Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going Freelance

The last two weeks I have been as busy as ever. As I mentioned in the last blog post I found work helping an older woman in her garden, and throw a birthday party. It was a little intense but fun. The party was on Sunday but we began preparations on Friday. I drove her all around our little village to buy food and supplies at grocery stores and markets.

Saturday we made a short visit to the Cold Spring Farmers Market and purchased some last minute items; some beautiful plump mushrooms, brightly colored winter squash, fresh baked bread. All day long she cooked while I prepped. She handed me vegetables to chop, dice, peel, eggs to whisk, oranges to slice and juice, and glasses of sangria to taste. We made big batches of red and white sangria with slices of oranges, orange juice, wine, and cointreau. Every few hours we took a tiny ladle of the sangria we made to check the flavor, it was initially too tart so we added honey to each batch.

The day proceeded with praise and scolding. "Good, good. No! What are you doing?" That was good for chopping the tomatoes nicely. Bad because I like to rinse things like my knife or bowls under running water without a container underneath to catch it. She has this obsession with saving water (not a bad thing especially if you live in the desert) but she lives alone, has a well, and lives next to a stream. But at the end of the day we got a lot accomplished and we get along very well.

Sunday is party time. Most of the food was cooked the day before but there was still last minute things to prepare, steamed bok choy, stratas, and croissant sandwiches stuffed with smoked salmon. The party was from 3pm until 10pm. She planned to serve lunch and supper, buffet style. I was given strict instructions that dishes are hidden away and not left around or put in the dishwasher. I was to put them under the sink or in her laundry room. As the party progressed the urge for me to do the dishes grew stronger and stronger especially when we were running out of utensils, plates and glasses. (around 8pm I couldn't take it anymore and when she was out of the kitchen I put a load of dishes on.) At 9pm, I had been there for 12 hours and I was tired. My cue to leave was when I dropped a bottle of Champagne, while trying to open it, on the floor in front of all her guests. She was a good sport about it, no doubt my prize winning pie, I brought two that disappeared in minutes, had helped.

After a long weekend I was ready to rest, but Monday morning I found myself with a shovel digging up plants known as Obedient. I had been asked to help another woman in her garden. So Monday and Tuesday I spent a few hours helping dig up plants, finding homes for those plants, and planting bulbs of alliums, tulips and narcissus.

While digging, the neighbor of the woman I was helping came over and chatted with us. He asked me if this garden work was something I was looking to do regularly. Sure, I thought. Why not? The wheels were turning in my head, maybe my next job is to help people in their gardens. I can call myself the Personal Garden Assistant.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Life post farm internship

It's been one week since I left the farm. How have I adjusted? For starters, I am wearing my engagement ring again, I didn't want to risk losing it or having it so crusted with dirt and other debris that it looked like a piece of rock salt. I have switched from wearing loose ripped jeans and Carhartts to tighter fitting jeans and jeggins ( jeans + leggings, they look like jeans but are really tights). My husband can't wait for me to abandon that trend. Don't worry, a few months without farm work to keep me in shape should put a quick end to my infatuation with tights. My next trend may be over sized sweaters with sweat pants. I go to bed at 10:30 pm and sleep in until 7am. I enjoy getting up in the morning and taking my time to make breakfast and check the interweb. I would say I am adjusting pretty well.

I already found some work. I am helping a woman, who lives 3-minutes from me, clean-up her garden and property and sometimes we do a little bit of work inside. She is the wife of a famous photographer, Leonard Freed. We work for a few hours in the morning and sometimes she feeds me lunch; or we have pie break. She loves food as much as I do and she asked me to help her prepare for her husbands birthday party this weekend. Even though Leonard passed-away a few years ago she still throws him a party and invites their friends and people who worked with him. I find it incredibly endearing.

I spent quite a bit of time trawling the internet last week for research and newspaper articles for my agriculture class at school. I am doing a research paper on Canadian and American dairy policies, specifically looking at policies that foster sustainable dairy production. And I have registered for the Stone Barns Young Farmers Conference this December.

Just to reassure you that there are more adventures to come at Farmer Chic, my husband and I are in the process of buying a 46-acre farm that needs lots of work. I will definitely have plenty to share if we end up buying it.

Agriculture is such a part of my life that even when I am not working on the farm, I am thinking about a farm. I shouldn't get used to wearing my engagement ring, or my jeggins; it seems I am destined to have dirty hands and Carhartts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last week on the farm

On a cold February day, four interns checked-in for the ten month internship, one checked-out in July, another in August and now I am leaving mid-October. I didn't quite make it to the end, but I felt I had reached a good stopping point. School is starting to take up more of my time and the garden less and less. But that doesn't mean my last week was a walk in the park, in fact it was one of the more physically active weeks I've had in a while.

On Tuesday we put the rest of the remaining rock dust (to increase soil mineral content) in the garden. The rock dust is conveniently packaged in a 2000lb bag, fortunately half was used already. We had to shovel the rock dust into the bucket of the Bobcat, dump the load by garden, and then scoop up the rock dust and lightly sprinkle it on the rows. The technique I use is to slightly rotate the handle up and down so I can control how much amendment I put down. It didn't take long before my forearm was feeling the burn.

Later that day I spent three hours hoeing the muddy ground, after four days of sunshine the ground still stubbornly refuses to dry, trying to incorporate the rock dust into the soil. It is a challenge to hoe wet soil as opposed to dry soil because it sticks and there's more friction. It was pretty slow going and there were many glances at my cheap neon green watch that afternoon.

Dayna (the last surviving intern for 2010) and me

Wednesday after harvesting for CSA we sowed winter rye, a cover crop, in the same garden we put down the soil amendments. Winter rye puts down roots in the fall but really only starts growing in spring. When it's tilled in the spring it adds a lot of green matter to the soil, plus it prevents soil erosion in the winter.

Thursday we stepped up our sowing big-time. The five-acre area we had been discing these past few weeks was ready to be cover cropped. We had 500lbs worth of winter rye, 100lbs per acre. No fancy equipment was used to sow our seeds. We are old-school. Two kitty litter boxes were filled with seed and Dave and I split an acre into two halves and proceeded to sow our seed. It took us three hours to cover five-acres and we probably walked 6miles up and down the field.

Friday morning was a little sad because it was my last day least for 2010. The cattle adjacent to the field were in a frenzy. They sounded like a bunch of 12 years old handed brass instruments. I thought they were vocalizing what everyone on the farm was thinking, "how we will we ever go on without Krystal?" But alas, that was only my imagination. The cattle were really just upset because one of them broke out and was freely grazing above our garden (it was quickly put back in with the herd.)

My going away gift, lots of yummy squash!

When I was asked how I felt about it being my last week I didn't have this feeling of finality. I knew I would be back, I was already planning to come back in November to help process the turkeys and build the high tunnel. Plus, I can volunteer at anytime. So I really don't feel like I am leaving. After eight and half months it will be hard to imagine not being on the farm five, sometimes six, days a week. We'll see how I feel when this actually settles in...stay tuned for a life-after-the farm analysis.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Season's winding down, but harvest is going strong

It's week 18 of our CSA distribution and some might be surprised to learn the boxes are not filled just with kale or arugula. This weeks share is both beautiful and diverse. Boxes are packed with broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale (of course), chard, lettuce, leeks, peppers, eggplants, hot peppers, turnips, an assortment of herbs, celeriac, potatoes, tomatoes (albeit just a handful) and pumpkins! Now that's impressive.

When I was harvesting the cabbage in the field I knew I had to make Borscht this weekend, a potato, cabbage and beet soup. While there are a variety of things to harvest, it doesn't take us very long to do it. Tomato picking used to take 2hrs now it takes 20 minutes. The pace of our day has slowed down considerably and it is almost a shock to go from working so much to having very little to do. This time of the year we start cleaning tools, organizing sheds, removing hoses from the fields, removing dead plants from the field that can't be turned in, draining the oil out of the rototiller, and tackling the small projects we don't have time to do in the summer.

One such project was insulating the root cellar. On a gray drizzly day we assembled in this root cellar to insulate the ceiling. A root cellar needs high humidity but not so much that it drips condensation on top of the produce. Root cellars are a great way to store potatoes, beets, carrots, apples, winter squash or other storage hardy vegetables for the long winter months. To insulate the ceiling, our resident handy man Mark helped us measure the panels, cut them, and then using an air gun bolt them to the cement ceiling. It was going swimmingly until we ran out of insulation..guess that will be a project for next years interns.

In the livestock department, things haven't been going so great for the goats. In the past few weeks we lost two bottle babies, one kid, and two older goats. We think the younger goats may have been infected by a worm or parasite. To prevent any further loss the livestock crew separated out any goats that looked weak, including our first bottle baby Lady, and put them inside a pen for shelter and so we could keep an eye on them. Lady seems to be healthy, which is encouraging. I love that I can see her more often. She is a little escape artist though, jumping out of her pen constantly. Sometimes she would wander over to the fence by the garden and call out to us. I really want to take her home and make her my second dog.

Photo by: Frankie Kim

One of our bottle babies that passed away, rest in peace Shrimp Salad

Yesterday I walked into barn where the goats and sheep are kept and I smelt a pungent cheese odor. I thought it was odd but then I saw Hollywood, the buck, in the pen with the sheep. I had been warned that a buck in rut smells pretty bad but I never experienced it firsthand. When bucks go into rut, male version of going into heat, they are completely different creatures. For starters they smell, and touching them by default will make you smell. Plus, they do some pretty gross things, one of them is drinking their own urine, the other I don't even think is mentionable on this blog. Ok, when have I ever held back? He sticks his, schlong, in his mouth. The reason he was separated from the herd of goats is because Ken, farm director, hasn't been pleased with Hollywood's offspring, mostly their poor survivor rate, and wants to try a new buck. A new one will be arriving next week. In reality we already have two bucks. However the other buck, Whopper, is special...I don't think he knows he's a buck, or if he does, he is clearly not interested in his female companions.

Autumn is a beautiful time on the farm and it is hard to believe that exactly one year ago I was interviewing for the garden intern position. I was in awe of the beauty of the farm then, and I still am 8- months later. Hard to believe I will be leaving soon. I think I really could enjoy having my own farm someday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pie contest at Stone Barns

Harvest fests, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving are all fall celebrations deliciously centered around abundance and gorging. I fully enjoy taking advantage of those occasions. While food is always important for a moment I will dwell on the beauty of fall. Nothing compares to the clear bright blue skies, warm days, and the crunching sounds fallen leaves and acorns make as you walk. Just as the beauty of flowers and vegetables fade away the trees enthrall us with an artists palette of yellows, reds, and oranges.

Naturally I say all this coming down off the high of a beautiful Saturday spent at Stone Barns for their Harvest Fest while conveniently forgetting about the cool rainy days we had last Thursday and Friday and again today. It wasn't just the old stone buildings, the smell of roasting Berkshire pork over an open pit, or the live music that had me excited, it was the fact I was entering the pie contest. The first time I ever entered any recipe contest.

Weeks ago I started experimenting with Delicata squash as the main ingredient. It happened to be one the squashes we grew at Glynwood, but I had never eaten it before. I thought to myself, if you can make pies with pumpkin why not with other winter squash? The contest theme was seasonal pies with local ingredients. I had that one in the bag. Four out of my five ingredients were all locally sourced and two of them from the farm I work at. I will fess up right now though, I did not make the pie crust. Even though I have access to wonderful local flour, from Wild Hives, pie crusts tend to be one of the few shortcuts I take. I could probably blame my crust aversion on my mom, who like myself makes a lot of things from scratch, but always used pie shells. But my reasons for avoiding making them is because its time consuming, I don't always get a consistent end product, and it doesn't look very pretty when I am done with it. That being said, I should just suck-it-up and practice. In the future I promise I will try and make the pie crust as well.

The first pie I made with just maple syrup as the sweetener and then I made another pie with half maple syrup and half brown sugar. I actually liked the combination of maple syrup and brown sugar better because I think the brown sugar helped the maple flavor stand out more. The color was a beautiful golden yellow and texture was firm but creamy, almost in between the texture of pumpkin pie and mousse. I brought in a slice for my fellow Glynwood co-workers to try and they all gave it the thumbs up.

The night before the contest I made two pies, in order to give them enough time to cool and set overnight. I unfortunately filled the pie shells right to the brim, even though part of me said I should stop before they get too full, as they cooled they formed two tiny fissure in the center of both pies. In the morning I racked my brain trying to figure out how to cover it up because I couldn't submit ugly amateur looking pies, I quickly dismissed whipped cream (it would change the flavor profile and would be a cop-out) I definitely couldn't bake two more in time for the contest, in the end I decided to bake another Delicata with brown sugar and quickly blend it with a touch of cream and used it to fill in the tiny cracks. The pies were looking in much better shape and I didn't have to sacrifice the taste. I was feeling a smidge more confident.

At 1pm we sat in the courtyard near the stage and I watched nervously as all the pies were brought out. I grew more anxious, and said to my husband "maybe mine was too simple, maybe it wasn't pretty enough." He told me to stop worrying. Easier said then done.

The guest judges were Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs from the website Food52 (take a look at the slide show and short video of the harvest festival and pie contest.) I highly recommend checking out the website. It's not your typical recipe website, this actually feels like your joining a cooking community and is geared towards the home-cook enthusiasts. You can post recipes, get feed back on recipes, ask questions, and enter recipe contests. Best of all the winning recipe from each week gets compiled into a cookbook, hence the name Food52 for 52 weeks of the year (note-to-self, gotta get in on this.)

Over the moon with joy, accepting my gift bag

The contest had prizes for four categories, Most Beautiful, most inventive ingredient combination, most seasonal, and best pie overall. I won most seasonal....then I also won best overall! I jumped up like I had just won an Emmy. I was so excited it was like a total adrenaline rush. Wow, someone besides my husband, friends and family, likes my food, I felt vindicated.

Amanda Hesser, me, Merrill Stubbs

Truthfully my pie wasn't fancy at all, it was just a simple combination of really good quality ingredients, and the fact that I was genius for putting them all together. Maybe the next pie I make will have to make is humble pie...

Maple Delicata Pie

by Krystal Ford

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • 1 (9-inch) pie shell
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar (divided use)
  • 1 delicata squash (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 cup Ronnybrook cream
  • 1/2 cup Lanza Farms maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Glynwood eggs (or free-range eggs from a local farm)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut delicata squash lengthwise into two halves and scoop out seeds.

3. Divide a tablespoon of butter and brown sugar between the squash halves and bake for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Set aside until cooled and turn oven down to 350 degrees.

4. Scoop out squash (1 1/2 cups worth) into a blender. Add cream, maple syrup, and remaining brown sugar and blend until smooth (about 1 to 2 minutes).

5. Pour squash blend into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

6. Mix in eggs, one egg at a time.

7. Pour filling into pie shell.

8. Bake for 1 hour or until set.

9. Allow pie to cool and refrigerate for 2 hours.