Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Almost ready to move.

Soon, my pretties, soon I will have time to blog again - and things to blog about. This Saturday I'm moving to F's house, after which I'll (hopefully - got to check with his landlord) be joining Matt at his abode.

On Monday, Matt had the day off, during which I rented a storage unit, but we also went foraging at J's. Got about a pound of asparagus, but the wild strawberries are basically gone, and the blueberries are still green.

We did manage to get a fairly sizable haul off of Matt's mulberry tree, though. It's just a shame we don't have some tart berries to balance them out in a cobbler or something - they're fairly sweet, fibery, and bland by themselves. I may purchase some blueberries to make them into a cobbler with, just to give it a tad more oomph. It might be just the thing to treat my helpers with on the day of the move, if I can manage it.

More than almost anything, I'm looking forward to having the time to cook again. My move takes up so much head space and time that tonight's dinner of breakfast sausages and frozen waffles has become completely typical. At least it was less expensive than last week's pizzas and Chinese take-out.

Oh, also, the garden's been a bit of a disaster. We have bunnies. Very ballsy bunnies, who won't even necessarily run if they see people coming. They ate my Amish paste tomato plants, and most of the Cupids (grape tomatoes), too. I found one pea plant they'd bitten off at the bottom and didn't even have the decency to eat the rest of. Just left the plant laying there. Cauliflower - gone. But the beans and peppers, so far, live on, plus some of the tomatoes, so there's still hope.

Meanwhile, I've found that I keep buying things - even things I've planted - at the farmer's market because I simply can't wait the time that it takes for things to appear in my own garden. Maybe I needn't worry about gardening after all.

The front garden here at my apartment is doing pretty well, if weedy. The dandelions finally came up, and the purslane is big enough to harvest if I just had the gumption. Nasturtioms are blooming left and right, and a mysterious plant the identity of which was previously unknown turned out to be daylilies - also edible! The spinach got leggy too fast to use, but the lettuce looks fantastic, providing the basis of a super-gorgeous salad I'll probably harvest and serve this Saturday to feed to my movers.

So hang in there, just a couple more days and I can turn back into my usual, foragin' self.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Back from the mountains!

So among the many things I've had going on this week, there was a weekend at Indian Lake that we'd planned months ago, back when I had no idea I'd be moving at this time. Come to think of it, back before I realized it was Father's Day this weekend - the 21st honestly seemed like too late a date, so I didn't check with the calendar.

Anyway, Indian Lake is a pretty sizable body of water up in the Adirondacks. It's a great place to go because all the campsites are on water (the sites are boat access only), they're generally very well-spread-out and therefore private, and there are a wide range of habitat types around. In the same weekend you can explore swamp, ponds, streams, the lake, mountains, and of course woods.

It turned out that we arrived too late to canoe to the campsite we'd reserved. We'd gotten it based on the fact that it was one mile from the marina - but it was the boat launch that we should've paid attention to. It was eight miles from the boat launch, meaning a probable two and a half to three hour canoe; and it was already 7:30.

Thankfully the staff there are either really quick-thinking, or accustomed to n00b campers coming along that don't know what they're doing, because they were able to switch us to a closer site in pretty short order. It took us at least an hour and a half to get there anyway, and it was pretty danged dark by then, but we made it.

Our site was on one of the islands there, loaded with interesting wild stuff despite its small size. Cattails, yarrow, interesting grasses that root on the rocks. The best part, though, was that on one entire end, almost all of the underbrush were wild blueberries. They're still green, this time of year - the Adirondacks run a bit behind us down here - and I probably wouldn't have done more than eat one or two for the sake of tasting them anyway, but I never find wild blueberries down here, so it was pretty exciting for me. At any rate, next month the birds will be excited to have them there. I didn't forage for anything else, either; I didn't find anything much to forage in any case, but I'm not at all sure that you're allowed to, or that it's a good idea, in this location.

Most of our food was chosen for convenience, and a lot of it was decidedly non-local. Newman-O's and le Petite Ecolier cookies come to mind. But we did make a stew before leaving - who wants to be tied down to cooking when you're in the woods? - out of some Lewis Waite stew beef, some Sheldon potatoes, some carrots from Kilpatrick, and some leftover rosemary from Bowman Orchards. We also used shallots and green garlic from Kilpatrick.

We ate it Saturday night, out on the rocks in front of our site. Good stuff. I'd offer the recipe here, but to be frank, we cheated and used one of those seasoning packets from the spice aisle. Yeah, we're some of those people. I've never been able to get a beef stew to come out right without it. At least I can make a proper chicken stew with dumplings from scratch! That'll be coming up this fall, since apparently Matt's never cooked his own. Time to try it out!

When we got home - after a long shower which I was ever so grateful for (there are no showers on site at Indian Lake, and no running water or flush toilets at the campsites, either; I also landed face first in some wetlands in a hike, leaving mud on my face and grit in my teeth) - we discovered that just outside Matt's window is a mulberry tree! I don't care for them much by themselves, since they're kind of fibery and bland, but I bet mixed with some blueberries and/or raspberries and black caps, they'd be pretty tasty in a pie or a cobbler. Can't wait till they get ripe!

Until then, the squirrels and birds are having a field day with it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Three Bath Day.

That's what it was in our house yesterday. My kids had a bath before we left the house (Emma had a dance at school the night before and everyone was all sweaty, yuck); then we went to the farmer's market with Matt and his daughter, where the kids ate so many strawberries that their faces and hands were covered in red juice. In the case of Matt's daughter, her legs, too - she was our most enthusiastic berry eater of the day. So into the tub they went, as soon as we got home.

Then we went to F's house - time to check on J's asparagus patch. I knew she'd just gotten a couple of pounds out of it the other day, so I figured she wouldn't mind me mooching some more. Plus, it was time to check on the wild strawberries.

Turns out J was having a party for her son, and she let us all hang out. Got a good bunch of asparagus from the patch, which I split with J's sister, and there were loads of wild strawberries, everywhere. I got a pretty good amount of them - probably a cup and a half or so (keep in mind the biggest ones are the size of the tip of your pinkie) - and headed back to the party. The kids were all in a big waterfight, muddy and wet.

Matt and our daughters and I all tried some. Pretty good stuff, although I didn't have any of the berries from the farmer's market handy to compare them to. Towards the end of the get-together, I found F's son practically eating them hand-over-hand, so I ended up leaving them with him. Full of vitamins and stuff, you know. Besides, we still had three quarts at home to eat.

Back home, tick check - I think we found five between me and Matt's daughter - bath again. Due to mud and dirt and already having them all naked anyway.

Three bath day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's hard to feel stressed out in strawberry season.

So as aforementioned, I'm in the middle of getting ready to move on top of my usual full-time school semester right now. It's been a tad hectic, getting the old place cleaned up and cleared out of six years' worth of accumulated stuff. I'm doing well, though; just got the attic to finish going through, and I've got to find a home for some furniture yet.

It seems likely that I'll be living up at F's for a little while. It'll be nice because the garden will be literally in my back yard at that point, but it's been a long time since I've lived as a roommate. Still in all, I think it will be a good situation as long as we keep communication super-open, as she says. It'll be a good time for locavore blogging for certain, since it's out in a much more rural place and great for foraging.

My front garden is doing pretty well, albeit growing quite weedy. The spinach has all gone straight into bloom, which I think probably doesn't bode well. The lettuce looks gorgeous, though, and the carrots are growing steadily. I doubt there'll be anything to eat from them by the time I move in two weeks, but it was still interesting to grow them.

But elsewhere, it's strawberry season, which means that no matter how stressful life can be, you've got something delicious and good for you to eat if you just go get some. Last week Emma and I tore through two quarts of strawberries by Monday morning. Today we had all our kids, so we bought about six quarts.

The kids tore into the first quart - technically two pints from Kilpatrick - as soon as we'd bagged them as part of our CSA share. We picked up four quarts from another farm (because the price was lower than Kilpatrick's and because strawberries and asparagus were all he had to sell; his farming income is probably highly seasonal) and headed off to the car.

Most of the produce went in the back, but we made sure to keep the Kilpatrick berries and one quart of the other ones in the cab of the car, which is how we noticed the difference in taste. Kilpatrick's were $5 a pint to the other man's $6 a quart, but they were noticeably much sweeter. Of course the other guy's were still very very good, naturally much better than the California ones in the grocery store, and the difference in taste didn't stop us from polishing off the entire two quarts on the car ride home.

So this is how I came up with the idea of a starberry taste test. In AVM Barbara Kingsolver talks about her girls having taste tests of the different colors of Swiss chard. Now I can't see my kids doing that with chard, but strawberries they would do. I'm not at all sure we'll be able to do it - we're camping next week and will miss the market, and the week after is moving day for me - but if we can figure out how, I'm so in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blessed are the Cheesemakers, Part Deux

I just ordered myself a Starter Special over at New England Cheesemaking. So. Exciting.

Soon I'll be making my own mozzarella and ricotta.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Local London Broil

Still hard at work in school and getting ready to move; sorry for the sparse posts. But over the weekend, I had the chance to make a delicious top round London Broil I'd bought from the Lewis Waite Farm; I'm officially hooked on their meat.

I asked the person manning the table this Saturday why he thought their meat doesn't taste gamey, like grass-finished beef sometimes does. (I confessed that I had bought beef from a farm at this very market that had that problem, in fact.) He didn't think it was the dry-aging that they do, which was my guess; he says that, at their farm, they graze intensively. The cows are moved to new pasture daily - Lewis Waite is on a lot of acreage. He thinks that a lot of farms are pasturing their cows on over-grazed land, leading to the gamey flavor.

Whatever it is that they do differently, the meat is spectacular and I'd imagine the cows are happier than most anywhere else. New grass every day!

They also sell pork, but I've never seen it listed among the meats they bring with them. I was told that I could call the farm directly and order some ahead, which I could pick up at the market, if I wanted any; I took the price list for a later date. This week, I bought some ground beef for another batch of chili (still have some non-local canned tomatoes to use up); I still had the London Broil from the week before, thawed and marinating in Matt's fridge.

The recipe is one I found on Allrecipes a couple of years ago. It uses a lot of processed items, but I haven't yet found a marinade I like better. I suppose I could continue experimenting, for the sake of keeping it more natural and local, but I have a hard time believing that a small amount of ketchup and soy sauce will do much harm, in the big scheme of things.

Local London Broil

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (2 pound) London broil

In a small bowl, mix together garlic, soy sauce, oil, ketchup, oregano, and black pepper. Pierce meat with a fork on both sides. Place meat and marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.

Place steak under broiler, and discard marinade. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Do not overcook, as it is better on the rare side. (This is especially true of grass-fed beef, I'm told, because it's leaner.)