Saturday, June 18, 2011

eating in, while eating out.

Dinner parties in the country are a little different, at least in the circles I frequent. Today after work I was picking up my host's gift for the kind invitation, but instead of staring at a wall of merlot, I was standing in a drizzle outside the Stannard's Farm stand looking at dwarf fruit trees. See, the Daughton family famously abstains from the hooch, and for the same price as a 2009 bottle of wine I could buy them a Cortland Apple. A bottle of wine lasts a night, but an apple tree is something their grandchildren could scuttle up into and eat in pies. What can I say? I'm in it for the longevity. Sold.

I loaded the tree into the back of the truck with some help from the woman running the market that day. We got the tree in, in no time, but stood back and watched the storm rolling in together. Chatting about weather, her kid's school field trip, watching the low clouds swirl into the valley...gorgeous Eventually I wiped the scruff off my hands onto my pants and said something about feeding the animals. She gave me her blessing "you better rush home before they're all to scared to eat from this storm" and we parted ways with waves and thanks. I bought a pint of Battkenkill Valley's chocolate milk for the hell of it. Delicious.

The Daughton's live on five acres in the nearby town of Whitecreek. Their home is nestled in a series of rolling hills along the Vermont border that make it look more like Western England in 1876 than modern America. They live across the street from State Line Hill Farm, a sunflower, corn, and alternative energy farm where the man who runs it works on various Biodiesels. I'm making none of this up. In their backyard are gardens, a beehive, a barn, a beef steer, 14 chickens, and they recently had a horse until they sold it. Quite the enterprise!

Tim and Cathy, and their songs Holden, Ian, and Seth have become close friends. We met last fall when Tim, Holden and I went with our mutual friend Steve out to go pheasant hunting along route 313. After that, I babysat their cow Tasty when he was just a small calf. From those two encounters, a mutual love of farming brought us together. Since then Seth has taught me how to play marbles, Ian and I have traded livestock tips (Tasty is after all, his project), and last night Tim and Holden helped show me how to load and fire a 12 gauge shotgun safely. Next pheasant season I will be using my own gun.

I didn't ask, nor certainly expect, that they would prepare a local meal based on a girl's internet promise, but they were entirely into it. In celebration of my local food month, they put together an amazing early summer meal. We feasted on grassfed beef kabobs from steers that ate pasture the next town over, spinach salad from their garden, strawberry's from Clearbrook Farm, Local bread, and a summer berry pie from Grandma Miller up in the Green Mountains near Londonderry. It was amazing. Cold well water was the only drink during the meal, and it was perfect too. After dinner we sat on the porch with coffee and Tux (their neighbor's cat) and took in the day. A perfect way to start the weekend. I'm so grateful to have these people just a truck drive away.

Today the Eating In challenge continues, and the mission of this lovely Saturday is Strawberries. It's the first true fruit of the Upper Hudson's season and there is a U-pick operation literally two miles down the road. I plan on getting a haul of fresh berries off that farm, and then taking a trip into town to get some new glass jars for canning. I'll be canning enough jam to last the year and still give away to friends. For a few dollars a pint (of berries, cents per jam jar) I'll have my fruit preserves set aside for long as I can stand them. (More on this easy recipe and canning later today.)

I will be explaining all the reasons behind this, but first I wanted to suggest some group reading/listening. Either by paper or audiobook: Barbara Kingsolvers Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of one family's year of living entirely local. (Makes you think very differently about bananas...) and the other is the famed Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, which follows the story behind four meals. Both of these books (which I listen to on my iPod all the time still, while outside on the farm or in my truck) have been huge influences towards starting this farm. I didn't read either until 2009, but have had them sitting near me on a shelf ever since. If you haven't read them, start, you'll be glad you did. And if you're like me and have about 40 minutes a day you can actually sit down and read, load them into your MP3 players and take them on your farm chores, runs, errands in your car, or whatever. Barbara and Mike know their way around a garden, that's for certain.


Blogger booksNyarn said...

Those books were definitely an inspiration to me, and I was just thinking about strawberry jam myself! I ran out a couple months ago, and have been waiting for these days. Enjoy!

June 18, 2011 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Both awesome inspiring titles...AVM is where I learned to make my own mozarella. I would also like to recommend Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet by Alison Smith and JB McKinnon. That was the first one I read that started me on the local food path, then AVM...then on from there, I was totally hooked. Sounds like the Daughtons are great friends, we've made some like that since moving here in 2009. Kindred spirits are never to be taken for granted! (Wait-I just blogged about that topic myself!).

June 18, 2011 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

I am taking a break from capping 35# of local organic strawberries my daughter and I picked yesterday. I have not ventured into canning (yet) but freeze them whole and we snack and bake with them all year. Definitely worth the effort!

Happy Picking!


June 18, 2011 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really triggered me. I had just finished reading her book "Prodigal Summer" and LOVED it, I got Animal Vegetable Miracle as soon as it was published and have re-read it several times since. It's always fun to reminisce on the milestones along this path, that book was definitely one of them!

June 18, 2011 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

I'm not a farmer Jenna but love to buy what we eat at the farmers market. One of the joys of my recent life is sitting here reading your stories of life in your neck of the woods. You have the most wonderful gift of words that make me want to just keep reading and seeing the images in my mind. Thanks for all the pleasure you transmit through your blog.

June 18, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, I would love an apple tree as a hostess gift. Great idea. I have both those books. I am inspired to do this along with you. This morning I made eam from my pig, eggs from my hens, biscuits from wheat grown in Ga. with my goat's milk, jelly from local plums, and grits from a farm in Tn. just up the road. He has his corn ground at a mill not far from Chatt.

For dinner we just went out and picked green beans, collard greens and brocolli. I butchered 6 meat birds Thurs. and put one in a brine in the fridge. I am making bread and rolls also with local honey, my turkey eggs, goat milk and the wheat from Ga. plus wheat that we bought from Montana a few months ago. About 700 pounds worth. So gotta use that. Oh, and onions from the farmer's amrket and some of my potatoes. Sounds good to me.

I do not have to buy meat as we have a whole heifer, a pig, a deer, 2 turkeys and 9 chickens in the freezer.

Love your little "ghost" story. SIlly dog.

June 18, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Both books are among my favorites and have influenced me food choices. I know they had something to do with the local meat in my freezer, the chickens in my backyard and the vegies growing in my garden.

Great reads, both.

June 18, 2011 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

I bought the children's version of Omnivore's Dilemma to read to my kids. Thus far it has been sitting on our book shelf, thanks for reminding me, it'll be a great summer read!

Yesterday I had to pick up my son from a friends house and we missed breakfast, so we popped in to our local farm market store. They were bringing out piping hot fruit pies from the back, we happily purchase one for each of us, then washed them down with an Ale 8 1 which is a Kentucky brewed ginger soda. It was great to know that we could find local food even on the run!

June 18, 2011 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I've read both, and both are great books!

Farm City by Novella Carpenter is also a great read, and good for folks who live in the city. Anyone can do it- it just takes commitment.

June 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Barbara's book is what started me on this journey!!!! Plus I have to love Barbara...she lived in Tucson and was connected to the English Department at the University of Arizona where I worked of a long time. If you live in Tucson, you have to love Barbara, I still have love for Michael Pollan too...his books are really really great as well.

Strawberry jam sounds amazing, except I have developed an allergy to strawberries! Grrr!

June 18, 2011 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Those two books have been hugely influential for me too. I'll never see the grocery store the same way again.

June 18, 2011 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger oukay said...

I love both of these books, and yes, they have influenced me directly (and my family indirectly!).
On the strawberry jam front, I always seem to have trouble with that one and frequently end up with strawberry syrup (which works well as flavoring for plain yogurt).

June 18, 2011 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I highly recommend the audio version of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingsolver wrote it with contributions from her husband and older daughter and each reads what they wrote. So interesting to hear their voices and the emphases exactly as they wished.

June 18, 2011 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Christina I agree!! to hear exactly what is sarcastic and not, inflections, jokes, is the way to go for that book. I listen to it when I'm cooking a lot!

June 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

Love Kingsolver's book. I can't bring myself to eat bananas anymore unless they happen to come from family when I'm lucky enough to visit when a tree is producing. Now if only I could manage to get it together enough to grow the kind of garden she does....

June 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

"Tim and Cathy, and their songs Holden, Ian, and Seth have become close friends."
I know it's a typo, but calling their children 'songs' is rather beautiful! :-)

June 19, 2011 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger Jen ( said...

I need to invite you over to eat. I'm looking to purchase a few dwarf apple trees. ;) (Do you know, can you plant these successfully in the fall?)

I've read both of those books and enjoyed them.

I enjoyed this description of your night with their family, thank you.

June 19, 2011 at 4:24 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

AVM I would say almost...changed my life,it had massive impact on me.The pat where they are storing down a years worth of passata made me vow I would never buy another tin of tomatos again, we now have 3 greenhouses housing around 50 plants and this year I still have enough of my own to use before this years ripen. I use it for all manner of winter casseroles,bolognase sauce,shepherds pie,cottage pie,sometimes poured over pasta on its own.

I avent yet grasped bottling it, I worry about botulism too much so its all frozen in portions but I am qute sure even taking into account the running of the freezer,has less impact on the world around me than me constantly buying the stuff.

People always comment on how good my cooking is, I shrug and say I cant take the credit,its the ingredients!
I slow roast the tomatos down with a mix of shallots,or onions, garlic and herbs so theres lots of variety.

I love audio books I will see if I can find it on good old Amazon!
GTM x x x

June 19, 2011 at 4:37 AM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a fantastic book. I listened to the audiobook on my 40 minute commute to work. It has definitely made me rethink what I eat and how I eat. I'm still not perfect, but I'm making steps toward eating healthier and more locally. Knowing is the first step towards change.

June 19, 2011 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger oukay said...

P.S. where did you get the pic at the top of the post? It would be great to get a copy to frame.

June 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Those canning jars have gone up this year. I guess so many people are canning they raised the price to make more money...

June 19, 2011 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Sage said...

You are inspiring! And I have that "Grow It Yourself" poster hanging in my kitchen!

June 20, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger Daughtons said...

Thank you for your blog. We don't have internet but I love reading it when we happen to go to the local library.
Makes me miss the Daughton farm and clan, as well as rural living.
Keep up the great work.

June 20, 2011 at 7:57 PM  

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