Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coming Back Down to Herb

I've been running around so much lately, up to my eyeballs in work -- not complaining, you know I love my work, but it's been hectic as I try to squeeze in a bit of everything before the winter comes.

I'm doing a little better at getting myself organized for the week and staying on track, and gradually I'm learning to relax a little more as I go through the work week. What gets done, gets done, and what doesn't, well, it can wait a little.

As the weather cools off a bit, I'm -- yes, indeed -- learning to chill out a little more myself.

That means it's time to enjoy some herbal tea a little more often than coffee, and since fall has arrived, it's time to work on my fall and winter herbal blends to sell at Local Roots. The summertime blends, arriving late as they did, sold reasonably well, so I hope that the fall and winter selection will win a few fans, too.

For these blends, I chose to incorporate and combine assorted herbs for their medicinal properties as well as their flavors. Of course, I'm not allowed to make any kinds of medical claims on the labels, but I've tried to hint at them in the descriptions. So many of the traditional uses of herbs are just common sense: chamomile eases tension, peppermint settles an upset stomach, nettle strengthens the blood, and so on. Can I help it if they taste delicious, too?

I'd love to spend more time developing a medicinal herb garden (even more extensive than the one suggested by Susan Wittig Albert), perhaps along the lines of Sharon Astyk's, but it's not in the cards right now. Still, I can find herbs in my own gardens and at friends' places and explore the properties and flavors of these wonderful plants.

In the meantime, I've developed four new blends for the cooler weather and held a contest for naming the first, which ended up giving me winning suggestions for all of them. I hope to get the blends made in bulk and packaged later this week to have on my shelf by the weekend, but if it ends up being next week before I have any for sale, so be it.

The point is to relax, and to enjoy.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Independence Days #63

I'm still working half the week at the farm and scrambling the rest of the week to bake enough to fill my shelves at the market, so blogging will continue to be slow. But heaven knows there's a lot going on around here!

1. Plant something: Planted lettuce, kohlrabi, pac choi and started seeds for lettuce, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, and pac choi at the OEFFA Male's farm.

2. Harvest something: Tomatoes, LOTS of basil, chard at the fabulous Jen's; peppermint at the Renaissance Man's; more basil at the Southern Belle's garden; many market crops at the OEFFA Male's farm.

3. Preserve something: Dried pears, rosemary, peppermint, tomatoes; froze basil pesto, cider; canned pizza sauce.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Took many more "seconds" off the OEFFA Male's hands (many of which were used in weekly baking or put up for winter); otherwise, cleaned a few rotting vegetables out of the fridge -- not pretty.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Stocked up on maple syrup from Friends; bought more cheese (bulk from Lucky Penny, discounted from Canal Junction -- these folks are great!) and butter for baking; collected more storage containers; started this year's potato storage.

6. Build local food systems: Swapped leftover market bread for herbs; worked at the OEFFA Male's farm over 20 hrs/week; baked for market; publicized upcoming book signings and Eat Local Challenge Week at Local Roots; shared cinnamon pecan bread for a demo at the market; bought four gallons of fresh cider from The Cheerful Lady and shared with the Renaissance Man and My Wonderful Parents; talked garden plans with the fabulous Jen.

7. Eat the food: Cinnamon-pecan French toast; hash browns with chard, cheese, egg; leftover veg-cheese rolls; pita pizzas with leftover fresh sauce and cheddar curds; harvest saute; rolls with chevre, pear, walnuts, honey.

What tastes good to you this fall?

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Winds of Change

The weather has finally dropped a few hints that fall is coming soon: cooler daytime temperatures, nights in the 40s and 50s, dryer air, and the glimmering of autumn colors on the trees. The breezes that sweep over me when I'm out working in the field have a cool undertow to them -- a refreshing change from the blazing heat of July and August.

The seasons change in such gradual, sometimes imperceptible, transitions that I often find myself whipping my head around to say, "what happened to summer/sweet corn season/longer days/etc.?" Summer passes quickly -- as we all know! -- and the time comes to adjust to a different time of year and pace of life.

Changes are happening behind the scenes -- new vegetables to enjoy in the kitchen and in preservation, new breads to bake for fall, little possibilities cropping up for future endeavors. It's too early to know how things will shake down, but change is coming, and the best I can do is to slow down a little, enjoy the ride, and remain open to whatever will be.

I enjoyed two evenings of relaxation this week, taking time away from the kitchen to head down to the county fair with the Renaissance Man. Yes, I indulged in fair food, including lemonade, birch beer, and a pumpkin donut, but I kept walking all around and back home to mitigate some of that intake!

Last night, the weather turned stormy, with pelting rain and fierce winds, making me glad I had stayed home. (The Renaissance Man, on duty at the Sustainable Energy Network booth, was not so lucky.) And, as it turned out, it was definitely not a night to be out: a tornado struck the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), the local "ag station" branch of Ohio State University. Damage was heavy, including the destruction of some of the greenhouses, so I fear this will create a huge loss for many of the researchers there (some of whom I've had the privilege to meet and work with through Local Roots). Luckily, there were minimal injuries as the tornado touched down after the work day was finished for most, and the physical damage can be cleaned up.

Today looks to be a much calmer sort of day, beginning yet again with some baking and a delicious breakfast of two wheat artisan rolls topped with local chèvre, pear slices leftover from the pear-hazelnut torte I made for market, walnuts, and local honey. There's a slight chill in the air and a hush to the morning that belies the chaos of last evening, and later in the morning I'll head out to drop off baked goods at the market and visit My Wonderful Parents.

So autumn approaches, and so life begins to settle into a more comforting pace. Changes abound -- some devastating, some neutral, some pleasant, and some delightful.

And on we go.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Independence Days #62


I finally have my laptop back, with a new hard drive and new DVD drive, and I'm gradually getting drivers and programs reinstalled (or upgraded). I'm back online from the comfort of my home, and I can get started blogging again.

Funny thing is, during that month or more with no Internet at home, I found I got rather accustomed to not having that distraction around. After hot, exhausting days of work out at the farm, I'd come home and heat up the kitchen with my baking or kick back with a glass of ice-cold lemonade or iced tea and a book.

I'm not sure how I feel about getting back to "normal." And I'm not sure what the future holds for keeping this blog going, much less the farming blog that has been dead silent for a month and a half. (How do I even catch that up?) I've been enjoying the "now" moments way too much to sit and reflect on them, and I'm not sure I want to change back.

I also spent plenty of time in August practicing my "Independence" -- though I didn't bother keeping a running list of what I did as part of the Independence Days challenge. Here's a partial (but still extensive!) list:

1. Plant something: Planted seedlings of Rainbow Lacinato kale, Laurentian rutabaga, Scarlet Queen turnips, Thompson broccoli, Frigga savoy cabbage, Tender and True parsnips, Golden Detroit and Chioggia beets at two of my gardens; started seeds for lettuce, beets, kohlrabi at the OEFFA Male's farm.

2. Harvest something: Cucumbers, dry beans, tomatoes, LOTS of basil, anise hyssop, chard, peppers, onions at the fabulous Jen's; cherry tomatoes at the Renaissance Man's; more basil as well as chard, pac choi, and nasturtiums at the Southern Belle's garden; many market crops (including loads of heirloom tomatoes) plus elderberries at the OEFFA Male's farm; corn, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini at The Farm.

3. Preserve something: Dried nettles, anise hyssop, basil, tomatoes, pears, cantaloupe candy; froze basil pesto, roasted red peppers, breaded eggplant; canned tomato sauce with My Wonderful Parents, pizza sauce on my own, and peaches with My Wonderful Parents and with the Renaissance Man; started elderberry cordial.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Took many more "seconds" off the OEFFA Male's hands (many of which were used in weekly baking or put up for winter); shared remaining cucumbers with friends; shared some "seconds" with My Wonderful Parents.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Restocked flour in a big way -- a dozen 50-lb bags of unbleached high-gluten flour for bread, then biweekly orders of wheat and/or spelt flour; bought two five-pound jugs of honey and another half-gallon of maple syrup; stocked up on nuts (two 30-lb boxes of walnuts and one of pecans); tried to pick up the pace on drying herbs for winter use; collected more storage containers; cleaned out the cooler for this year's potato storage.

6. Build local food systems: Swapped leftover market bread for herbs, design work, eggs, goat's milk and ricotta; contributed bread to be served at a local fundraiser, plus breads for the silent auction; worked at the OEFFA Male's farm over 20 hrs/week each week; baked for market faithfully, bringing production levels up a notch; baked bread periodically for the Flour Guy (who took the value off my bills); publicized Local Roots events; demonstrated making gazpacho at the market; spent an afternoon cooking a garden-fresh dinner with Beaker as his ninth-birthday present (included teaching him knife skills now that he's a big boy!).

7. Eat the food: Hard to remember all the local dishes, but pasta dishes, French toast, morning fry-ups (potato and more), leftover veg-cheese rolls, and pizza made it to the menu more than once.

Through the exhaustion and aggravation of the last month, I've realized a few things that have me pondering next year's work. No definite plans yet, but I'm thinking about how the balance will change.

And I still wonder what the balance will be here. But for now, I'm back.

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