I did manage to talk a seller down from 50 to 10 yuan for a Buddist prayer bead bracelet. That was fun.)

When we were with Jack in Shenzhen, he took us to an artists village and introduced us to the parents of one of his Chinese friends, who goes by the American name: Slim. Both Slim's mom and dad are calligraphers and carvers, working out of a small studio in the middle of the village. Slim's mom carves beautiful seals out of stone. In China, a seal is used in lieu of signatures on personal documents, contracts, art, or any item requiring acknowledgment or authorship. A zhuwen seal imprints the Chinese characters in red ink, and is sometimes referred to as yang seal. After much back-and-forth between Jack, Slim and his mother, we settled on purchasing three seals: one for Maggie, one for Mary, and one for me.

Since there are no Chinese characters for our actual names, we decided that Mary's seal should feature the character for Merry. And for Maggie's, we settled on Bee Keeper. For mine, I wanted the symbol for Farmer, which caused all sorts of hullaballu, as a farmer evidently is a derogatory term in China. I didn't quite understand it all, but to call someone a farmer is to call them a peasant. So it was decided that it just would not do to carve me a seal that labeled me as a peasant. Go figure. Anyway, I ended up with a seal of the traditional Chinese character for Gardener.

The seals were carved while we were off traveling and Jack brought them to us when he joined us in Yunnan. The stones are beautiful just to look at. But I broke out the red cinnabar ink and tested mine out.

I need to practice a bit to get the pressure just right, but I love the way it looks and what it symbolizes. More than that, it is a token of our trip. One that reminds me of the places we traveled and the people we met along the way. Thank you Jack, Slim and Slim's mom for this special keepsake.