Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sharing the Load

It's official. We're now sharecroppers/land-sharers/what-have-you. Yesterday we walked the property for several hours with Jonathan, a young experienced organic farmer looking for somewhere to put down roots, literally. In exchange for the use of our land, he'll help out with grounds-keeping and property stuff 5 hours a week . 
We've actually had the idea to do this for some time, but the right moment hadn't really presented itself. Where we call home is situated on 12 acres, down a dirt road. While much of the property is made up of a wooded mountainside,  there is a 1 1/2 acre parcel that can be farmed.  Inspired recently by British chef/teacher/gardener/t.v. personality extraordinaire Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his campaign for landshare in the U.K., I posted an a.d. with a local agricultural non-profit and began the search for the perfect person. 
Here's the greenhouse Jonathan will be using in its current state. The previous owners ran an organic herb and edible flower farm out of here (in addition to another 2 greenhouses up closer to our home). 
He's planning on putting up new plastic sometime around the end of February and installing a pump in the creek running adjacent to the greenhouse. Tomatoes will be grown indoors and peppers will be grown in the field, in addition to other crops. 
I couldn't be more thrilled. With no money being exchanged, he gets a place to toil the soil while I have a real live farmer to direct all my questions about soil composition and irrigation and tomato hornworms at. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Heaven, I'm In Heaven

This box of citrus delights greeted me at the post office yesterday. Thanks to my Pop for mailing me the hefty package and thanks to my step-mom, Gail, for doing the picking. I usually pilfer with permission a whole mess of kumquats from my dad's neighbor's tree (got that?) in Florida when I visit during the holidays. I didn't make it down this year, though, and dad and Gail very, very generously complied with my request to send me some in exchange for a jar of something. That something, I've decided, will be kumquat marmalade, the recipe for which will also be featured in my book on Canning and Preserving, (shameless publicity alert!) due out in print March 2010. Last year, I candied the kumquats I picked off and topped a ricotta cheesecake with them. Delish!

P.S. My new favorite thing is/are the Groovaloos! Amazing! 

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Taste of Victory

I was doing some research on Victory Gardens for the Canning & Preserving book and came across this inspiring video. The before and after photos of the White House are so telling.

All Hope Is Not Lost!

This makes me laugh and cry at the same time; we'll call it "laurying." Weird, yes, but decidedly better than "craughing." Have a lovely weekend!
Yes, it's an ad. Yes, I still love it. To learn more about real flash mobs, check out this and this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Morning

The chickens weren't too sure about all this white stuff. They refused to move out from their patch of dirt. This is the first significant accumulation (don't laugh, Northerners!) we've had this season. It's at about 1/2 inch and still coming down. Perfect for holing up indoors by the wood stove, creating recipes, drinking hot beverages, and welcoming in the next president! 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frenemies & Pretzel Syndrome

Yes, I am an indulgent pet owner. Yes, I let my pets get on the couch, and the bed, and the chairs. Judge me if you want, but I say, life is better with pets in it, on it, over it, under it, etc.
Beth insists on sleeping in between Glenn and I every night. This gets a bit complicated because Dexter sleeps at the foot of the bed. They have a tentative peace between them, but sometimes Dexter tests the peace and it gets a little hairy (or is it furry?).
In order to accommodate my pets' needs, I squirm and curl up and contort into a pretzel and otherwise adjust my sleeping position to theirs. It gets really bad when Fly, who is supposed to sleep on the floor (she's an 80-pound German Shepard-I have my deal breakers), decides to join the slumber party. 
Last night was one of those nights. Fly didn't get in the bed, but she did decide she had to go out, on the coldest night of the season, at 5:20 a.m., and then bark ceaselessly at woodland creatures no doubt shivering and cursing at the cold, cold night. 
Who cares, though, right? I mean, when you're greeted with this degree of ridiculous cuteness in the morning, I say it's worth it, pretzel syndrome and all!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Secret Of My Sucess

Meet my friend, Neti. This little pot keeps me healthy and snot-free when everyone else around seems to have sniffles, coughs, and other mucus-related nastiness. For those of you unacquainted with the neti pot, it acts as a nasal wash, or lavage, bathing the sinus passages and rinsing them thoroughly. Neti pots have been used therapeutically for centuries. 
Every other day, or everyday if I feel I might have been exposed to a cold or flu, I fill 'er up with neti pot salt, an herbal wash, and warm water and pour it in, alternating nostrils. I won't lie-it isn't always a pleasant experience. You know when you're in a swimming pool or the ocean and you accidentally get water up your nose and it feels like the top of your head is going to burn off? Yep, that's what the neti pot can bring. Not always, mind you, but the possibility for a quick burn does exist. I say it's worth it, though. I'll take a few minutes of firey brain over a lingering cold any day. 
My other cold and flu-fighting secret is a warm tea, fueled with fresh ginger slices, abundant lemon juice, a healthy dose of honey (local is best), and a generous sprinkling of cayenne. Stir the whole thing up in a big mug or teapot, allow to steep for about 10 minutes, then bottoms up. If you're really concerned you might be getting something, mince a clove or two of fresh garlic and add it to the tea. For those of you opting to go the garlic route, I'd suggest straining off the liquid through a fine mesh sieve before use. I promise you, this stuff is liquid gold. I've been cold and flu-free (stomach flu notwithstanding) for years now, thanks to this protocol (and yes, I'm knocking on my wooden dining room table so that it remains that way!).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Good Times

Apropos of nothing, I came across some black and white photos from my honeymoon and decided, on this rainy afternoon, to share them with you and take a brief pause from writing about how not to kill yourself whilst using a pressure canner. 
Inside the Coliseum, in Rome. 
At Parc de la Vilette, in the suburbs of Paris. 
A Japanese garden in Monaco. 
In an exotic cactus garden, high above Monaco. 
Outside the famous gelateria Giolotti, where Gregory Peck took Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday." 

Yuletide Feast

Owing to the fact that I'm the type of person that doesn't like doing things I don't understand the significance of (um, panty hose? wha?), I opted to explore some of the ethnobotanical elements associated with this time of year a bit more closely. What better way to showcase and share my new found knowledge, I decided, than by throwing a swanky cocktail party? Guests were encouraged to don their finest party frocks and join Glenn and I this past Friday at our home for libations, feasting, and camaraderie. It was truly wonderful. 
We ate:
-Cremini mushrooms stuffed with blue cheese and herbs
-Phyllo pastry cups filled with leek, potato, apple and rosemary
-Smoked local Gouda and chevre topped with pecans & cranberries
-Roasted salted figs  
 -Spiced, herbed pecans
-Black-eyed pea and dandelion green cakes with homemade aioli
-Sugarplum balls of dried apricot, figs, and dates with orange peel, 
Cointreau, and spices
-Pine nut and anise seed cookies
-Homemade buche de noel (Yule log) with meringue mushrooms
We drank:
-Eggnog martinis
-Tawny Orange Marmalade Sours with Hendrick's Gin
-Sparkling Rose (that's wine, not the flower), pomegranate and 
Absinthe punch
We smelled:
-Juniper candles
-Juniper & Douglas Fir incense
Guests received:
-Homemade bitters, either basil or orange
-9 Herb sachet blends, representing the connection between the soil
beneath our feet, the ground we stand on, and the heavens above
We saw:
-Wild-harvested decorations, lovingly gathered and curated by my 
dearest of friends, Jen and Jon (love you nogito and negita!!)
It was amazing and precious and delicious and I'm looking forward to doing something similar for each season from now on!