Seedlings



Here, I mentioned that Keith accidentally purchased 2 acorn squash seedlings. I had never had it before. I guess I never will. Read on.

Here, I braggingly showed you a picture of our little acorn squash doing quite nicely. (The other seedling never really took off.)

I need to let you know that it died. Gone forever. Kaput. Compost. (Com-pissed is more like it. I mean, what the hell?) Some fungus, powdery mildew took over the leaves and stems and so the stem with the squash broke off completely. Look at this picture. Gross.

 

And so, a lament for our dearly departed Acorn Squash, having perished too early in the twilight of his life (Team Edward!)

Acorn Squash, 4 mos.
Former DaisyPatch Farm resident, Acorn Squash, 4 mos., died September 22, 2011 in his garden bed. No service will be held.Mr. Squash was born May. 10, 2011 to Comstock, Ferre and was moved across the country, living in an Agway for a short period of time before being adopted by the owners of DaisyPatch Farm.
 
Acorn could accomplish anything he set his mind to do. At a very early age, he grew one leaf, then another, and continued to grow leaves, despite the loss of his infant brother and his cousin, Butternut in a freak dry spell.
 
Acorn served in the United States Squash Force during operation Zucchini. Mr. Squash spent more than 3 months in New Hampshire. He never married. He is survived by distant cousins, the Giant Pumpkins.
 
Condolences may posted here under comments.

My pumpin haiku…ahem…

Crazy big pumpkins

Can our garden contain you?

You’re freaking me out.

We’ve never grown pumpkins before. We’ve grown zucchini, however. I always need sugar pumpkins for my Thanksgiving pies and end up wanting more, so have to go out searching. Well, it’s less “wanting” more because I usually only need 2 pumpkins for my pies. I usually need more. One year, I left them outside and they froze. I didn’t want to use them after that, the texture was weird. The next year, I didn’t want them to freeze, so I kept them inside on the windowsill and they rotted. We decided that, this year, we’re going to grow our own and bought some organic, heirloom seeds (gotta start out right!)

I was a bit late in planting the seedlings and they were root-bound and not-so-great-looking. Same with the cucumbers. Keith picked up some more pumpkin and cuke seedlings for me at the garden center, you know, just in case (so thoughtful!) He also picked up 2 acorn squash by accident. We’ve never had that.

So, everything is doing great. More than great. The plants are large. Feed-me-Seymour-large. Shall we analyze the hows and whys? Yes, lets. Because Mr. DaisyPatch has access to the internet and he knows how to use it. He’s been reading up on the best fertilizers for each phase of the life of our plants (that sort of sounded parent-ish, like our garden will be fed Gerber Graduates or something. Now is not the time for psychoanalysis, thank God! Moving on…). We have all sorts of organic fertilizers that have numbers and pictures of veggies all over them.

Needless to say, the shit seems to be working (oh, and we did, of course, use guano, aka bat shit, when we planted, so that shit is working too). The thing about it is, um, how to word this, I think we’re sort of screwed. He also bought giant pumpkins in that little trip. Yeah. I guess the plants are giant too. There are three very long branches, (tendrils? stalks?) and, so far, at last count, over 20 flowers. Yipes.

These are just the giant pumpkins. I’ll save pictures of the cukes, etc. for the next freak-show-post. OH, small DaisyPatch update. The Edamame is dead. I repeat. The Edamame is dead. I’m pissed. I shouldn’t be. I knew it was going to happen. But still, I’m pissed. That is all.


My November gardening haiku…ahem…

Useful frost blankets

Thanks for keeping the ground warm

So veggies can grow

It is almost Thanksgiving and I snipped baby greens and pulled some carrots last night for dinner. How cool is that? Technically, 27f cool.  That has been our lowest nighttime temp and there’s no sign of distress. I have the carrots tucked into salt marsh hay (god that shit is like velcro. I got it over 1 month ago and continue to pick the strands from my trunk. Lesson? Line the ENTIRE trunk with plastic next time, do not just lay down one piece and expect the trunk to be sparkling clean after bringing home a bale of salt marsh hay).

Tonight’s dinner: Crispy Chicken with Soba Noodle salad (containing our carrots!) Tomorrow we will be having roasted root vegetables with a Shiitake mushroom risotto. Yum.

Let’s go for a Winter walk in the Kitchen Garden..

Mixed greens in the foreground. Varietals in the back.

 

Golden Oregano

Catnip

I had some Dusty Miller in a pot with Dracaena in the strawberry patch. I like how the grey/silver looks against the red strawberry leaves.

Kind of a neat variety of carrot (my way of saying, I don't remember...)

Garlic Chive seeds just hanging out in the dead flowers.

Daisy Mae (a.k.a. PooperDoopers) hanging out under my feet as I blog at the breakfast bar.


Last year, not having ever grown carrots from seed, I inadvertently weeded many of the carrot seedlings. What can I say? They looked like little strands of grass.

Now that we have new varieties of things I’ve never grown from seed before – Cucumbers, Beets, Broccoli, and Parsnip, I’m afraid to weed anything. Needless to say, the garden beds look pretty messy.

 Carrot? Weed?

Meanwhile, the tomatoes in the backyard look great. I must say, we haven’t seen a slug yet. I’ll credit Keith’s eggshell-coffee side dressing. We’re also using  Diatomaceous Earth on the beds. If you are a gardener and haven’t discovered this product yet, here’s the deal-e-o.

Diatomaceous Earth, the fossilized remains of a single-celled algae, works the same way as salt on slugs. It basically dehydrates them. (Die sluggers, die! See here for my comments in The War on Slugs.)

So, the season is off to a good start. We’re trying our best to grow organically. Everything looks lush. I just hope lush equals food and we can soon stop playing this game of  “Is it a Weed, or is it What’s for Dinner?”


I am so full that I had to change into sweatpants. Tonight’s dinner: Burgers with beef from Normanton Farm. Each burger had a slice of Cabot cheese and bacon from Popper (if you haven’t checked out Popper’s Sausage Kitchen, you MUST!)  Topped with some of our Arugula and lettuce and Appledore Cove’s Chipotle Lime Ketchup. Num num. Local (well sort of, Vermont isn’t within 50 miles). Oh, and the bun was from Nissen bakeries – also New England. Hey, check us out, Barbara Kingsolver!

So what the hell? It is mid-May. I know, I know, my parents always told customers to not plant anything until Mother’s Day. Well, that was last weekend and we’ve had some 34 degree nights and lost a few seedlings in the Chef’s Garden to the frost. We’ve been shmucking (shlepping + mucking) the tender plants into the basement in the evening and out to the greenhouse in the morning in order to try to protect them (yes, before and after the DJ-Day Job).

As you can see, things are getting quite big.

I left control plants of peppers, basil and a husk cherry in the greenhouse to see how they fared each night. We did well – a few ruined leaves, but the flowers hung in there. Whew. So, it hit 34 degrees again last night and everything did fine. I buttoned the house up, putting blankets in the doors where there’s an air gap and we haven’t lost one thing. As a matter of fact, we have flowers.

See the little husk cherry already forming?

Buds on a tomato plant.

The lettuce and arugula are doing well in the Chef’s Garden. The bean sprouts are pretty dead, however, and the edamame was hit by frost so badly, it looks like it was regurgitated. The onion, planted a few weeks ago, seems to not have changed a bit. I know I’m impatient.

It’s just that I am anxious to get everything planted outside. It’s strange, actually, how often I think about our little Patch during the day. I ordered business cards with our logo (Daisy in the daisies) and somehow find a reason, just about daily, to force them on someone – usually some unsuspecting non-gardener who probably couldn’t give a crap but says, “Really?” and so, sounded interested. Poor soul. Here’s our card.

This is a good place to thank my wonderful non-gardening friends for their readership and support. I am sure that reading about slugs, worms, bat shit and tomato (ooh, just pulled a “Dan Quayle” by spelling that with an “e” at the end. At least I was smart enough to delete it. The snotty-spelling-bee-kid in me was just completely disgusted with myself for that) flowers must bore them to tears, but they (thankfully!) read my posts and comment with gusto.

The Gig Girl who quit her, “full-time-full-salaried-full-benefits-with-a-big-girl-office-and-even-a-window job” to be a stay-at-home Mom and is exploring home-based income opportunities in the process (with much humor and wit!) and Gillis Marketing who jumped with both feet and no swimmies into the world of SMM (no, silly, Social Media Marketing) where she tries to educate (dare I say, ‘enlighten”) others in the process. Here’s what she says, “Join me as I learn, communicate and educate my colleagues to use these tools. Join in the discussion… Consider this your therapy, your reality check, your informational portal. I feel pain – you may feel it, too.” Both very bright women who know their stuff.

Tonight’s lesson kids? Eat local, shop local and read local. You’ll feel better about your food and possibly support your sweatpant-wearing neighbors in the process.


Often, when Keith asks me what I’ve been up to, my response is, “Puttering.” That is my word for little errands. I have a tough time sitting still. That is why, when my friend introduced me to knitting, I felt like I had found the perfect indoor hobby for me (see her web page here – great resource for all things knitting as well as a fun hub for blogs she likes – The Daisy Patch has made it to this esteemed list!) But, this post isn’t about knitting.

I woke up yesterday morning at around 7 and set about Puttering. I donned the new mucks, went to the basement, checked on everything. Sadly, the Edamame does NOT look good. I think it missed a day of watering. So, I decided to plant some more seeds. I planted more Edamame, beans and some flowers. I watered the plants in the basement and then brought them outside to harden off on the eastern side of the house.

Hardening off gradually exposes seedlings to the elements to toughen them up a bit – wind, sun, rain, temperature fluctuations. On the eastern side of the house, they were exposed to a breeze and the warm morning sun, then, as the sun moved, it would get a little cooler. Good conditions.

I planted more lettuce, mache, arugula and spinach seeds in the Cook’s Garden (new name for the Side Garden/Kitchen Garden/Peber’s Point). These little guys are three weeks old. Succession planting is important because we’ll constantly have seedlings coming up and plants growing to replace the ones we harvest. As I’ve mentioned before, I have been dreaming of fresh lettuces from the garden and am going to town on planting a lot of salad greens.

Arugula microgreens

You might recall from Togethergoal, the tray of Arugula microgreens failed, so we didn’t have a chance to try them. I tried it yesterday. Yummy! Nice and peppery. Keith is going to make some Beef Carpaccio tonight and we’ll put some microgreens on it. I think that’ll be really good.

Drunken Woman lettuce.

I read about Drunken Woman lettuce in the seed catalog. We have loved every red speckled lettuce variety we’ve tried so I decided to order some. Besides, the name itself belongs in our garden. Here’s a link to someone’s blog describing this lettuce. I thought it was a nice post and the picture is great. Now that I see it in full splendor – 1) Yay! I can’t wait! and 2) Crap, I’ll have to thin it. That’s ok, lettuce seedlings are great in a salad.

What else did I do during my puttering? I watered the garlic. We ordered 3 different varieties of garlic last Fall and I took up the entire 12’x3′ bed in the Cook’s Garden to plant them. They look great.

Garlic

I can’t wait until we get scapes. Garlic Scapes are the shoot of a hard neck garlic variety. Here’s a better description and a small ode to the scape. The scapes end up in the saute pan or in pesto. Yumzy. Small concern – I have no idea if these are the varieties that send up scapes. We shall see. I hope so.

Back to the putter session. I weeded our small strawberry patch.

I put flowers in that pot last year and just decided this Spring to add the trellis. I think I’ll put a flowering climbing plant on it for some color. Gardener followers of the Patch – if you have any ideas, do share. Nasturtium?

I also visited our flowers. At the beginning of this post, I put some pictures of dwarf early tulips in the sun. This color is so different – it isn’t orange or peach, it is this wonderful translucent tangerine. Love these tulips.

Bleeding Heart

I watered the bean pot (you know, pot full of bean seeds and a trellis just waiting to support them) and then headed to the backyard. There, the mound of screened topsoil (4 cubic yards – more like a small mountain!) and the empty raised beds Keith built just looked at me.

You see, they weren’t in close proximity to each other. The delivery guy couldn’t go into our yard very far to dump the soil due to the wet weather we had been having. If he went very far, he might not have been able to get out of the mud. The first one (dirt) had to get into the second one (planter beds) somehow. That somehow was us.

Again, since we are basically weekend warriors, the soil pile just sat there during the week, getting rained on. So, I grabbed the shovel and started loading.

It has only been a month since gall bladder surgery and I was warned, “No heavy lifting for 6 weeks!” so at first, when talking about Mt. Dirt Everest, the plan was that I would load the wheelbarrel while Keith finished building the supports in the garden beds, and then I’d call him over to bring the wheelbarrow to the beds, then I’d unload with the shovel.

But he was inside and I was in Putter-mode, so I figured I’d start small – little 1/2 wheelbarrows. Fill with the shovel, bring the wheelbarrow to the garden bed, unload with the shovel. I did this a few times and then got the guts to lift the wheelbarrow to dump the soil into the bed. No pain, no ripped stitches or anything. Let’s go.

Muck, muck, muck, shovel, shovel, shovel, LIFT!, muck, muck, muck, HEAVE HO! Rinse and repeat. After 5 of these trips, Keith came outside and asked, “Whatcha been up to?” Puttering, my usual response. I went in, changed to tank top and shorts, (sassy look with mucks may I just tell you?), put the hair up, bandana on and grabbed a bottle of water.

As he drilled in the braces on the rest of the beds, I continued my attack on Mt. Dirt Everest. Every once in a while, we’d say something to each other, but it was mostly quiet work. He asked me if I thought I’d finish filling the beds today. “That’s the goal – it is supposed to rain tomorrow,” was my response.

When he finished, he grabbed a shovel and helped. We took turns. The loads I carried were 1/2 to 3/4 full and his were full. We took a few breaks during the day, heading inside for some water, choosing to skip lunch. It was good, satisfying team work. Once, I did hit his shovel with my shovel, sending shockwaves and a stab of pain into his shoulder for which I felt horrible and apologized profusely, but mostly, we worked in silence, tackling this togethergoal with determination. You know, like farmers who have to get the soil moved before a rainstorm turns it to mud? Like that.

It took us about 4.5 hours and who knows how many trips back and forth. I stopped counting. When we were done, we headed to the front yard , where Keith sat on the front steps and we talked a bit while I pulled some weeds under the lilac. There were a few more errands we wanted to do, hooking up hoses, weeding, spreading bark mulch – then I said the magic words, “We worked pretty hard today, let’s go get some lunch.”

It has become a ritual for us to finish up a particularly tough day of yard work at Margarita’s. I call it the “Board Room” because it seems all our planning happens over a glass of their Original on the rocks.

When we got home around 6:30, it was time for a nap. A full day of yard work and sunshine with 2 margaritas for dessert made me just want to lie down. So much for napping, I woke up this morning at 7 and feel sore as hell. Really sore as hell. I snuggled up to Keith and asked how he was. Sore as hell. I told him how great I thought yesterday was – we worked really hard, got a lot done, worked side by side, and ended the day with a nice time at the bar.

The only way to get the soreness out of your muscles is to use them, so I was back, mucking and puttering by 7:15. Now, to tackle those weeds and the rest of Mt. Bark Mulch before the rain comes.


I’ve been mucking in and out every morning and every night putting a blanket on our lettuce seedlings. They’ve been surviving pretty solid frosts. Upon waking up this AM, I was nervous, the outside temp said 33. Uh oh. Donned the mucks, took of the blanket and they are JUST FINE.  Huh! Look at that, they ARE cold weather crops. Whoda thunk it? I think with the greenhouse cover and maybe a little heat (the good neighbor gave us a used wood stove), we definitely can have lettuce all Winter if they can make it through a 33-degree night. Sweet.

So, the mushroom thingy decided to give us mushrooms. Well, one mushroom.

It looks pretty good, actually.

And it isn’t small. It is bigger than the palm of my hand.

I wish I had a better camera to be able to show the gills underneath. Oh, I looked it up, ‘gills’ is the right word. Who knew?

Okay, okay, a better question is…”Who cares?” Actually, as we plan(t) for our future, I realize that I do. I plan on spending some time researching vitamin and mineral content of our crops  (ooh, farmer word!) so that maybe we can get nutrition from the backyard, not a bottle of supplements.

Exciting update: 69 garlic bulbs are doing VERY well. When we harvest them in June or early July, I plan on reusing the garden bed for a quick crop (there it is again!) of something before planting garlic again in the Fall. I wonder what it’ll be!

Stay tuned, I’ll make my Thai Spring Rolls using that mushroom and put up the recipe.


Keith and Roy worked quite a bit on it the last few weekends and we are proud to say that Greenhouse #1 is up. No thanks to me. I’m still recuperating from gall bladder surgery and feeling the effects of the surprise kidney stone that decided to come for a visit a week after the surgery (insert low growl of frustration here).

First they put the plastic up and over.

The day was a bit breezy.

Then they had to tack it down.

You can see in this picture that Keith has been building more raised beds to go in the backyard…and yes, that fire pit still has to be moved.

While taking pictures, I came upon this little scene of PunkinHead (Keith calls him DumDum) and Betty. Note DumDum’s foot is OVER Betty’s neck. It was too cute NOT to include. Yes, Betty is still alive (she is 12.5 years old and technically, not even our cat).

Then this past weekend, Roy and Jen came over to do a bit more work. Well, Jen kept me company, Roy and Keith worked. Then, we took a break.

I’m happy to say that, despite the chilly day, with the sides rolled up, it was pretty nice inside. Below is a pic of the greenhouse all done. Note, the fire pit rocks have been moved.

It’s 7:30 at night as I write this post and didn’t realize until now that I hadn’t taken a picture of it, hence it is a little dark. But who cares? Really, the freeking thing is up and even has a few plants inside. It is supposed to get to 41 degrees tonight so we’re testing it out. The sides need a little bit of work. You can see they’re pinned down with a board. We plan on attaching the sides to steel pipes that can be rolled up and down kind of like a roller shade. This will help cool the house on warm days (65 degrees today and, with the sides up, it was pretty darn warm in there today) and ventilate.

Yes, it’ll get hot in the Summer. We don’t really want it for the Summer. We want it for the Winter – to have lettuce, spinach and other cool weather crops all Winter long. We want it to get a jump on Spring – we have over 200 plants in the basement right now and have had that grow lamp going constantly since January. I want to get off the grid, baby.

So, needless to say, we’re excited about it. Shall I admit now that I’m terrified? I just did. There are many reasons why. Is this an expensive experiment that’ll just turn into a storage shed in 3 years? Am I going to turn all the seedlings we’ve been nurturing (and eating, I used some Basil yesterday) into crispy sticks in our new backyard magnifying glass? Is it going to blow away in the next freakish windstorm? (If you aren’t from New Hampshire, let me just tell you that the last few windy storms have registered gusts up to 93 miles per hour 2 miles from here! I sat in the living room at midnight and just watched the balsam tree in our front yard, willing it to NOT fall into the house. It did not, thanks to my powers!)

I did mention early on that we were trying to start a backyard farm. Trying. Try. That means “attempt.” But you see, I don’t like to fail. I know, no one likes to fail, but I have this real weird fear of it. I know all the sayings, but it doesn’t change a thing. I don’t want this to NOT work.

Now, the DaisyPatch has seen some failures which I will admit here. The Verminator did not work out. For some odd reason that even makes me shake my head at myself, I was just fine with a bin full of worms in the basement. I was NOT fine (and neither was Keith, he did the dumping) with a bin full of worms AND spider eggs in the basement. FULL of spider eggs. (I just involuntarily scratched the back of my neck, may you feel the same creepy-crawly ickness that just took me over. OK, now I itch all over. Damn.) Shudder. Yeah, that bin got dumped in the Not-A-Compost-Pile.

The tray of Arugula microgreens did not work out. It didn’t have any drainage and we kept it too moist and it turned from a nice promising tray of seedlings to a strange, fuzzy tray of mold. Bye Bye. Into the Not-A-Compost-Pile.

More failures. The tobacco seeds didn’t grow. Now, we don’t smoke and we weren’t planning on smoking, but we thought it would be kind of funny to say we were growing tobacco. Nothing funny about them not starting.

The last failure that really pains me to admit – Some of the Guano burned the plants. WHAT! Your beloved bat shit BURNED the plants? Yes, you see, we got 2 different strengths of Guano and, well, more is better, right? AH, no. Some of the plants got greener and some of the plants got a bit crispy. They still have stems and like, maybe a leaf, but everything else on the plant (we’re beyond seedlings downstairs, some of these plants are in gallon pots, they’re so big) is a bit on the crusty side. Wish us luck as our shit-stricken plants get nursed back to health.

Somehow, these little failures don’t bother me. I mean, the fact that a bucket full of worms (and, bluh, spiders!) is no longer in my basement doesn’t make me lose sleep at night. The fact that some seeds didn’t make it, whatever. A few plants got too much shit…not a big deal. It’s the fear I can’t keep up with the whole program that gives me worry.

But, I have faith. Faith in Keith, faith in myself and faith in the greater being that is the two of us combined. We have a togethergoal. (That is now a word, I may use it again and you have my permission to use it as well.) This plan just evolved and, somehow, become OUR plan. The feeling that gives me squashes the fear, not all the way, but enough to have made me smile just a bit while I was typing.


Current DaisyPatch stats:  1 gallon maple syrup, 199 plants, 0 mushrooms and I started the Edamame this morning. Wish us luck with that.

**

Things have been a bit crazy. Our friend, Popper, invited us to dinner last week. He’s planning to open a deli/local food marketplace in Dover in the next few months which is very exciting for him. Funny, I am usually detail oriented, but the days up to the dinner were very rushed and I didn’t even get to read the directions to where we were having dinner until our car was speeding a mile a minute in the rain. (New Hampshire has been seeing record rainfall amounts, the President just declared disaster relief funds due to all the flooding.) Keith was driving while I was juggling my blackberry and using the travel lint-rolleron my Daisy-hair-covered black pants.

Dinner was fantastic. For appetizers, Popper laid out some Mortadella, Summer Sausage and Proscuitto along with some homemade bread slices and yummy cheese. There were some unique beers and about 8 bottles of wine (glad we brought one, my mother said to never arrive empty-handed). At this old NH farmstead, they raised pig, chicken, duck, and I think I heard turkey and guinea fowl. Give me a glass of wine and an audience and I’m just fine so while snacking and trying to not look like I was inhaling the food (that proscuitto was to die for) we learned about the other dinner guests.

This was a crowd I could relate to, or aspire to relate to. Several grew their own food and had read my two fave food-movement books, Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle so there was plenty to discuss. One was a food writer and the other a web designer. Two were chefs (one of whom was Popper). All were good folk. I admired the frut-and-flower-covered lemon and lime trees in the living room and chatted with Maria, the homeowner, and got some growing tips.

The dinner was to die for. Confit-stuffed farm-raised chicken, rustic bread, vegetable Quark, roasted parsnips, a delish rice dish and chocolate/bacon ice cream. Let me break it all down for you. I thought it would have been rude to take pictures of the meal, so I’ll do my best to describe it (see if I have what it takes to be a food writer myself…)

First, the chicken. The white meat was obviously pounded, then stuffed with the most moist, flavorful duck stuffing, rolled up and cooked. It was juicy when I cut it, and I didn’t need a knife. The stuffing had an earthy, twinge-the-back-of-the-jaw taste that can only be described as Umami. Let’s take a side-road for a second and describe Umami, the story of Umami and how it came to be in my vocabulary – not necessarily in that order.

Remember in school, we were taught the senses of taste? Bitter, sweet, salty, sour. Can you see the drawing of the tongue with the locations of each taste buds? I can remember, I think it was in Ms. Black’s 4th grade. (Ms. Black’s name changed from Mrs. BiglongnamethatbeginswithD to Ms. Black sometime in the middle of the school year. I guess I also learned about divorce while  learning about the senses of taste.) Well, in 1908, a Japanese scientist discovered a 5th sense of taste called Umami. It is the sense of Savory. Keith and I discovered it quite by accident.

We attended a destination wedding in the Albany, New York area a few years ago. In our room were menus to local restaurants. One of the restaurants was called Umami Cafe. The Truffle Mac and Cheese caught Keith’s eye. We ordered take out via the phone and I went to the restaurant to pick up our order. I called a few minutes before closing and they were nice enough to put in the order for me. I waited in the lobby area while it was being prepared and, as is my nature, I sought something to read. (I’ll read anything. I once read everything on a  jar of Comet – ingredients and all. Don’t think I’m strange, this bathroom had no reading material and it was the only thing under the counter that was within reach.)

The restaurant menu explained the history of Umami and how it is used in all the foods at the restaurant. Umami can be described as  savory, meatiness, brothiness or “mommy food,” meaning, “comfort food.” We LOVED the Truffled Mac and Cheese. I have since purchased The Fifth Taste cookbook  as well as some truffle oil – an expensive splurge.

I hope you enjoyed my little scenic detour. Back to the main road – the dinner. The bread was obviously homemade and cut into slices on to which I spread generous amounts of the thick, cottagy quark. (I doubt “cottagy” is a word, but it wasn’t creamy, it was like super, super thick cottage cheese, hence “cottagy.” Don’t fight me, just go with it.  Accept “cottagy” into your life.) Oh look, honey, another scenic route, this time to “Cottagy Quark.”  Can we go see what’s there? Yes, dear.

I discovered Quark at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market last Summer. One of the famers, I am so sorry I do not remember which one as I would like to give credit, had Quark. It looked like chunky cream cheese. It was “cottagy.” One was herbed and the other was plain. They had it out for sampling. Yuh-umm. Quark is an un-aged fresh curd cheese. It is much lower in fat than cottage cheese, but to me, had that nice little sour bite that cream cheese has.  I bought a jar, (wait, 9 bucks!, oh, jar deposit) and brought it home. Keith didn’t want any. All for me. I brought that jar back during a market visit a few weeks later and picked up some more. I didn’t try to cook with it, I just spread it on low-sodium Ritz crackers. Gosh, I could have lived on low-sodium Ritz and Quark last Summer. I think I’m going to try to make Quark this year.

Meanwhile, back at dinner, (please tell me if you read that in your best Ted Knight voice I need to know I am not alone), I have to fill you in on the rice. I can not accurately describe the rice dish. I think it was Forbidden Rice. I am unsure, but will definitely be asking for the recipe. The rice was black/purple and had popped open during cooking. I think it was made in a risotto style. Here’s what I know was in it – duck fat, thyme and crisped chicken skin.  It was so flavorful and so savory and just damned bloody good. (I am not british and I do not mean there was blood in it, but the term “bloody good” seemed very appropriate right there.) Keith made chicken for dinner last night and I saved the skin from mine. It is crisping in the oven right now. I can’t eat it just yet due to restricted diet, more on that later.

Parsnips. I never met a parsnip I liked. Yuck and double yuck. Bitter (thanks Ms. Black, I know what that means), awful stuff. What person in his/her right mind would Eh-VER eat a parsnip? Dare I say my tastes are changing as I get older (gracefully) or were previously attempted parsnips not cooked correctly? Methinks both. I tentatively put two small ones on my plate in that, “I guess I should be polite and try everything since I am at someone else’s house and they made me dinner but if I put just one it’ll look like I don’t like it and am just being polite, so I had better put two, but I’ll make them small ones so they’re less conspicuous” sort of  fashion. They were whole and off-white, looking like a carrot that didn’t get any sun. Butter and a little rosemary can make styrofoam packing peanuts palatable, and neither were detected in the serving dish, increasing my sense of dread.

I have gotten more adventurous in the last few years when it comes to new food. About 12 years ago, I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian.  While wandering in the bookstore for something completely unrelated, I saw a book with a title akin to, “So, You’re Thinking About Becoming a Vegetarian?”, bought it and went cold turkey. No turkey, actually, and that was the problem. I stopped after 6 months – I just wasn’t getting it right. I didn’t like a lot of vegetables and I really missed turkey. I would say that now, I could be a successful vegetarian if I wanted to be, since I have tried and learned to like many different kinds of vegetables, but I don’t plan on it.  Turkey and I can never be parted again.

I hope you’re still with me, we’re talking about dreaded parsnips. Here goes. I loved them and went back for more. I can’t explain them. They were sweet. Not as sweet as cooked carrots, but a nice mild sweetness with a tone of what can only be described as earthy. It is obvious the trick is in the preparation. If you know a good parsnip recipe, please share. They will be on the DaisyPatch this year.

Onto the ice cream. The latest bacon craze has people putting bacon in everything. Keith saw a t-shirt that said, “Bacon is the new Jesus.” (Actually, I think the shirt will be arriving in the mail any day.) I think it is true. Maxim magazine (we get it for the articles) mentions a new bacon product every now and then, including bacon-flavored lollipops. We bought bacon band-aids for our friend, Jenny. Her gifts get wrapped in bacon-printed gift wrap. Get it? Having Popper for a good friend means that sausage and bacon, the good stuff, not the sodium-laden, bacon-favored, sizzle strips sold in your megamart, but the real stuff from a local chemical-free pig, is in our larder at all times. Yup, I said larder. Homestead word. Just trying it on for size.

This ice cream sounded weird, but then I thought about it. Insert bacon thought bubble.

My chocolate chip cookies have sweet milk chocolate chips in them. What brings out the sweetness of the chocolate? That extra pinch of kosher salt that I add. Why should it be any different in this ice cream? Picture tasting the duskiest, most chocolatey cocoa you’ve ever tried. Put that in a frozen sweet cream base. Now, at the exact moment that flavor is being deposited from the spoon into your mouth and you’re detecting the sweetness, you can sense, I thought I smelled it before I tasted it, the smoke from a bbq. Then, the saltiness from miniscule bits of bacon hit you, while your sweet taste receptors are still going off. (Despite what Ms. Black told us, you don’t just taste sweet on the front of your tongue, there are taste receptors for all senses throughout your mouth.) The saltiness, the smoky aroma, the dark, almost savory, chocolate and the sweet cream all mixed together into a little tiny dish of delight. I was not given enough, but after my gluttony with the rice dish, did not ask for more. The ice cream was paired with a little ginger shortbread cookie. It was good, but only got in the way really. I had to eat it just to get it out of the dish so my spoon could attempt to scrape up more of the ice cream.

This meal from heavenfarm occured one week ago today and I am still thinking about it. It is easy for me to understand why that is. I had my gall bladder taken out a few days ago, am home recovering and am restricted to a low-fat, bland diet (read: boring) during recovery. I asked the surgeon during the pre-surgery consult (which is basically the meeting where you hear all the ways you’re going to die on the table, then sign a sheet of paper to acknowledge you understand these risks), “Did I do this to myself? Did I eat wrong?” (thinking the Summer of Quark and Ritz sent my little gall bladder over the edge). He assured me that, no, gall bladder disease and gall stones are hereditary and quite common and I didn’t inflict this upon myself through my diet. I repeated this to myself during the farmstead dinner which was 36 hours before surgery. Perhaps the fact I knew I’d be in for flavorless meals for the next few weeks made me savor and appreciate every bite that much more.

I think it was more than that.  It wasn’t just the delicious new foods and flavors. It was new friends, new stories, and a newfound camaraderie as we all were there for one reason – to support our friend, Popper, and to support the idea that good food can come from our backyards.

***

Since you hung in this long, with only one picture, and a stupid one at that, here’s a little treat. Make sure you have the volume way up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTa3kfu4iRM


I often take a tour of the little-garden-that could as it comes to life in our basement. I visit it before leaving for DJ (day job) in the morning and I visit it when I get home at night.

A week or so ago, we noticed a few seedlings were yellowing. Are they gonna die? I was concerned. On a recent garden stroll, Keith pointed out the once-yellow-now-green plants and said just two words, “Bat shit.” Apparently the Guano is working.

Tomorrow, we head to Farm School. http://yellowhousefarmnh.com/content/2346  Homesteading Heritage Poultry seminar. I’ve decided to call it Chicken Class. No, wait, Cluck U.  I like that better. I was told we should bring a sandwich and wear mucks. What the hell is a muck? I think it is a boot. I will know tomorrow and needless to say, I’m excited for it and a little bit scared. I do not want to fail Cluck U.

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