Thursday, October 28, 2010

Farmshare Update + Miscellany

Dogtor Sr., aka OPA, fetched the farmshare from Clearbrook today. It's a good thing he did, because when I picked Fray up from daycare she was covered in head-to-toe hives, and we bee-lined for the pediatrician's office. (Turns out Wump is allergic to amoxycillin. Fun.)

We arrived home from the doc's to find a gorgeous array of vegetables: turnips, beets, collards, lettuce, carrots, super fat leeks, two kinds of raspberries, shallots, eggs, bread, goat cheese, purple potatoes, and a new loaf of bread.

I made open-faced sandwiches with herbed goat cheese, caramelized shallots, and freshly chopped beets. Yum.

The problem - no one was around to eat them. OPA was visiting friends. The Dogtor was clocking a late night at the office, unblocking a cat, sending messages about how he'd just eat mac n' cheese.

I think not.

Eggs and more eggs in our future. And potato leek soup. And I must train the new one-eyed cat not to jump on the counters while we're cooking and eating. Or ever, for that matter. He protests and pretends not to understand. I've had to remind him that the whole woe-is-me-I'm-a-one-eyed-cat routine will only work for so long.


As an aside, I'm battling a cold and am still traumatized - seriously - from flying solo with Frasier to Raleigh last weekend. Am I Vermont-bound until she outgrows tantrums? My sanity says yes.


Outside, the beagle howls to another beagle. Or a coyote. Let's hope neighboring beagle.


Dogtor, coming in from outside, confirms: coyotes. Close ones.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Once Upon a Reading

I was asked to join a reading at Newtonville Books in Newton, MA to help promote the New Stories From the South anthology. I was so pleased to be asked. Like, really pleased. Like, dancing around my house pleased. How often does one get to read with Amy Hempel and Bret Anthony Johnston?

Not often.

Of course, the night before I was supposed to go, Fray was diagnosed with a double ear infection and roseola (measles-ish thing.)

It was one of those Dark Mom Moments where you find yourself hogtied in a gray area. Before Fray's nap, I had resolved to cancel my appearance. After her nap, a happier girl appeared (thank you, antibiotics). Still, the Dogtor had to push me out of the door.

But to Newton I went.

So here's the thing - alone time in the car is kind of novel, which resulted in three and a half hours of bad power-singing - Whitney Houston to Wham! to Rage Against the Machine to Journey and onward. And then I pulled up at the reading, wondering what would happen when I opened my mouth to read. Would anything come out? Would I have a voice?

I did. Phew.

Newtonville Books is a super charming independent bookstore - equal parts smart and darling. The owners were beyond kind and fun. The audience was warm. My fellow readers were excellent. AND - I was asked to sign the back wall of the store - like I was a real writer or something! GASP.

I signed in the most discrete place I could find, down near the electrical sockets, lest anyone accuse me of getting full of myself.

Three plus hours of driving later, I was back in Vermont around midnight, and ready to squeeze a much healthier Fray in the morning.

More Ploughshares Essays

For those of you keeping up, here are some links to some of my recent weekly Ploughshares essays:
I remind myself to zero in on conflict. I chide myself for not finishing a difficult book. I opine on why you can't reliably set a Southern story on an antebellum front porch. I openly covet marked-up books - the older, the better.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Surviving Your Farmshare...and Liking It

Anyone who has ever had a farmshare knows what I mean. You arrive home with bags full of incredible produce. You feel good about yourself. You are going to feed your family with pesticide-free, non-GMO food. You're supporting the community farm. And suddenly, looking at the obscure root vegetables, radishes, and Very Healthy Vat of Yogurt you wonder: how the hell am I going to use this up?

Because wasting food would totally squash all those self-righteous warm fuzzies.

You get on Epicurious. You ask friends what they do with Swiss Chard, because you just can't imagine eating it one more time the way you fix it. You make a weird casserole and egg salad with the ridiculous surplus of eggs you now have in your life (the girls are giving us 2 a day in addition to our farmshare dozen!).

And somehow there is still a head of romanesco 24 hours from bad in the bottom drawer of your fridge, two peppers, four onions...and pick-up for the next week's share is a day away.

Here are some suggestions:

1 - Everything tastes good in quiche. I always sautee miscellaneous greens (I'm talking to you, Swiss Chard and Kale), onions, and leftover veggies and dump them into a ready-made crust with good cheese. I make two at a time, and they inevitably get eaten.

2 - Soup. I recently made a tofu-noodle soup - no recipe, just Megan muppet-chef cooking - with all sorts of refrigerator and pantry miscellany. Red peppers, onions, Swiss Chard (ubiquitous!), mushrooms, tofu, stock, half a box of orzo, carrots, garlic, etc.

3 - Make absurd, adventurous, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salads.

4 - Look for the farmer's recipes. Our farm, Clearbrook, sends out weekly emails with suggestions for how to use the produce. Pictured above: roasted carrots and fennel with Parmesan. It was simple and delicious, and the farm's suggestion. Roasted fennel is high on my favorite-roasted-things list.

5 - Try different seasonings. My default for everything is garlic and more garlic. But it's good to do some curry one night, smoked paprika another - or all the vegetable dishes start to taste the same, and enthusiasm wanes.

6 - Double or triple recipes and freeze what doesn't get eaten. A good tactic for soups.

7 - When in doubt, blanch and freeze.

Let me be honest - I still fail, and lettuce goes bad. But each year I'm getting craftier with kale.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Portraits

The Dogtor took some fall portraits while out and about in the yard last weekend. Fray can now sport pigtails AND her fall/winter clothes, which are too big for her today - but soon....

Don't you love the way gravity works on those cheeks?

Also pictured:
  • Captain Nemo, our first dog, he of unknown age and sweet disposition
  • Greta, our first cat, and the reason I'm a crazy cat lady. She's so damn mean that every cat I've meant since seems phenomenal. And I love her anyway, even when she's off her meds and growling at herself in a dark corner.
  • Pippa. Energizer corgi. Herds babies, chickens, goats, old horses, adults, and other dogs.
Our first winter storm is expected to bear down this weekend. This is when running gets interesting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Apples to Cider

A week ago, we picked all the apples worth picking in the backyard. After climbing the gnarled trees and squeezing underneath the branches, we emerged a little scraped, but fairly happy with our harvest (though it was small).

Yesterday, the Dogtor picked more apples from an orchard near a friend's house, and soon we had multiple couples out by the barn, churning the press. Babies of all ages were everywhere, as were dogs and cats. The goats and horse fared well, too - each received a good share of bad apples.

Apples included in the cider: McIntosh, McGowan (Macoun), Empire, Granny Smith, and, thanks to our friends, the Northern Spy.

Sadly, our cider yield was low compared to years before. Each half gallon is that much more precious....although we have one more enthusiastic cider drinker among us than we used to (Fray-monster loves the stuff. More a-ppuhl!)

We remain grateful for the free labor - cranking that press is tough!

Breakfast at the Mayhew-Bergman's

I took this video the other week. It was one of the first cool mornings. The Dogtor was making pancakes; I was folding laundry. A handful (not all, mind you) of our animals were inside. Looking around, I was struck by what a strange pack we are.

It may get a little crowded in the kitchen...but boy do we have a good baby clean-up team.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Your Moment of Fray-Zen

Swinging in the backyard on a perfect Vermont fall day.

As you can tell, Fray is serious about her swinging.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The First Egg

One of the ladies in Miss Sophonsiba's School for Wicked Chicks (and there are only 3 ladies) deposited her FIRST EGG in the coop!

It was certainly one of the big old friendly barred rocks. I'm putting money on Sssudio.

The Dogtor is building some nesting boxes as we speak, and soon we'll rig the heat lamp so that the ladies can be toasty and productive.

(apologies for the blurry cell phone photo.)