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Archive for the ‘Local Sources’ Category

Yesterday after work, I met Chef Jeff at his family’s house to check on our seedlings.  His step-mom (who’s a real-life farmer!) was kind enough to start our seeds for us in her wood-heated greenhouse.   We’ve got tons of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs waiting for warmer weather, and lots of other stuff waiting for the tiller to be fixed (sigh…).  Her greenhouse smelled like heaven- green things and woodsmoke.

Take a closer look at those planters hanging up!  She runs a little garden stand where she sells seedlings and eventually produce.  One of the things she sells are those planters.  They have flowers on the top and then, out of a hole she drills in the center, she has tomato plants!  Isn’t that brilliant?  I see ads for those upside down hanging tomato planters all the time, and this way you get flowers, too!  So clever…

The tomatos are really growing fast.  They have a few weeks to wait before they can go in the ground here, but she’s already started to harden them off.  They look very happy!  I only hope I can take as good a care of them as she has.

We also took a tour around her farm- she had just finished planting a field of potatoes and onions.  Big, long rows of them.   I did not envy her planting 100 feet of onions…

It was really nice to be able to visit someone with so much experience!  I’m glad I have someone who knows what she is doing to ask if I have questions- makes all the difference in the world!

Oh!  And she had these!

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Phelan linked to this great service, The Farmer’s Garden, on her blog and it looks awesome.  It’s a way to see if there are any farms or gardens around you that have surplus they are selling or bartering.  Sadly, there isn’t anything within 100 miles of me yet, but this seems like the kind of thing that will only work if lots of people use it.  So sign up!  Tell your friends!

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Meat again

We don’t eat a lot of meat here in our house.  It’s a combination of many things.  For one, I don’t like red meat, so I never think to cook it (except for pot roasts and beef stew!  Yum!), Pete participates in meat fasts (and occasionally vegan fasts) for religious reasons frequently through the year and for the sake of easiness, I usually follow with him (except he’s crazy if he thinks I’ll give up butter or eggs or ice cream), and, naturally, we’ve both become leery of eating meat from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations) and I’ve basically given up industrial-raised meat entirely.

Because of those reasons, we don’t eat a lot of meat.  I’m lucky that I have a few local sources- and one not so local.  Every year my parents raise a cow to provide them with beef for the year, and I’m usually lucky enough to get a few cuts from them whenever I go home.  I’ve still got a package of rib-eyes and a package of stew-beef from them in the freezer now, one of which we will be eating very, very soon.

Our CSA usually has beef and I’ve already told you about the marvelous chickens, but just recently, the pork finally came in.   They’ve had the pigs there for quite a while and I’ve been eyeing their bellies and waiting for bacon.   About a week and a half ago, we went in and picked up about 25lbs of pork- chops, ground, a massive 6.5 lb shoulder, and- best of all!- 8.7 lbs of fresh bacon.  I’m a little confused about this, to be honest, because I don’t have any idea what to do with fresh bacon.  For now, it’s a comfortable frozen block in our freezer, so if anyone has any insight or experience with bacon…speak up, please!

And as we speak, that shoulder is slowly roasting away in a crust of apple cider and brown sugar in a slow oven getting tender and delicious.

It’s so nice to have meat again!

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Forgive my very long absence!  (Well, at least from this blog.  Readers of my personal blog will know this is rather par for the course.)  Two weeks ago, I got a promotion, and I have been working like a crazy person.  I worked 57 hours one week and 52 the next!   I’ve been exhausted to say the least.  But, the benefit of working so much is that I am off until January 5th!  Woo Hoo!  Two weeks!

I’ve got lots of cooking plans over the vacation, and I’ve already successfully completed several of them, including roasting one of our new farm-raised chickens that we got from our CSA.  I wanted to truly taste it, so I only seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of parsley.  I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best chicken I have ever eaten in my life.  I do love chicken very much…but this is just spectacular.  Not only was the meat delicious, lean, and plentiful, but it also produced 5 quarts of the best chicken stock I have ever made.

I’m so glad that there are 5 more in my freezer right now.  They were a little pricey for us at $5/lb, but I’m telling you that it is so worth it.  Especially since we never buy or eat chicken anymore (not after Omnivore’s Dilemma!) so it was OK for us to splurge.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat conventional chicken again!

I’m terribly sorry that I didn’t post at all over the last few weeks, because we had a HUGE snowstorm that was quite impressive.  We got easily 2 feet of snow over a 36 hour period.  In fact, in that time, it didn’t stop snowing a single moment.  It was the most snow I’ve ever seen and it buried everything around here.  It would have been a good weather post!  Ah well, you’ll just have to take my word for it!   I can’t even show you later pictures, since it all melted on Christmas Eve.  All that and still no white Christmas!  Bah!

My seed catalogs have started coming in, so keep an eye out for a planning post soon!

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Seed Swap

There were TWO very exciting packages awaiting me in the mailbox this morning.  (Two?  How did I get so lucky?)

The first was three heads of Garlic that I ordered from Seeds of Change.  I now have all of my garlic that I’m going to plant.  I just need to…plant it.  Tomorrow is the day, unless it is too cold, windy, or some other stupid excuse.  No!  Tomorrow I will do it!

The second package was the (drumroll!) package of seeds from Howling Hill’s annual seed exchange!  I think this is a genius idea, which is why I signed up for it, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it!   Here’s what we do.  One person starts the seed exchange using the leftover seeds from their packets or seeds that they saved this year.  They send it to someone who then takes out whatever seeds they would like to use and replaces the same number with their extra seeds.  That person sends it on to the next person in the list and so on.  Cool huh?

This is especially great for me because I have such a tiny garden that I have no hope of ever using all the seeds I have.  Now I get to expand my own seed collection and share my extras with other people.  It’s really fascinating to see where the seeds are going after me, as well.  They make their way down the East coast all the way to Florida before they head on to Michigan, Kansas, and Washington State and then finally back to HH in New Hampshire.   The rule is that we all have to post a link on our blogs (if we have one) when we get it so that we’ll all be able to track it.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to take and put in, but it feels so exciting to have new seeds in my house!  I’ll post again to tell you what I took and what I put in and where it’s going next.

Thanks for doing this, HH!  I can’t wait to follow the progress of our seeds!

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Dairy Victory!

One thing that I’ve really been focused on lately was trying to find a local source of milk.  There are several dairies in Massachusetts, and even some that are quite near to us, but most of them sell only ultra-pasteurized milk.  This won’t work for us, because one of the main things we do with our milk is make cheese and the ultra-pasturization process destroys all of the lovely little enzymes and bacteria that make cheese work.  (And it just tastes plain nasty.)

Usually once ever two weeks or so we go by Pete’s parents house and have dinner with them and his grandmother.  They live in an impossibly picturesque part of the state (in a state full of impossibly picturesque places) and one of my favorite places we pass is a little place called Hornstra Farms.  It’s an old converted barn with a small loading dock and a small garage with several old-fashioned refrigerated trucks inside.  

It sits on a stretch of green, pristine pasture, but I never saw any cows around.  Pete told me that as a child, he remembered drinking Hornstra Farms milk at his school, which isn’t too far away.  (He was milk monitor!  Isn’t that adorable!?)  He has particular fond memories of their chocolate milk, which he swore was the best in the world- this was obviously before Lactose declared war on his innards.  I’ve always kept an eye out for their milk in the grocery stores, but haven’t ever seen it and I just chalked it off as a picturesque place I liked to drive by, but never thought of actually getting milk from them. 

Well, last night we were driving by on the way to his parents house and I mused that it would be nice to get milk from a really local dairy and wasn’t it a shame that I never could find any from Hornstra Farms.  We decided, on a whim, to pull in and see if I could find where to buy it.  There isn’t a visible office or anything, so I wasn’t sure there was even anyone to talk to, but as we pulled in, a guy with a big smile stepped out from behind one of the milk trucks and gave us one of those “come on in!” waves.  We got out of the car and walked over to him and I told him that I was looking for a local source of milk and I was never able to find them in the grocery stores.  “Can we buy the milk directly from you,” I asked.  He gave me a strange kind of look and said, “Well sure!  The reason you can’t find us in the stores is because we only do home delivery!”

We were, of course, thrilled.  He said that the milk actually came from their dairy in New Hampshire (drat!) but that it was just over the border and the brought it in fresh every single day.  The milk that we would have delivered would have come out of the cow the day before.  He also told me that they are in the process of purchasing farm land a few miles away and that they would then be moving their herd down to the area around me, so it would all be local Massachusetts milk.  I asked him the golden question- ultra pasteurized?- and he didn’t know the answer, but he said that he knew who would.  He led us into the barn, through the milk trucks, up past the big freezer, by cartons upon cartons upon CARTONS of glass milk bottles, and up into the top of the converted barn where there was a charmingly haphazard office.  He went down the back stairs and brought up Mrs. Hornstra herself with her lumbering black lab Chip right behind her.  She said down and talked with us for a brief moment (“I’m so sorry, but I have dinner on the stove!”) and let us know that it wasn’t ultra-pasteurized and it came from their own personal herd that lived on her cousin’s farm in New Hampshire. 

They aren’t strictly organic, but it is entirely hormone-free and they are committed to keeping their cows and happy and healthy as possible.  The cows are raised in Massachusetts (four of them, in fact, are on an organic farm that is run by a friend of Pete’s) before they go up to become the milkers and she implied that the move to Massachusetts was happening very soon. 

They were so friendly and warm and we signed up right on the spot.  They didn’t even require a deposit or anything, just my name and signature on a piece of paper.  When I mentioned that we were planning on going and buying milk on the way home, they sent us home with a gallon of theirs.  As we were on our way out, Mrs. Hornstra came out to grab a gallon of milk for their dinner (their home is attached to the back of the barn, I think) and I heard from an unseen child: “Mom!  Can we have chocolate milk?”  Her answer, with a smirk to us, “Not with dinner!”

I guess it’s still that good.

Our first delivery is today, and I’ve ordred two gallons of milk- farmhouse cheddar, here we come!  I can’t WAIT to get home!

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