Thursday, July 31, 2014

Out Walking Early

Mary and two of her work associates spent the night at Farm Dover last night. They were up and out a little after 6 a.m. for a day of video production at a farm in Jefferson County. Rather than go back to bed, I pulled on my hiking shoes and took off for an early morning walk.

Come along with me and see what I saw...

Nice way to start the day. Now if only I can get up early tomorrow...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Buddy's back

Jack's home from a year in China, but just for a visit. Next month he heads back to the same city (Shenzhen) to begin a new teaching assignment at a different high school. This year he'll be teaching AP World History and AP US History to Chinese students. Guess we will need to begin planning another trip over to visit him as I can't go a whole year without seeing him.

In the meantime, he's installed in the cottage, playing music, and eating all the foods he has missed this year. Good to have him home. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Old Fashioned Week

Ed and I just returned from spending a week at a cabin on Snowbank Lake in the boundary waters of Minnesota, 1000 miles from Farm Dover and a few miles south of the Canadian border. Just the two of us in a simple cabin on a beautiful lake with a small boat at our disposal.

It was a very old fashioned week. No TV, no cell phone service, no internet. Instead, we had a phone at the parking lot that only connected directly across the bay to the lodge of Wilderness Bay, ice cube trays that needed filling and twisting to release the cubes, a line for drying clothes, a basket for picking wild blueberries – and seven mornings of waking up early (or late); seven days of tooling around the lake, casting leeches and watching the line sink, hoping to feel the tug of a small-mouth bass or a walleye; seven afternoons to nap; seven evenings to fry up the fish we caught and to watch the sun slip down; and seven nights of falling asleep to the sound of loons with their eerie cries out on the lake.

But our old-fashioned adventure began two days before when we made an afternoon stop in Madison, WI and had a snack at where else, but The Old Fashioned, on the capitol square.

I didn't even know what a landjaeger was!
We stopped for the first night at the old fashioned, but charming, Lark Inn in Tomah, WI. 
And the second night, we camped a Gooseberry State Park, MN. 
We stopped along the way for a slice of old-fashioned coconut cream pie.
And pulled off the side of the road when we saw this old fashion smokehouse.
Picked up some smoked trout to take up the cabin.
At the end of a long gravel road, we pulled into the parkling lot and called for a boat ride over to the Wilderness Bay Lodge. 
The only vehicle at the lodge: a 1929 truck. Runs great.
We spent part of an afternoon gathering wild blueberries in an old fashioned basket.
And like an old-fashion gentleman, Ed carried our canoe across multiple portages.
I loved having a clothes line. Thinking I may need one at Farm Dover.
Caught our dinner.
Outside the fish house, showing off the walleye that I caught. The fish cleaning happens inside.
The inside of the fish house featured poloroid photos from by-gone years. 
Ed caught three nice walleye, all in one afternoon.
We caught them. Ed cleaned them. I cooked them. 
And now we are back at Farm Dover. Fortunately, things are a bit old-fashioned around here as well. I like it that way....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Goes in the Ground Comes Around

It's the cycle of life and in the case of garlic: what goes in the ground in November, comes around in July. And then it is stored, planted (again), and used until the next harvest.

Back in November, I broke apart garlic cloves from four different types of garlic and planted them in my garden.

Over the winter, they gathered up energy and poked up in early spring, sending up scapes in early summer.

Two weeks ago, I harvested my garlic and set it out on the porch to dry.

And then today, I cut the dried stems and trimmed the roots. Now they are ready for winter storage. In November, I'll select the biggest cloves and plant them in my garden. Because what goes in the ground, comes around....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Preaching to the Choir

Seven years ago Kentucky-born author Barbara Kingsolver published Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (along with her husband and daughter). Daughter Mary gave me a copy for Mother's Day 2007, which I eagerly read. I keep it by my bedside and pick it up from time to time and reread sections, based on the time of year.

Last night, I re-read Kingsolver's entry for late June, which she entitled: Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. In the first part of the chapter, she writes about the importance of the family meal and the creative opportunities that come with cooking. As I read these paragraphs, all I could think about was that Ms. Kingsolver is preaching to the choir. Amen.

For example, she describes dinnertime as "the cornerstone of our family's mental health", and estimates that "75 percent of my crucial parenting effort has taken place during or surrounding the time our family convenes for our evening meal." Amen. She notes that cooking is the great divide between good eating and bad and points out: "It's easy for any of us to claim no time for cooking; harder to look at what we're doing instead, and why every bit of it is presumed more worthy." Amen.

If you haven't read this book – or haven't read it in a long time – I hope you will pick it up and find the chapter that corresponds to the time of year when you do pick it up, and join the choir...


I baked a frittata this morning with ingredients from the garden and the fridge. It had a dozen farm-fresh eggs from neighbor Vivian in it, along with kale and tomatoes from the garden, a shallot, a few crumbles of bacon, and some ends of cheeses from the cheesemaker at the LaGrange Farmers' Market, plus an almost-full container of ricotta cheese that was hiding in the back of the refrigerator. I can't share the recipe, as I made it up as I went along, but I can tell you that it was delicious. The perfect thing for a summer noon meal – and it makes for some lovely leftovers. Amen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Go 4th and celebrate

The grass is cut. The weeds are whipped. The house is (mostly) clean. And it's a holiday. Yes, we've got a few chores on the list, but mostly we are loving this cool summer morning. I woke late, walked over to see my neighbor's gardens, and cut some wild things on the way home (wild garlic scapes, native grass and queen anne's lace).

I'm thinking of packing us a picnic lunch and heading into the woods to see what we can see. What's up with you this holiday weekend?


In honor of the holiday, I share this recipe for the most delicious baked beans ever. It comes from a cookbook of Hoffman family recipes, put together in 1992 by Joan Hoffman, mom to my friend Karen. The Hoffman family boasts a number of excellent cooks and I turn to this cookbook often when I need an especially great recipe. My copy is dog-eared and splattered. The cookbook is now out of print, and those that are lucky enough to have a copy treasure it.

Joan Clark's Southern Baked Beans

8 slices bacon, cut in small pieces
1 cup chopped onions
1 can butter beans, drained
1 can lima beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pork and beans, not drained
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Brown bacon and onion. Combine sugar, vinegar, garlic salt, mustard and peoper. Heat and stir until bubbly. Combine all ingredients ina 3-quart casserole, covered for half the cooking time. Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.

Notes: Because I have a hard time following directions, I've altered this recipe a bit. I use 4 slices of thick-sliced bacon and four cans of my favorite canned beans: usually black beans, lima beans, pinto beans and great northern. I drain all of them. I also use one garlic clove instead of the garlic salt. I add 1 teaspoon salt. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Lest you think that all we do around here is nap and eat chocolates (we do, daily), I wanted to let you know how we are spending large portions of our day these days.  We are fighting Japanese beetles – yes, an invasion of thousands of nasty metalic green beetles is intent on destroying our pear, cherry and peach trees, raspberries, knock-out roses, and our linden and chestnut trees.

In just a few hours, they munch their way through the green leaves of a plant, leaving lace-like skeletons in their wake. And then they march on to the next plant.

I won't say they have met their match (as they seem to be winning); but Ed and I are putting up a good organic fight. Ed rigged up a trap that is designed to lure them into a one-way bag with some sexy beetle pheromones.

And several times a day, we make our rounds to their favorite hangouts and either squish them between our fingers or shake the branch, causing them to fall straight down into a bucket of water, from which they can't figure out how to fly out of. 

Like so many of the things we fight on this farm, these bugs are invasive. They arrived in the U.S. in 1912 on Japanese Iris bulbs and were first noticed in New Jersey. Ever since, they have been making their way west. Their larva is a grayish-white grub that chews on the roots of plants, causing havoc with nice lawns (fortunately, we don't have any nice lawns). The adult emerges from the ground in late June and hangs around for about a month, eating voraciously.

Guess I know what we will be doing for the next month. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hanging Out the Upstairs Window

I leaned as far as possible out the upstairs window to take a quarterly panoramic shot of our back yard.

I was hoping to prove that our backyard trees had grown in the past year. Here's the scene from last July:

Hard to say. I know the trees are bigger, but I may need to take these photos over a longer time period to reflect the change. Check back in about a decade.

Anyway, the farm is in its summer glory with fields ablaze with wildflowers, blackberries ripening on brambles, hydrangea bushes in bloom, and nasturtiums spilling out of the raised garden box. Here are some shots from this morning.

What I'm not showing you is the waist high weeds that have taken over a portion of my garden. If you want to see those, you will have to come out – but then I might hand you a hoe....