Friday, November 23, 2012

November not Quite Winter

Morning Autumn Mist
It is difficult to wholly appreciate the beauty of the fall season on the farm when I know that winter is snapping at autumn's heels and poised to beleaguer us with hard frosts, ice and eventually fathoms of snow for the next six months.   Two hard frosts in the beginning of October halted tomato canning and crippled harvest of the herb gardens, but we enjoyed the ephemeral but foudroyant sun and color until early November.    Halloween was celebrated with a candy hunt and ghost tour of Cooperstown.  Each family member received a poem which included clues as to where their candy stash was hidden.  After finding their treats, we headed to Cooperstown for a ghost tour of historic houses and graveyards.  A perfect Halloween.  I wrote the following poem for Susannah.  Using hints from the poem, she found her candy wrapped in a shroud in the bough of the willow tree.  A skull rested on a pillow of leaves. 
The Willow Ghost Maiden
A hundred years pass – still the story is told
Of a farmer’s hand – a lass not too old
Who wandered the path to the willow tree
Singing a tune, winsome and free
She paused by the shed and checked on the pigs
Stopped in the stable, unharnessed the rigs
Gave milk to the sows and counted the sheep
Fed out the hay and gave the lambs creep
Along the path she continued to walk
Avoiding the nest of the swooping hawk
The dark night rested cold and still
Except for moos on the pasture hill
Along the path she further ambled
Skirting the mud and thicket brambles
The moon rose high over a mountain sliver
The chill wind whipped – a sigh and shiver
The willow tree swayed and creaked in the flurry
She footed the path without any hurry
Where was she going and why in the dark?
Who was calling her, a ghost or a lark?
Forward she paced with the ghost tree in sight
Deep in the dark to the tree in the night
The calls of her name were urgent and wooing
Walking not knowing what she was pursuing
The owls hooted and the bats flew
The coyotes howled; her fear grew
The branches bent low and touched her cheek
The wind blew soft and seemed to speak
“Lass oh dear lass, I’ve waited long time
To sweep you up and make you mine.”
Her body was wrapped by branches twined
Tightly cocooned and firmly bind
Her screams were muffled by a paste of leaves
Her cries subsided to moans and heaves
Devoured by the willow
The trunk as her pillow
She slept – never again a sound to make
Forever cocooned and never to wake
On Halloween night the story is told
That the boughs of the tree briefly unfold
And the lass can be seen in her arbor cocoon
A ghostly shape swaying under the moon.
If you venture too close to the tree on Halloween night
You may witness the eerie maiden sight
But don’t tarry too long by the arms of the tree
Or there will be no time for you to turn and flee…..

Apples and Pears in Wooden Bowl
Because of a hard frost when the fruit trees were in efflorescence we did not have any apples or pears this autumn and did not make cider or applesauce.  All of our fruit came from the Niagara or Hudson Valley regions of New York.  

Dark comes at 4:45 p.m.  The fires are lit in the wood stove and the kitchen fireplace. The soup goes on the range and the bread comes out of the oven. My favorite recipe for potato and leek soup uses a bouquet garni made with the leek leaf, thyme, pepper corns and bay leaves.

Potato and Leek Soup
Makes 1 1/2 quarts soup, or about 6 servings .
1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 pound
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons snipped chives

Trim the green portions of the leek and, using 2 of the largest and longest leaves, make a bouquet garni by folding the 2 leaves around the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside.  Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the bacon. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the reserved bouquet garni, chicken stock, potatoes, salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart and the soup is very flavorful.  Remove the bouquet garni and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. (Alternately, if you own an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot.) Stir in the creme fraiche and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately, with some of the snipped chives sprinkled over the top of each bowl of soup.

Bouquet Garni
Food Oeuvre

Lambs at the Kitchen Window Door

Meat pub pies, hand pies, pate de campagne, chicken liver mousse pate and a plethora of other Fable’s Table goodies make it to the farmers market every Friday through Sunday.  Cider, apples, squash, onions and leeks are the centerpieces of autumn foods.  I was making shepherd’s pie one afternoon and discovered the lambs staring accusingly at me through the kitchen door window.   I was so unnerved by their persistent presence at the door that I shooed them away from the back yard. The lambs gamboled to the back pasture and I returned to chopping the lamb shoulder for the shepherd’s pies.

Mangalitsa Madness
The Hungarian pigs – Mangalitsas - farrowed this month.  The piglets, like their dams, are hairy but each one is decorated with unique stripes. As they grow, we notice that the females lose their stripes first.  The sows are very protective and we’ve learned to never touch a piglet when the sow is within biting range.  They are so cute it’s hard to resist.  The Tamworth/Berkshire crosses are less aggressive than the Mangalitsas but are just as feisty when food is in the offing.  They are extra exuberant when they spot us walking across the pasture with buckets of kitchen scrap.      

Mangalitsa and Tamworth Berkshire Sows with their Piglets

Mangalitsa piglet and Tamworth Berkshire Cross Piglet

Turkey Slaughter
With the help of amazing volunteer crews, most of whom were working for their turkey, we slaughtered 250 turkeys over two days.  We were fortunate to work in mild 50 degree weather.  When the sun starting going down, we worked fast and furiously.  By dark, the temperatures dropped so fast that the entrails and feathers were freezing to the work tables.  Customers came to the farm Tuesday and Wednesday for their turkeys.  Some years the turkeys are big so customers are gracious to take turkeys bigger than desired and reconciled to leftovers and turkey soup and turkey tacos.  This year the turkeys were smaller than usual so some customers were disappointed that there would be slim pickings in the leftover department.  Thank you to all our customers who accepted turkeys smaller than they wanted.   Hopefully they were small but tasty.    Next year we hope the turkey sizes will be “just right” .
The Round Up
The Catch
The Drain
The Kill

The Scald and Pluck
The Evisceration

The Evisceration

The Fine Tuning

The Finished Turkey

The Chill Tank

The Parts Chill Tank

The Guts
LGD Luke Patiently Waiting for the Turkey Heads

 Several words in the blog are from the New York Times' list of the 100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language.  Can you find them?

Hoping you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends.    When each of our family and friends recited for what they were thankful, Shane told us that he was thankful for the possibilities that God instilled in each us.  And he was thankful for the opportunity to accept and use the possibilities to be a good, productive and loving person. Wow. At 15 years old, where does he get this stuff?  So echoing Shane's sentiments - Let's raise our glasses in a toast to possibilities. 

Tom, Denise, Shane and Susannah