Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eating pie; dancing in the rain

Two quintessential summertime activities happened at Farm Dover yesterday – one planned; the other happened spontaneously when a rain cloud let loose in the back yard.

It all started with the arrival of our cousins and their grandmother, a tradition now in its fourth year. Nathan – almost 11, Julia – almost 7, and Frances – 4, were put to work immediately. They harvested (and tasted straight from the garden) nasturtium blossoms and leaves, carrots, beets, shallots, green beans, squash, zucchini, potatoes, chard, blackberries, raspberries and okra. Once their buckets were filled, they switched out of straw hats and into aprons. Nathan was in charge of the sharp knife and chopping; the girls each artfully arranged the vegetables on pizza crusts. While the pizzas cooked, we stuffed squash blossoms with herbs and ricotta and fried them up for appetizers.

Nathan and Julia's dad (cousin Jonathan) and girlfriend Becky joined us for lunch. Just as we finished eating, the rain started coming down, a rainbow appeared, and the kids disappeared to change into their bathing suits and then ran out to dance in the rain: quintessential activity #1.

They followed up their rain dance with an ice-bucket challenge: each child, one by one, drenched with a bucket full of ice water. After which, they wrapped themselves in oversized beach towels and gathered on the back porch for quintessential activity #2: enjoying a slice of Anna's peach pie and a scoop of ice cream.

Before the afternoon ended, they played pool and ping pong and hiked our two trails through the woods, stopping along the way to pick wild blackberries and climb a tree.

While here, they reminisced about previous visits (2013, 2014 and 2015). I hope they add to their memories the afternoon they danced in the summer rain and ate pie on the back porch at Farm Dover. I know I'll remember it fondly always.

Already looking forward to next year....

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Garden

Most mornings as the sun comes up you can find me out in my garden in my robe and house slippers. I can't wait to see what's happened overnight – can't even take the time to step into my overalls.

On Tuesday I was greeted by a big, fat mama racoon who was trying to hide under the pumpkin patch. I spoke harshly to her, asking her in no uncertain terms to leave the garden. She looked at me, but refused to leave. I had an empty wooden harvest basket in my arms and without thinking, I flung it at her. (Don't worry, I missed.) She reluctantly walked to the end of the garden and clambered over the small chicken-wire fence. She then sat just on the other side and looked back at me, rather woefully. And then I figured out why. A baby raccoon peeked out from underneath the pumpkin vines and made its way to the end of the garden, but couldn't figure out how to get over the fence. Finally, it figured out that it could climb up a hill of mulch that Ed had dumped just inside the fence and from there, it could jump over the fence and be free to join its mama. Once reunited, they made their way into the woods behind the beehives.

Most mornings there are a number of small bunnies inside the garden. I intend to fence the garden next spring with something more impenetrable than foot-high chicken wire. In the meantime, I just share. There is plenty to go around. Come along, I'll show you what growing like crazy.

Cinderella pumpkins appear to double in size overnight.
Volunteer sunflowers popped up in the middle of my garden and stretch skyward.

More squash and zucchini than we can possible eat or give away.
I've been stuffing the blossoms with ricotta and herbs and frying them up -- just like we had in Italy last year. 
A second round of raspberry showed up this week. The cultivated blackberries also produced handfuls of berries.

Cucumbers and more cucumbers. Thinking of making bread-and-butter pickles next week.
Butternut squash vines have invaded my tomato plants -- which got a late start this year. 
Green beans ready for picking.
Basil gone wild.
It's called rainbow chard for a reason.
First time trying to grow shallots.
Harvested three kinds of beets this week. Pickled them last night in red wine vinegar.
Maggie gave me a fig tree for my birthday!
Our pear trees finally have some fruit this year.
Maybe I should start a farm stand at the end of our drive.


I'll  leave you with these garden jokes:

What did the lettuce say to the celery? Quit stalking me.

Why shouldn't you tell secrets in a cornfield? Too many ears.

What vegetable did Noah leave off the ark? Leeks.

What is green and goes to summer camp? A brussels scout.

How did the farmer fix his overalls? With a vegetable patch.

Why did the potatoes argue? Because they couldn't see eye to eye.

And lastly:
When do you know a snail is lying? When he tells you he's not at home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Enough to Share

We're having a banner blackberry year here at Farm Dover. A perfect confluence of rain and sun have produced more wild blackberries than Ed and I are able to pick. I'm talking millions of berries. A friend asked how we were able to keep the birds from eating them all and I replied that there is more than enough to share -- with birds, bees, bunnies and deer. And with friends too.

Our best picking happens when we head out early. The sun is still low on the horizon; the berries glisten with dew; and the birds seem oblivious to us. We make our way over the dam and head down the trail. Sometimes we pick along the edges but most often we head into the meadow where the grasses and wildflowers are taller than our heads.

It's quiet work. Ed and I go into the field together, but soon separate -- each of us seeking out a patch that tempts us with an overload of plump berries. I've learned to wear a glove on my left hand, allowing me to move the thorny stems out of the way and then pick with the right ungloved one.

It's not exactly mindless work. My eyes are always darting to the next bunch of ripe orbs. I keep picking, moving slowly around the patch. Too many big, beautiful berries to pick all from the same spot.

It's not exactly bucolic bliss. There are thorns, chiggers, ticks and Japanese beetles to battle. I think garter snakes like to rest up in the brambles, but I've not seen any this season. My hands and wrists are punctured and scraped. My nails are purpley-black. The sun can be broiling and the humidity unmerciful. Oh!, did I just discourage you from joining me?

But it is satisfying work. One by one I drop the sweet berries into my wooden bucket or plomp them into my mouth. The minutes go by, the bucket fills up.  One of us calls out to the other to see how we are doing and if we are ready to head in with our heaps of sweetnesses. An hour into the outing, we make our way back out to the path and head toward home.

We could pick a lot longer but then I'd have to figure out what to do with all the berries. I'd rather leave some for another time or another creature.

Once back in my kitchen, I spread the berries on baking sheets and pop them into the basement freezer for an hour or two. Once frozen, I pack gallon Baggies full of the berries, press out any excess air, and seal them up for use in the winter months to make blackberry crisp, muffins,  or smoothies. The ones I don't freeze, I turn into jam, put atop my granola, or eat fresh by the handful.

I'm headed to Louisville tomorrow and will pack up cartons of berries to share with friends...because, there's enough to share.

Friday, July 1, 2016

My favorite lunch

Ed had to go to town today for a meeting, so I puttered around in the garden and house. Before he left, he helped me dig up one row of garlic. It really is a two-person job. He digs, I pull.

At 1 p.m. I realized that I should figure out what we were going to eat for lunch. I found a jar of dried pasta in the pantry, put some water on to boil, and then headed out to the garden with basket in hand.

  • I dug up two carrots. 
  • Untangled two cucumbers from the climbing vine.
  • Snipped off two tiny zuchinni and four tiny patty pan squash.
  • Harvested the first of the cherry tomatoes.
  • Pried one shallot from the earth.
  • Gathered a handful of basil, dill and parsley.
Came back in and dumped the pasta into the salted boiling water. Mixed together some white wine vinegar, olive oil, a bit of honey and some salt and pepper. And then began chopping my way through my harvest. 

Ten minutes later, the pasta was al dente. I found a few crumbles of feta cheese in the fridge and added them to a bit of the pasta water to make a sauce. I divided the pasta between our two bowls. Then added the chopped vegetables and poured the vinaigrette on top. 

Voila. Lunch was ready just as Ed pulled back in the drive.