Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August Daze

Vacation in a Melon

The many visitors who visit the farm on vacation ask us when and where we vacation. If I am in a surly mood, I answer, “Vacation! What’s that?” We take our vacation in moments – increments of minutes or hours or if we are lucky, half days. My favorite get away spot is the hammock. I can grab 15 minutes and swing with eyes wide open taking in the canopy of trees overhead. The second best vacation spot is the patio at sunset. We dine at the patio table and sit with a glass of wine in hand listening to the farm quieting with the evening and admiring the sun setting as the night cold caresses our shoulders. When there is just enough light left to see, the vacation ends and we close the turkeys and the chickens in their night pens for the evening and head off to milk the goats. It is fun to hide away as an overnight guest in our farm bed and breakfast. But unlike our guests, we have to cook our own breakfast. We often sneak off to Pine Lake for a quick swim or we take half day trips Cherry Valley to pick up piglets. The most sociable vacation spot is the Wednesday Delhi farmers market. Seth Heller and his lovely daughter Laura sell me fruit and vegetables for Fable to supplement what I have growing in my kitchen gardens. The melon I bought this week was the sweetest and shortest vacation. In one bite of sunny summer sweetness, with juice dripping down my chin, I experience every vacation moment of the summer.

Kitchen Garden Jungle

The vegetables were ready to harvest two to three weeks earlier this year because of the long bouts of sunshine and dousing of summer rains. The garden was so overgrown that the weeds are towering over the zucchini plants but not as high as the sunchokes. I was so embarrassed of the jungle condition of my garden that I spent the day in the drumming rain picking and weeding. The garden looks disheveled as if it needs manicuring but at least it is tamed. The huge zucchinis rivaled in size the baseball bats sold in Cooperstown. The Asian cucumbers were wrapped around themselves creating cucumber sculptures. The cauliflowers seeded, the cabbages were bigger than globes. I dug the overgrown beets, lobbed off the cauliflower and cabbage and wrangled the zucchini bats from the plants and fed it all to the pigs. The pigs devoured the beets, chomped a few bites out of the cabbage, nibbled on the zucchini but stomped on without eating the cauliflower. Next year I will plant a separate beet garden for the pigs.

Pardon my Boys

Three Highland calves were born this week, one girl and two boys. Their shaggy coats and big heads remind me of Ewoks. The moms stow them in the tall grass or under a tree and wander off to graze. I surprised them in the tall grass and two calves jumped up and turned their butts on me but peeked around to see if I was approaching. The new mom, who is used to mingling with us, turned to me as if to apologize for their unsociable behavior. One more calf is expected this week.

In a Pig’s Eye

The new piglets are sequestered in the horse barn for a few weeks while we prepare a fenced area that will keep their curiosity from leading them through fences and into the road. Most of them are males so we will be castrating next week. If we wait too long, the chore is more of a wrestling match that includes kicking and biting (the pigs kicking and biting us!) in addition to twisting, squealing and squirming. You don’t want to drop a pig on its head when Tom has a scalpel in his hand.

Scrambled and Upside Down Eggs

The hen laying wagon has to be moved by the tractor at dusk when the hens are sleepy eyed and roosting. We hook the tractor up to the wagon and pull it yards and sometimes miles. Can you imagine the hens’ surprise when they wake up to a different landscape? Last night we attempted to move the wagon uphill but it tilted precariously and rolled off the wagon frame and down the hill. The hens were rudely woken, rustled their feathers and roosted on the ceiling. By morning, all the uncollected eggs were scrambled and the hens were figuring out how to lay their eggs upside down in the laying cubbies. The wagon was uprighted by mid morning. There is little damage to the house and no hen injuries.  Another fix it before winter task is now added to the list.

Turkey Talk

The broad breasted bronzes grow slower than the traditional whites. The whites have graduated from the brooder boxes to the grazing fields and are taking up residence with the ducks. The bronzes have to grow a little bigger before they are ready for the big world of pastures, fencing and colder night temperatures. A cold hard rain with gusty winds swept through the pasture. The bronze was cold and wet. After a quick once over with the hairdryer and couple of hours in a box in the kitchen, it was ready to join the flock.

Magic Nectarines

The fruit from Pennsylvania and New York’s Hudson and Schoharie Valleys is super juicy and sweet this year. The raspberries bore fruit for weeks and we canned and put jam in the cupboards for winter. The never ending blueberries are still being picked. We’ve made blueberry pie, jam, ice cream and muffins. If we are lucky, we will have blueberries through September. This week I am trying to work magic on a crate of nectarines.

Nectarine Preserves
2 to 2 ½ lbs nectarines, pitted and sliced
2 cups sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1. In a deep, nonreactive bowl, toss together the nectarines and sugar. Cover and chill eight hours or overnight.
2. Have ready, hot, sterilized jars and lids. Drain the nectarines through a colander set over a large pot. Set aside the fruit, and bring the syrup to a boil over medium heat. Add nectarines and lemon juice, raise heat and cook, occasionally stirring gently until the fruit has softened, but still retains its shape, about 10 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, divide the hot nectarines between jars. Ladle the syrup over the nectarines, leaving ¼ inch head space. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims clean and seal. Process jars for ten minutes in a boiling water bath, cool and test the seals. Or simply cool the jam, ladle it into jars and store in the refrigerator for up to one month

August Menus at Fable

The menus for the next two weeks were designed to use the herbs and vegetables that grown in abundance in the kitchen gardens.

August 21, 2010
Amuse:  lemon basil arugula tomato bruschetta
Starter: cauliflower soup with brown butter croutons
Main: ricotta and herb stuffed chicken, garlic roasted potatoes
After: baby greens with herb pear dressing
Dessert: blueberry pear tart with honey whipped cream

August 28, 2010
Amuse: baby blue cheese toast with honey port glaze
Starter: roasted tomato carrot soup with basil
Main: london broil with horseradish cream, caramelized shallots and roasted garlic potatoes
After: baby greens with pear vinaigrette
Dessert: plum and blueberry upside down torte