27 February 2011

Spring is coming! I heard baby birds chirping when I woke up on Thursday.

Good Sunday to everyone!  I missed an update last week due to being a designated driver for my friend Annie and her 10 family members.  It was quite fun despite my being the only sober one in the group because they’re all characters and it was nice to be a part of a family reunion where you could tell everyone genuinely loves each other.  Makes me miss my family a bit (thanks Mom for reminding me to update the blog!).
My other excuse for skipping the blog was that I was injured for about a week and a half and pretty bummed about not being able to log or drive horses.  I thought I had broken a rib because it was painful to take deep breaths, cough, sneeze, and move my left arm in certain ways.  Alas, I am almost a hundred percent and so I logged on Wednesday and drove horses on Thursday.  I was exhausted but happy by the time Saturday rolled around.
Speaking of Saturday, the last two markets, we have been selling apples from Amy’s aunt and uncle’s local orchards.  They have been kept in controlled atmosphere storage (Amy explained that the apples are placed in a refrigeration unit where the air is removed and replaced with nitrogen, helping slow the aging of the apples) and are soooo delicious.  We’ve sold New England Granny Smith, Empire, Golden Delicious, Jona Gold, and Macintosh apples.  Each is good in its own little way and is a good dessert after a long day.  I’ve grown a better appreciation of apples and am increasingly composing myself of apples through copious consumption.
Another cool thing I was privileged to be a part of was a market meeting where we voted on whether to accept new applicants for booths in the market space.  The meeting was quite informal with applicants just stating what they were planning to sell and how in front of the current vendors.  After all applicants were done presenting, answering questions, and perhaps providing samples, we voted for each one; keeping in mind the economic well-being of each vendor, potential competition, and diversity within the market.  It was pretty quick and painless after a long day at the Brunswick Winter Market.
One of my favorite parts of market is the sense of community you get from just being there week in and week out.  Most of the vendors are nice enough to give other vendors (such as myself) some goodies that they don’t feel like bringing home like bread, cookies, brownies, and leftover cheese (shout-out to Britney at Swallowtail Farm and Creamery!).  I got many this week.  Another aspect of market that reinforces this sense of community is the great willingness to barter rather than just straight buy from each other.  People will always accept food for services or products; I really like that about the food world.  One might say it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Well, that’s all I got for now.  Go out there and support your local farmer even if it means trying unknown foods!  You never know what you’ll like.  You should also check out the Buckwheat Blossom Farm blog, which I have linked here and also on the right side somewhere à.  Amy has some excellent recipes for winter veggies and recently published a little bio and picture of me doing a farm-like activity.  It’s worth the extra few clicks to see my then month old Fu Man Chu ‘stache.  Peace out homies.

Rich’s Quick and Easy Winter Farm Breakfast Recipe (RQEWFBR for those of you who like acronyms)
I’ve been trying to find some quick and creative ways to use veggies in meals and recently have become a fan of trying root crops in my eggs to give them an added dimension of flavor and richness.  For those of you who are light breakfasters (a real word according to Microsoft), this is nice.  Most mornings I additionally have two pieces of buttered/honeyed toast, and quick oats (oatmeal) with honey, raisins, and cinnamon.  If I’m feeling really hungry, I make a few piece of Jeff’s salted, smoked bacon.  Ooooh man, the bacon. 
·       Bacon (made delicious and sliced)
·       Half a small turnip roughly chopped
·       A small carrot roughly chopped
·       Minced garlic (who doesn’t love garlic?)
·       Two eggs
If you’re having bacon, you should cook that first so you can use the fat to cook your turnips, carrots and garlic.  This sounds like a lot of fat, but I need it and it just adds a bunch of flavor. 
Once the bacon is done, turn the heat down to medium-low and throw on the chopped turnips and carrots.  Stir occasionally until they start to brown a little.  Add the garlic and stir frequently until it’s fragrant; about 30 seconds.  Crack the eggs right on top of the veggies and break the yolk with your spatula as if you were making scrambled eggs.  This shouldn’t take longer than a couple minutes.  Butter your toast, cinnamon your oatmeal, chow down.  You like?

13 February 2011

If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

Sometimes the Bob Marley song "Small Axe" pops into my head while I'm logging.  I'm pretty addicted to logging with the horses....to the point where I have dreams about cutting down big, big trees.  This past Wednesday night I dreamt I cut down a 140 foot tree and that it took like 5 minutes to actually fall to the ground.  It was awesome.

Anyway it's been logging pretty much every day.  We've been separating them into three different piles in three different yards depending on the tree and what it's being used for.  We've been cutting fir trees for pulpwood (paper), maples and birches for firewood, and big ol' spruces and hemlocks, called sawlogs for Amy's mom's house that will be built within a couple years.  The sawlog yard is about 50 feet from the yurt and sometimes is a nice break from driving horses; unless you really don't like trying to move big logs on top of each other.  Let's just say you get really tired by the end of the day when working in the yard as what we affectionately have dubbed the "yard b*tch." 

Yesterday, the 12th, I had a good time at market as always and then went straight to the US toboggan championships in Camden, Maine.  Unfortunately I got there at 3 PM and the races ended at 4.   However, I met up with Andy and Cara, whose friends had a tent with a wood stove and a DJ on the lake that was the end of the toboggan race.  I didn't see one race at all.  They weren't that interesting anyway.  I did do a lot of dancing.  That was interesting.  After that we went sledding down this big hill that you could probably reach 40 mph on.  Who knew all this snow could be so fun?  About to go snowshoeing...

I've decided that trying recipes and then posting them is a lot of work, but I have been making lots of cornbread with butter and for quick meals have been stir frying sliced rutabaga, turnips, onions, garlic, and carrots with some soy sauce and ginger.  Sounds funky, but tastes awesome and you can eat a lot of it without feeling gluttonous.  Just be sure not to burn the garlic, saute the onions, and put a little water in with the root veggies so they get steamed.  Y'all stay smelly.

"Seek not happiness too greedily, and be not fearful of happiness."
-Lao Tzu

06 February 2011

Horse Logging: How to be a gentle badass

Spring is slowly approaching, the buds are swelling on the trees, and the days get long enough for me to walk back in the light most of the time.  Just to remind us it’s still winter though, nature every so often dumps snow on Mid-Coast Maine in 1-2 foot increments.  Perfect logging conditions if you’re a 6’ 4” giant like Jeff.  Not so much for myself.
There are so many subtleties to driving horses, it’s so hard to figure out where to begin describing what you are doing; especially because there is waist deep snow and we’re logging.  In so many words, however, I agree with Jeff’s suggestion that it may be much easier to learn to drive horses whilst logging in the winter because you can establish a rapport with the horses and driving them.  Thus when the time comes to have to drive them in straight lines when plowing, mounding rows, seeding, cultivating (weeding), and spreading manure, it will be a piece of mud pie.  The downside is that you really are being thrown into working the horses and occasionally being dragged through deep snow.  It may seem obvious but this method requires a steep learning curve. 
Fortunately for both the horses and I, my comfort level with them and giving commands with voice and lines is growing steadily.  In any case, the following is my attempt to give everyone an idea of what driving horses is like as a beginner.  Class, put on your thinking caps and try to imagine with me…  It’s anywhere from 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the unbroken snow stands about 2 and half feet high.  Consequently you have 2 or 3 pairs of socks on, a pair of long johns or two, several layers that you may or may not peel off up top, and of course a warm hat.  Your heavy winter boots protect you from the cold, hoofs, axes, saws, and stumps.  Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, you carry several pairs of gloves with you: a warm pair of work gloves for cutting trees and moving objects, a pair of gloves with rubber grips so that you can get a grip on the cold, snowy lines (reins), and probably a thinner pair of gloves underneath for extra warmth.
As you drive the horses, you use a combination of voice commands and the lines.  In order to get the horses moving you use anything from “giddup” to “comeup” or even a kissing sound.  To stop you say “whoa.”  A sharp left is “haw” while right is “gee.”  If you have to back up some, you say…drum roll…“back.”  There are other, more complex, commands, but these are the basics.  There is not need to yell, but you should be using a confident, calm tone similar to how a good dog owner commands their dog.
Most of your steering is done using the lines, but you aren’t just using your arms to jerk the lines around.  While you are walking directly behind the horses about 8 feet back, you are trying to maintain “perfect tension.”  If you hold back on the lines too much the horses will respond by slowing or stopping; if the lines are slack, you do not have control and the horses will either quickly become confused or stop.  Keep in mind the horses are connected to the lines by bits, which are bars or chains placed in their mouth so that they are very sensitive to your line pressure.  Now imagine trying to do all this under the conditions I described in the paragraph above.  That’s what we be doing for anywhere from 3 to 7 hours a day 4 days a week except you’re also hitching 20-50 foot logs by chain to an “evener” connected to the pair of horses, called a team, to a log yard about a tenth of a mile down the trail.  In between you might be cutting down trees and completing all the associated procedures.
I will say this though, I love horse logging the more I improve at it.  The sense of accomplishment of hauling this tree with the help of these beautiful animals is exhaustingly spiritual.  My respect for the horses as individuals with personalities is manifest in the way I talk to them, pet them, praise them, and drive them.  The fact that they can make a job that would take several humans much longer to complete look so effortless is extremely humbling.  I’ll admit that for the first week or so I was nervous, anxious, and even dreading working with the horses because it is a grind and requires enormous patience.  At the end of the day, your body feels worn, your lungs are sucking in the cold air with reckless abandon, and your hands, arms, and legs are burning from holding the lines, moving logs, and handling chains.  Additionally your legs and feet are wet from the snow melting and absorbing into your pants/long johns and then your pants freeze so that you have shin guards for jeans.  But boy, oh boy, is it fun and it does get easier.           
So there it is, being a gentleman to the horses (goooood horses), and hustling and straining to hop over moving logs (grunt); a gentle badass.  Are you man or woman enough to be a horse logger?  If a 12-year-old boy can do it (and yes we have a 12 year old who technically owns one of the horses doing this about once a week), then you can.  Plus, you can then eat as much peanut butter with carrots, squash, bacon, and eggs as you want and not get fat, which is pretty much what I’ve been running on as staples.  However, not all together although they might actually be good combined now that I think about it…

“If there is a God, it made peanut butter and jelly.”  - Myself