Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saving Our Barn


Marian & I have been farming, creating really, our beautiful farm since 1981. We were full of youthful energy when we started.... nothing was impossible. We took a 4 acre hay piece and turned it into a fertile and really productive vegetable garden.






Very slowly restored a crumbling 1780's farmhouse.



Built the first small scale cheese house in the state, and added a cave.





And though we've made minor improvements to the barn, the older north end of it, the part that includes the hay mow has been in dire need of savings for quite a while. It was built in the later part of the 19th century very little has been done to it. And, since it is at the bottom of a hill, decades of rain have washed sand and stone from under the cement, leaving, well, leaving a structural mess. We've known we needed to do something, but were really hesitant to undertake such a large project.

It was with the thought of saving our barn that we started thinking about the fragility of barns, and also farms themselves. We are nearing retirement, and wanted to ensure our beautiful farm would remain a farm forever. This past year we conserved our farm through the Vermont Land Trust, and we were not only able to undertake the barn project but make sure future generations are able to farm here too.

Here are some pictures of the barn work underway:

The Barn, pre work

demolition under way





using a pumper truck to get the cement to the far side






stabilizing barn so old foundation can be removed
cement for new floors

It took a while, but now that it's done, we have a truly wonderful, usable space. The happy cows refer to the new area as the Orb Weaver Ritz









Happy Cows at rest

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May, A Changeable Season

It's 42º and rainy today. A stiff north wind is whipping all the new leaves, flowers and even the birds around. And the cows are hunkered by the barn. It's the end of May.

Truth be told, I love it. After keeping track of the weather since 1976, I know that, in fact, the sun will come out. Maybe not tomorrow, but probably Monday. And it will get warm, even hot. So hot that when sitting in the shade of the tree, the hot wind will feel like a furnace.

The weather is always like this in an up and down sort of way. Just last week we were wondering when 'they' would say that we are officially in a drought. After a relatively dry winter, and then all those brilliant blue skies,we were starting to wonder if the weather pattern would ever shift.
Wanting to harden off the greenhouse plants, we took over 150 flats of veggies out of the greenhouse  Setting up the outdoor tables, we put the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, artichokes and flowers in order for their planting in the garden, which, we felt certain we would be soon.

The next day, with the threat of heavy rains and hail, back they all went into the greenhouse to weather out the storm.




And there they sit, waiting for some drier and warmer temperatures.

The spring has really been rather spectacular. After a great bloom, the apricot tree is loaded with apricots.
And the flower gardens have never been more beautiful

So, after a wonderful winter of milking and taking care of the cows

After a winter of making cheese, and having some wonderful visitors come and watch the magic, 
we stand ready to embrace the summer. With all of it's ups and downs. The cold and the hot. The dry and the wet. And for everything in between!









Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Into The Barn We Go

You'd think that after farming for over 30 years I'd be used to the changing of the seasons. In spring it all begins with a hint of things to come... the swell of the earth as the new and tender shoots poke their heads up, the smell of the sweet loam as the soil is turned for the pea and spinach seeds, the first  lettuce plants to be transplanted into the garden. Although there are fewer dramatic changes during the winter months, there is still a slow unfolding of the new season, the cobwebbing of the barn, the first cow to freshen, the first milk.

But as every season moves on, there is that sharp glint of memory along with transition  The first call of the red winged black birds announcing their return. Then the cacophony of all the birds, the spring peepers, the frogs in the pond. The buds, the flowers, the fruits, the leaves. Most birds are gone. The Goldfinches, Nuthatches, Jays, Cardinals and Chickadees remain along with some Evening Grosbeaks who stop by for a quick bite to eat before heading out.

Our evening salads chart the course of the season, from the first tender salad of greens picked in the greenhouse, to the heartier lettuces grown in the garden mixed with spinach, next comes the cherry tomatoes, then big beautiful heirloom tomatoes along with red peppers and cucumber, and then back to head lettuce. Last night's salad was lettuce, with the very last cucumber and red pepper of the season along with just harvested shredded  carrots, truly a lagging indicator of what's to come, when our salads will be only red cabbage and carrots.

last night's salad


Now the carrots have all been harvested and only the covered chard remains in the garden.

And though the seasons spin on by, I look forward to each new step of the year.
There isn't sadness, but the eager anticipation of what comes next. I love how as the days shorten and grow cold, we turn to our indoor life. A life where instead of seeing the cows every 2 days when we change their pastures to a life where we see them every day, twice a day for milking. The warm sweet smells of the barn. The reassuring aroma of fresh milk.

And this is where I find myself today. Ozzie was the first cow to 'freshen' with a bull calf this past Sunday. Yoyo will be next, followed by Pookah. The milk room has been cleaned, the milking equipment is all tuned up for our winter season. The barn has been cobwebbed, the gutter cleaner greased. Into the barn and the cheeseroom I go.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Really Special Creamed Corn

While corn on the cob is special in itself, taking it off the cob and creaming it really elevates it to a delicacy. Quick, while there is still fresh corn available, make some of this fast & delicious creamed corn. The touch of lime makes it really special.

Here's the recipe:
6 ears fresh corn grown by your favorite farmer
2 tablespoons butter
1 lime
salt to taste
pinch of cayenne
1/2-3/4 cups cream

scrape kernels off the cob into a bowl to catch the kernels and the 'milk' on the cob
zest the lime using a microplane or a zester
cut lime in half


In a saucepan, melt butter and add corn kernels, salt to taste, along with any of the corn 'milk'. Squeeze 1/2 the lime into the butter corn mixture and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 10 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup cream, the lime zest and the cayenne.


Cook another 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.


served here with meatloaf, zucchini sautéed with shallots, and a fresh tomato cucumber salad
YUM!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Height Of Summer


Because the weather has been so hot and dry, the quality of the tomatoes this year is superb. All the delicious subtleties of intense tomato taste shine through.  Every meal becomes an ode to the tomato. Cubed in a salad they are like little jewels of sublime taste, slow roasted in the oven they become a quick and incredibly satisfying sauce over pasta. This summer I realized that missing from our tomato repertoire was a chilled tomato soup. I wanted an easy to make recipe that  reflected the sumptuousness of the season. As usual, Cook's Illustrated came to the rescue.  Here is a tomato soup that hits all the buttons, no dairy products keeps it light so the taste is pure tomato, and because it's blended and then put through a sieve, the texture is as smooth as silk

Here's the recipe:


CHILLED TOMATO SOUP

2 pounds field grown vine ripened tomatoes
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons tomato paste
 pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds pepper
1/4 cup good quality fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 375°
Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet

Cut 1 pound or tomatoes in half horizontally , and arrange cut side up on the baking sheet
Add sliced shallots and garlic to one side of sheet
Roast 20 minutes, and remove shallots and garlic to a small bowl
Return tray to oven, and continue roasting 10 more minutes, until tomatoes have softened.
Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining pound of tomatoes into chunks. Add to blender along with roasted tomatoes, the shallot, garlic, salt, cayenne and pepper.



 Blend for 30 seconds, or until blended. With blender running, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream.



The soup will become creamy and light in color. Set a sieve over a deep bowl, pour the soup into the sieve, and with a wooden spoon or spatula press the soup through, leaving the solids behind ( don't skip this step, it what makes the soup so exquisite)


Add the sherry vinegar. Mix, and let chill. 


ENJOY!!!






Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes are probably our favorite crop. First of all, a tomato grown out of doors ( not in a greenhouse) tastes like a tomato should. Bright and juicy, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Secondly, it's also a thing of great beauty. From planting, to weaving or trellising it resembles a beautiful dance... there are certain rules we adhere to, but there are always variations to the method.
Here are the first steps in our tomato dance of 2012: 

First the ground is prepared by tilling, then the rows are marked 

To insure straight rows, a string is run between the rows before the tomatoes are set out

Plum and round tomates are 'determinates"and green metal posts are put between every 2 plants

Mulch is added between plants and the aisles

8 foot posts are put in between every 4 indeterminate cherry
tomato plants 
for trellising
A wire is strung across the tops of the posts, and 2 strings are
 attached to each tomato  plant



As the cherry tomatoes grow we train them to grow up the strings
 by twirling them around the twine weekly until they reach the wire 


The shorter tomatoes are 'woven' 5 times throughout the season



As the season progresses I'll be sure to post more pictures. The beautiful rains of yesterday and today have been quite the boon for growth. Stay tuned!