Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Planting Peas

I bare my hand and dole out shriveled peas,
one by one.
– from Planting Peas, by Linda M. Hasselstrom 

Seems crazy that I chose the hottest day of the summer to plant my fall garden – but it had to be done. Spinach and beets in the raised bed and a long row of peas in the big garden. But before I could plant, I had to unplant the spent bush beans, cucumber and zucchini vines, hauling them off to the compost pile, making room for the new seeds.

Here's a poem that Ed forwarded to me from American Life in Poetry. The poem, written by Linda M. Hasselstrom, captures some of the thrill of planting peas – no matter that it is not spring but rather sweltering hot outside. I hope you like it.

Planting Peas 

It’s not spring yet, but I can’t
wait anymore. I get the hoe,
pull back the snow from the old
furrows, expose the rich dark earth.
I bare my hand and dole out shriveled peas,
one by one.

I see my grandmother’s hand,
doing just this, dropping peas
into gray gumbo that clings like clay.
This moist earth is rich and dark
as chocolate cake.

Her hands cradle
baby chicks; she finds kittens in the loft
and hands them down to me, safe beside
the ladder leading up to darkness.

I miss
her smile, her blue eyes, her biscuits and gravy,
but mostly her hands.
I push a pea into the earth,
feel her hands pushing me back. She’ll come in May,
she says, in long straight rows,
dancing in light green dresses.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life Goes On...

Jack leaves for China very early Wednesday morning, for his next year-long teaching assignment. And Mary came home from Lexington last week and announced that she was heading to New York City to seek her fortune.

It's about to get very quiet around here.

You would think I'd get used to my children coming and going around the world. They do it often. I'm proud of them and supportive of their adventures – but with each going my heart hurts a bit. (Okay, actually it hurts a lot.)

I like it when they are close by. I like them coming out to the farm, even if it is just to check on bee hives, for dinner, or to do their laundry.

The up-side is that both Jack and Mary are off to wonderful places – places that will be great fun for Ed and me to visit. And fortunately, Maggie and Nate are just down the road in Louisville, making visits easy and often.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Orange (Julius) Bar now open for orioles

When I was five, The Mall opened just a mile or two from our house. It's official name really was just The Mall (now known as Mall St. Matthews). It was the first enclosed suburban shopping mall in the state of Kentucky and was greeted with much fanfare. It featured an A&P Grocery, Kaufman-Staus Department Store, and my favorite: Roses Discount Shop. It also had an Orange Julius and I thought the orangey-creamy-frothy drink they served up was the best thing ever.

(I just goggled Orange Julius Classic to see what is in it and guess what? It's a secret! Hmmm, no telling what those secret ingredients include. But at the time, I didn't care. I thought it was delicious.)

I hadn't thought of an Orange Julius in a long, long time – until today when Ed put up the oriole feeder that we got at the farmers' market in Alden, MI last week. Orioles evidently have a real sweet tooth and love to feed on oranges. Our new feeder has a spike on each side on which we speared an orange half.

Living at Farm Dover are at least two pairs of Orchard Orioles, and perhaps their offspring hatched in June. We are hoping they stop by our all-natural Orange (Julius) Bar for a drink.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Birds of Farm Dover

We've seen three amazing things around the farm recently and, in all three cases, I didn't have my phone/camera with me to capture them. So, you will just need to use your imagination...

Thing 1: Ed and I were out front by the entrance gate, walking along, pulling up random stalks of much-hated Johnson Grass. Suddenly a mama bobwhite quail flew up out of the short grass and started shrieking and hobbling along the ground. I mean really shrieking. She was dragging a contorted wing behind her, limping along as if she had barely escaped being eaten alive by a terrible creature. Both Ed and I turned toward her to see what was going on.

For some reason, I turned back to where she had flushed from to see a covey of at least 15 ping-pong-ball-sized quail chicks, running every which way, frantic to find their mother. I then realized that she was faking her injury to get us to follow her and leave her babies be. I've seen this bizarre behavior before with killdeer but didn't realize quail performed the same act. Ed and I immediately moved away from the babies as the mama made her way across the drive and into the taller grass. She then began to call to her chicks, giving them very clear instructions to stay still until these silly humans moved on.

Thing 2: We evidently have a pair of pileated woodpeckers living in the woods behind our pond dam. Think Woody Woodpecker and you will know what we have seen. Both the male and female have a flaming red crest and both are large birds, about the size of a chicken or large crow. Twice now, we have seen them on the trunk of a small tree in our back yard, working their way up and around the truck, looking for something tastey to eat. They tend to mate for life and to stay on the same territory for the entire year. We have our fingers crossed that they are nesting and soon we will have a descent of red-heads making their home here.

Thing 3: When we returned from our week in Michigan I went upstairs to water plants and happened to look out the bath window, down on the orchard and cottage. There, parading around, were 22 wild turkeys. It looked like this rafter of turkeys included two large hens, about 10 teenagers, and 10 chicks. They made their way out of the tall grass and into the orchard then around the cottage to the garden, having a big time pecking at things on the ground. By the time I got back downstairs and grabbed my camera, the last one was slipping back into the woods behind the bee houses. I've seen them roost in a tree there, but never seen them walking around, so close to the house.

Ed and I are headed out now, to do some work in the fields. No telling what we might see. I think I'll take my camera...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cottage Living on Michigan's Torch Lake

Jack is home from China for exactly one month and one day, hardly enough time for me to get my Jack-fix for a whole year. So I was delighted when he said that he would come with Ed and me on an already planned trip to Torch Lake in northern Michigan.

Our friends, Bill and Judy, had offered to rent us a week at the cottage that they rent for the summer in Alden, MI. It was closer than Florida and closer than our favorite spots in Ontario, so we took them up on their offer and are glad we did.

Dock in front of the cottage, complete with plastic owl to scare away the sea gulls.
View from porch.
Their cottage sits right on the beach of what is billed as "the third most beautiful lake in the world." (That's what the bumper sticker says). We knew from the moment that we saw the gravel drive that we would like it.

Gravel drive
It's an old, but nicely restored, early 20th-century frame house that features four bedrooms plus a sleeping porch, big living room, a nice kitchen, dining area with a table for eight, and back porch – complete with rocking chairs. Just as we like it, we couldn't see another house through the forest of evergreen, maple and oak trees.

Dining area
Living room
We settled in and began a great week of reading, walking to the nearby town of Alden, swimming and kyaking in the lake, visiting nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, and enjoying our time with Jack.

Some highlights from our week:
  • Walking along the top of the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (and deciding NOT to run down them into Lake Michigan).
  • A crazy-good Italian dinner at Trattoria Stella, located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City.
  • A round of golf at the Centennial Farm Golf Course in Bellaire.
  • The smoked whitefish and whitefish sausage from The Bellaire Smokehouse.
  • Warm cinnamon rolls and quiche at Afterloon Delights in downtown Alden.
  • A father/son flyfishing float trip in Grayling with a guide from the Old AuSable Fly Shop.
  • Walking up to the Thursday evening Farmers' Market in Alden and buying yellow plums and black cherries, along with a bluebird house and an oriole feeder. 
  • Sitting on the back porch, listening to the lake lap up on the beach and Jack play his guitar, enjoying a rum and tonic.
  • And last, but not least, the homemade cherry pie, delivered to our back door by Ellen and Carl, our go-to Alden neighbors and Louisville friends. 

We head home today and Jack heads back to China next week. Nice to have this treasured time together.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Ed and I headed out to the front fields today to destroy any pigweek that we could find. We found enough to keep us busy for an hour or two, but I kept getting distracted by the wildflowers. Just look at this thornapple flower. So beautiful with its pinwheel shape.

While Ed hacked away at the pigweed with his mattock, I wandered around gathering flowers for some arrangements I was planning to make once we headed back in. The fields are full of sunflowers, elderberries, coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and queen anne's lace. So much to choose from....

Not a bad problem to have.

Anna and the Amazing Peach Pie

Summer cannot come and go without me baking Anna's Peach Pie at least once. The recipe comes from Anna Sullivan, who worked for our family for nearly 50 years. I've mentioned before that my mom was a wonderful homemaker, but not such a great housekeeper. She didn't need to be; she had Anna in her life.

Anna originally worked for my grandmother – cooking, cleaning, ironing and generally keeping up with my mother as a young girl. Once my parents were married, she starting coming to their house on Tuesdays and Fridays. I'm not sure what Anna thought of us, but I know for sure we all loved her dearly. She was such a quiet and kind presence in our home.

Once every summer, Anna would invite my sisters and me to her home for the day. Dad would drop us off early in the morning. Anna and her husband, Walter, would greet us from the front porch of their home on Jane Street in the Clifton neighborhood and welcome us in. Walter would get us settled on the living room floor and bring out a large glass jar of coins – hundreds of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, even an occasional half dollar – that he and Anna had saved since we were last there. Our job, while Anna was in the kitchen cooking up a storm, was to count the coins and put them into kraft-paper coin rolls.

Hours later, when the coins were counted and we had a grand total to report to Walter, Anna would call us to the dinner table. After blessing the food, Walter would pass around platters of fried chicken, green beans, and potatoes. We ate happily. When all that was left were the chicken bones, Anna would disappear back into her kitchen and then reappear with a straight-out-of-the-oven peach pie and a huge smile on her face. We smiled too. What a peach pie it was!

Only a few ingredients, but when made with summer peaches, there is nothing that beats it.


Anna Sullivan's Peach Pie

1 unbaked pie shell
4 or 5 large ripe peaches
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Peel peaches (dunk in boiling water for 30 seconds and skins will come right off). Slice peaches and arrange in an unbaked pie shell. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add flour, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Pour over the top of the peaches and bake at 300 degrees for 1-1/4 hours. Serve warm with ice cream.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Try it; You'll like it

Most of our mornings start with oatmeal. We alternate between my oats-based granola and Ed's slow-cooked steel cut oats. Yesterday, I read a kitchn blog post about Overnight Oats. It called for soaking equal parts uncooked oats and milk overnight, and in the morning, "you have a cool bowl of plump oats waiting in the fridge." I don't know about you, but it sounded kinda disgusting. The recipe also called for layering the cold oats with blackberry jam. That caught my attention as I had just yesterday picked half of a quart jar of wild blackberries.

So before I went to bed, I added a bit of sugar to the blackberries and, in a separate bowl, mixed together 2 cups of old-fashioned oats (uncooked) and a can of coconut milk.

This morning, with only a few minutes to fix breakfast before leaving for church, I stirred a spoonful of the sweetened blackberries into the cold oatmeal porridge. And then I tasted it, bracing for what I thought would taste like nothing more than cold gruel.

Instead, it was utterly delicious. The "gruel" tasted more like rice pudding or maybe tapioca – smooth and creamy, with just a hint of coconut. And the blackberries were just what it needed to take it from ordinary to extraordinary.

Ed bought a scone at the LaGrange Farmers Market and opted not to try the cold oatmeal. I suspect he too thought it sounded not so great. He just doesn't know what he is missing. Maybe tomorrow...

Friday, August 1, 2014

If I could grow only one vegetable...

What I grow in my garden is limited only by my organizational skills (or lack thereof), by my energy level (or lack thereof), and by my gardening knowledge (or lack thereof). This season, I have grown kale, tomatoes, okra, peppers, herbs, asparagus, strawberries, onions, garlic, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, peas, and potatoes. I can expand the list next year, or cull it, or change it all together.

But what if I could only grow one vegetable? What if I were limited – for some strange reason – to only one? Which would I chose?

Hands down, it would have to be potatoes. Not because I like them the most (I don't). Not because they store for months (they do). Not because I can use them in any number of recipes....

I'd pick them because they are a blast to dig up.

There is nothing like pulling back a few inches of straw and feeling around in the moist crumbly soil to find one, or two, or six round red or yellow potatoes. It is a total thrill. A bit like an Easter egg hunt – made even better when you have a couple of young helpers like I had last month when cousins Julia and Nathan came out to Farm Dover with their Grandma Glenda.

The potatoes we harvested that day have now cured on the back porch to toughen up their skins. 

I've packed them into a string market bag and hung them from a nail in our cool basement. We will enjoy them from now until the new year, and everytime I cook with them I'll remember the day that Julia and Nathan came to visit and the fun we had hunting for them.

Just so you know, the day wasn't all work and no play.