16 April 2011


The title is the name of an Outkast song that is both high quality and hilarious.  My good friend August reminded me of this song this past weekend while at Kate’s parents house for a bonfire.  More about that in a bit.  I’ve been on an Outkast kick for the last few days.  Listened to them all day Friday when I washed eggs by myself in the greenhouse, cleaned up the leeks, and even while splitting wood later that afternoon.  As much as I enjoy the outdoors, listening to woodpeckers and other songbirds, and the relative quiet of rural Maine, I also get tired of hearing the chickens and rooster once in a while.  Thus my Ipod came of great use.  Listening to music while chopping wood actually got me into a pretty good rhythm to the point that I didn’t realize I had been chopping for about 3 hours and had blisters on my left hand.
This past Monday I went to a farmer potluck and speaking event by Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute.  He is well-known in agricultural circles, particularly the sustainable ag movement.  The Land Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to researching perennial grains that are suitable as replacements for the current annuals we utilize for grain such as wheat, rice, and corn.  Perennials are much healthier for the environment since they don’t require us to basically create soil disturbance to plant new grains each year and they also grow significantly deeper roots that help improve soil fertility by pulling up nutrients that other otherwise in accessible deep in the ground.  It’s always nice to meet other like-minded people and pull some inspiration from good, well-intentioned individuals.
As for the rest of the week, I mostly did some seedling work including succession plantings of peppers and mustard greens.  For those of you unschooled on the agricultural arts, succession plantings are repeat plantings of the same crop so that you have, say broccoli, maturing over the course of a few weeks rather than having to harvest and sell all of your broccoli in one time period. 
Jeff and I also removed row covers from the garlic on Tuesday.  Row covers are plastic sheets that allow most of the light reaching the ground to pass through while acting as a blanket that keeps the soil underneath a few degrees warmer.  It doesn’t sound like much but those few degrees could mean the difference between the wind and frost killing your plants.  The downside to using the row covers is that they are not easily reused and in that way are a bit of a waste of oil.  Later that day we cultivated the garlic to give them an extra head start over any weeds that will inevitably start popping up.  The tool for the job was a wheel hoe on the outside of the rows and two-handed hoe that you use like a broom to gently disturb the surface soil and cut any weeds growing.  When we get more into weeding I hope to have some pictures of the wheel hoe in action.
We also started putting together a moveable greenhouse on skids, which involved further securing the skids together with big bolts, and assembling the bows; the metal ribs that hold up the plastic.  It is amazing that a semi-permanent structure like a greenhouse can so easily be put up.  And there you have it!  Plant, animal, and human shelter!
Quick personal update for those of you interested in the farmer social life.  My ladyfriend Kate and I have birthdays 5 days apart so we had a celebratory bonfire at her parents’ house.  The cornbread I made was a hit, and there were plenty of tube meats and beer to be consumed.  I got to hang out with cool farm folk there as well.  Another highlight of this past week was the dinner and the carrot cake that Kate made for my birthday.  Fiddleheads are delicious sautéed in garlic and butter.  It didn’t hurt that I had a t-bone steak as well from one of Jeff’s cows.  Mmmmmmmm.  Ok enough about that. 
I hope that everyone enjoys the spring weather, and eat in season!  Pretty soon (maybe already available for places south of Maine), there will be asparagus available for a several week window.  If you eat asparagus at any other time of year that isn’t April/May, chances are you are buying more oil and refrigeration than you are asparagus as it will almost definitely be coming from South America somewhere (Courtesy of             Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent book on farming for her family for a year called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about food).  The quality, and consequently flavor and nutrition, of these cosmopolitan vegetables declines the longer they are harvested without being eaten as they are still alive and consume the stored sugars and nutrients contained within them.  The same can be true of tomatoes during the winter and of course tropical fruits.  So don’t complain about the price of oil when you continue to use it up just so you can have out of season food!  Fight the power!  Here’s a beautiful Pablo Neruda poem that Kate put into my birthday card.  Dunno what the title is…Peace!
Yes: I knew that your hands were
a blossoming clove and the silvery
your notable way with a furrow
and the flowering marls
I saw you delve deeper, dig under
to uncouple the cobble
and limber the roots,
I knew in a moment,
little husbandman,
your heartbeats
were earthen
no less than your hands.

Turnip, Leek, and Cheddar Omelet (Serves 1)
As a belated birthday present, Jeff and Amy gave me today off so that I didn’t have to go to market.  I only had to do animals chores this morning.  I decided to treat myself to a nice breakfast this morning and what a treat it was!  My taste buds went off like fireworks at the delightful mix of sweet turnips, mildly pungent leeks, garlic, and of course melted cheddar.
·       ½ tablespoon of butter and ½ tablespoon of lard or oil
Melt a ½ tablespoon of butter with either lard or oil in a pan on low heat.  The butter is key to enhancing the flavor.
·       One small or half of a medium turnip, chopped into small pieces
·       One small leek, chopped
·       One clove of garlic
Add the chopped turnip (a brassica in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and cauliflower) and leeks to the pan until the turnips begin to soften and the leeks become translucent and tender.  Then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
·       2 or 3 eggs, well-beaten
I learned this trick in some video on cooking I found on the internet.  When you’re ready to pour the eggs into your pan, keep the fork you used handy.  After gently pouring the egg in, once in a while just sort of break the cooked egg bottom up with the fork.  This technique allows you to thoroughly and evenly cook the egg without turning it too brown on the bottom.
·       ¼ cup of grated or chopped up cheese of your choice (can’t go wrong with cheddar or even feta in an omelet).  This might make it too cheesy for your liking so add as much or as little cheese as you want.
Last step!  Add the cheese as the egg comes close to being completely cooked and allow it to melt.  Fold the omelet as you please (tri-fold is easier and less professional, but really who cares as long as it tastes good?).  Salt and pepper to taste and you have a breakfast fit for a person who gets up early on Saturday to do animal chores a.k.a. a king!


  1. Apple-Spice Breakfast Soup
    Years ago, when I lived in Austin, Tex., I had a little business selling hot cups of soup to vendors and shoppers on the “Drag” in front of the University of Texas. This soup was always a favorite on a chilly day. It’s sweet and spicy, and although you can serve it at lunch or dinner, I prefer it for breakfast, with more yogurt stirred in. Use whole-grain sandwich bread if you can.

    1 1/2 quarts water

    4 large tart apples, like Pink Lady, unpeeled, cored and diced (about 2 1/2 pounds)

    2/3 cup dark or golden raisins

    1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

    Pinch of salt

    1/4 cup honey

    4 slices whole-wheat or multigrain bread (about 6 ounces), diced (3 cups tightly packed)

    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    1/2 to 1 cup plain yogurt, to taste, plus additional for garnish

    Thin lemon slices for garnish

    1. Combine the water, apples, raisins, spices, salt and honey in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and stir in the bread. Cover and simmer one hour. The bread will fall apart and thicken the soup.

    2. Remove from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice and yogurt. Serve hot or warm, or chill and serve cold. Garnish each serving with a dollop of yogurt and a thin slice of lemon.

    Yield: Serves six to eight.

    Advance preparation: This soup will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

    Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 251 calories; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 0 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 62 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 161 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 4 grams protein

    Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 189 calories; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 0 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 47 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 121 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 3 grams protein

    Martha Rose Shulman is the author of "The Very Best of Recipes for Health."

  2. chopping wood v2.0