Friday, April 18, 2014

RECIPE: Boneless Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce Compliments of Kristin N.

Grilled Lamb from Leyden Glen 

Back on the block....Boneless Leg of Lamb .... get it at Amherst Farmers' Market Opening April 19  (Tomorrow!)
Boneless leg of lamb - 1 1/2 to 3 pounds
For Chimmichurri Sauce
4 cloves of fresh garlic peeled
1 cup parsley leaves (removed from stalks)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more if you like things spicy)
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
To cook lamb:
Prepare grill. Cut the strings that are tying the leg together. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the boneless leg.
The boneless leg of lamb shown grilled for 10 minutes on one side over a rather high heat, 6 minutes on the other. The best thing to do is to test with a meat thermometer unless you have a natural feel for cooking meat. Our lamb was 130 degrees when it came off the grill. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and plate.
Chimichurri Sauce:
In a food processor, process garlic. Add parsley and oregano and process until chopped fine. This is not a pesto so don't liquefy the herbs. Transfer to a bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and set aside. Is best if flavors meld in the fridge. Serve as a sauce for the grilled lamb.
The Chimmichurri Sauce will keep for at least a day. Leftovers are good on any kind of vegetable or potato salad. It is a flavorful sauce with a fresh zingy taste.
Copyright 2014 Kristin Nicholas

Monday, April 14, 2014

Could the mother of us all take on GMO's?

Gamma Sigma Delta stands for, "the binding together of earth, the mother of all, and the practice of agriculture, and the arts relating thereto for the welfare of mankind…" 

Future fish and large animal farmers Derek Silva and Lila Grallert of UMass were inducted into agricultural honor society last week. In the interviews below they share their thoughts on GMOs, permaculture, the future of farming and what they had for breakfast. 

Future Farmers Weigh In: Derek Silva

Derek Silva 

VL: Where are you from Derek Silva?
DS: A portuguese community in Lowell, Massachusetts

VL: What year are you?
DS: I’m finishing up my third year and I’ll be graduating in one semester.

VL: What is your major and area of interest?
DS: Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Food and Farming.  My interest is in aquaculture, which is an often forgotten aspect of agriculture that that has only been growing bigger and bigger in recent years.  I also have an interest of one day working in the tropics in developing countries.

VL: What got you interested in agriculture?
DS: Farming is a big part of my family’s past and I spent a lot of time on farms as a child.  The idea of growing my own food and raising my own animals just stuck with me.

VL: What are your thoughts studying agriculture in western mass?
DS: I think western mass is a great place to study agriculture because it’s such a big part of the daily life here and the atmosphere is very supportive of it.

VL: What are your thoughts on GMOs?
DS: From my experience, when people hear GMO they have very strong feelings either for or against.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground where people can calmly and rationally discuss GMOs.  With that being said, the thought of eating foods that have been genetically modified seems wrong to me and I haven’t read any studies that conclusively show GMOs to be the solution we need.  However, I try to stay open-minded and maybe some day, after significant study, we’ll see that GMOs aren’t all that bad.

VL: How can a farmer make a difference in today’s world of big agriculture?
DS: I think a farmer is making a difference as soon as they decide to be a farmer.  Even just a backyard farmer can have a huge impact on family, neighbors and their community.  I think the perfect phrase to describe farming in this country is out of sight, out of mind.  It’s been forgotten and by becoming a farmer, you’re bringing it back to people’s attention.

VL: What does having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society mean to you and to the school?
It’s very rewarding.  The people at UMass who study agriculture already know that Stockbridge, its professors and its students are all great people.  To me having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society is a recognition that we’re doing something right and it serves as encouragement to keep working.

VL: What do you recommend to students who are interested in going into agriculture?
DS: Do it.  I think the best way to learn in agriculture is to just get out there and not be afraid to mess up.  Plant some vegetables, visit farms, talk to farmers, do whatever you can.  If you show people that you’re really interested I think you’ll find there are a lot of people out there who will support you.

VL: What did you have for breakfast?
A bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a cup of fair trade coffee.

Future Farmers Weigh In: Lila Grallert

VL: Where are you from Lila Grallert?
LG: Ayer, Mass.

VL: What is your area of interest?
LG: I am a double major in sustainable food/farming and pre-veterinary medicine. My focus is sustainable animal production. 

VL: What got you interested in agriculture? 
LG: The idea that food production brings people together with each other, with the earth, and with other types of life really intrigues me. I think this is what really draws me into the idea of raising animals for food. Animals need healthy land to feed them, and we need healthy animals to feed us. 

VL: What are your thoughts studying agriculture in western mass?
LG: Living in the pioneer valley has been extremely conducive to studying agriculture. I have had the opportunity to work and take classes on farms, gaining valuable hands-on experience. Learning about raising sheep in classes is nothing compared to staying overnight at the farm to help the sheep deliver babies if needed. In addition, most of my classes have included lab sections that involved visiting nearby farms and talking with producers which is a great opportunity for learning. Finally, the story of the UMass and the valley is deeply rooted in the story of agriculture in the US and understanding the history of the area and its people allows us to begin to understand the history of agriculture in the country.

VL: What are your thoughts on GMOs?
LG: The scientific data supporting the idea that GMOs are having a negative impact on our health is disputed. However, a downfall to GMOs that I don't think can be argued with is the implications that they have on farmers and the way in which industrial agriculture companies help create an oppressive system for farmers to survive in. The idea that life (GMOS... seeds) can be patented can be dangerous for farmers wanting to stay independent from seed companies and save their own seeds. In addition, GMO seeds as an export commodity pose a great risk to farmers invested in them as one failed harvest can result in a failed farm (because they rely on buying in seeds each year, often these seeds are not adapted to the areas where they are being grown, and the farmer becomes dependent on a company for supplying seeds). 

VL: How can a farmer make a difference in today’s world of big agriculture? 
LG: Creativity. I think that the future of agriculture relies on innovative solutions that integrate modern technology with holistic ways of thinking about the stewardship of life. In addition, being connected with their communities and understanding the needs of the people that live there is vital to the survival of small farms and the encouragement of strong communities rooted in healthy food and vibrant local economies.

VL: What does having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society mean to you and to the school? 
LG: Gamma Sigma Delta is "The binding together of earth, the mother of all, and the practice of agriculture, and the arts of relating thereto for the welfare of  mankind." This motto is the reason I was drawn to agriculture, and the reason I wish to continue within the world of agriculture. Food production is something that can unite people, and remind them about their roots in the earth and their connection with the life around them. Joining this society reminds me that I part of a community of people who will devote their lives to this idea and to being part of feeding the world in a sustainable and just way. UMass Amherst has a community of people who wish to do this, and the honors society allows them to remain part of that community even after they graduate.

VL: What do you recommend to students who are interested in going into agriculture? 
LG: Talk to farmers, learn from their mistakes and successes. Constantly seek opportunities to make your own mistakes and find your own successes. Seek the truth by asking tough questions and trusting in your experiences. 

VL: What did you have for breakfast? 
LG:  Pork sausage raised my a fellow SFF major!... (shout-out to Skalbite Family Farm!) and an apple.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between Now and Asparagus

locavore dead zone

Little left in the larder ... 

This is the last week of our root cellar in the form of a winter share at Brookfield. That means we're down to 4 carrots, a couple of turnips and 2 garlic cloves. No onions left. Between now and asparagus we have approximately 6 weeks. This time of year is known as the Locavore Dead Zone.

Next to the calendar in our kitchen is a cardboard wheel of the seasonal food. In the Mar/Apr portion of the wheel are sweet little drawings of what food nature provides at this time of year. There are eggs, there is a chicken, cured meats, maple syrup, preserves, mushrooms, dairy, squash, and kale, plus, for some reason, brussels sprouts.

Wildlife hunkers down or invades backyard bird feeders during the dead zone. What do humans do? If it weren't for a pretty blond who grows spinach all winter long, hydroponic bok choy and salad mix from Swartz Farm in N. Amherst and a handful of other stalwart farmers, it would be like the year of 2009 for this Locavore. 2009 was not pretty. I existed on potatoes, cornbread (made from cornmeal from Hadley, Ashfield yogurt, eggs from Wendell), butter and kale I picked out of the snow at a farm on River Road in Whately. 

That was then. Now kale can be purchased legally. Extended season growing efforts means that all of the local food indicated on the cardboard wheel of seasonal food can be purchased under one snow covered roof.  Winter Farmers Markets in three towns now sell hoop house greens and jars of tomato sauce from Red Fire Farm in Granby, the spinach lady's offerings, meats, cheese, mushrooms and more. Fruit and root vegetables are available all winter long due to improved storage facilities at Bashista in Southampton and Winter Moon in Hadley. The Locavore Dead Zone between March and Asparagus is officially over. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Outsider artist with Assemblage in Springfield. Florist Gretchen Stibolt with natural and unnatural materials at a retrospective of her work. This Saturday at the Bing Arts Center at the "X" in Springfield. You might have to knock on the windows or turn on the lights but it is worth it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Framing Spring Planting at Holyoke Farm-2-School Program

Future Farmers Design Spring Gardens....

photo: Mary A. Nelen

..... in Holyoke Public Schools  

Two weeks ago future farmers, ages 8 through 13, used cardboard to model the raised beds that will make up school gardens in the spring at Morgan Elementary and Peck Middle School in Holyoke.  

Pizza Gardens, Flower and Cabbage Gardens and a Popcorn Gardens are in the works and organized by School Sprouts of Holyoke. 

Last week students sawed and sanded their way to a wooden frame that will be used in the courtyard garden when the weather is warm enough. Next, seeds will be decided on and selected. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why should you attend this biochar symposium?

Here are just a few reasons (adapted in part from Albert Bates book, The Biochar Solution)
  1. Because you understand your dependence upon agriculture and want to better understand how biochar benefits soil by stimulating microbial activity, attracting fungi and distributing nutrients to the roots of plants, much as a coral reef supports the ocean. You'll also want to know how the micropores in biochar provides a "reservoir and conduit for soil moisture, soaking up water from over-saturated areas and giving it back to dry areas"
  2. Because you care about sustainable agriculture and want to learn from others addressing the complex challenges of preserving ecosystem services, enhancing soil fertility, increasing water absorption while decreasing the amount needed, employing human and animal labor, as well as sequestering carbon.
  3. Because you worry about the complicated and unsustainable use of fossil fuels and want to explore energy alternatives. You want to see solutions that successfully address a rigorous life cycle analysis with full disclosure and transparency.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

If you're into the hard stuff......

Cider Days, November 2 & 3, 2013

Vintage calvados and signature ciders in Deerfield. Standing room only in The Cider Salon tent. 

Why? If you're into the hard stuff, the world's largest hard cider tasting with more than 60 individual cider brands from across North America in the big tent across from the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls. Two sessions — 3 to 4:30 and 5:15 to 6:45 (Saturday) BUY TICKETS

Where is Biochar Bob?

Biochar Bob

Where is he today? Haiti. Where will he be in October? Amherst.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

a boy's love affair with food........

this story concerns a guy who shook up his high school and won the right to bake with the boys......

"So began my love affair with cooking. I was given the keys to the castle, the ability to satisfy my largest appetite. It was like the power some kids feel when they get a driver’s license..." 

Click on link below for entire article.

"Cooking is Freedom!"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

RECIPE: Verrill's Corn and Tomato Tart

Verrill's Corn and Tomato Tart
(Ellie's Cookbook 2009)

1/2 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T olive oil
5 ears of corn, kernels cut off
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C grated cheddar cheese
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 scallions, chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream

Directions Filling
Heat to 375. In a medium sauce-pan over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic of olive oil until onions are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put half of the corn mixture into Baked Pie Crust. Layer grated cheese evenly on top. Add remaining corn mixture. Scatter cherry tomatoes and scallions on top. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cream; pour egg mixture over tart. Bake 30 minutes until tart is golden brown. Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Baked Piecrust

This recipe is for a 9x10" pie pan (or use a tart pan)
3/4 C flour
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
2 T cold water

Directions Pie Crust
Heat oven to 375. In a food processor, pulse together flour, butter and salt until mixture resembles corn kernels. Add water & pulse just until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out dough and place in pie pan. Cover with parchment paper and a handful of dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes. Let crust cool, remove beans/weights, add filling. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

RECIPE: Cream of MFK Fisher Potato Soup Locavore Version

David Levine Image
Just because I love her and just because you asked, dear reader, I present MFK's recipe for Potato Soup. This in lieu of a chowder recipe. This is a good way to use Idaho potatoes.

If you really want chowder, which is a bit thinner, skip the roux part (i.e. don't bother with flour) of the recipe and add either 1 C shucked clams or corn.

Cream of potato soup
Serves 4

From M.F.K. Fisher’s How To Cook A Wolf.
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (Idaho or Hadley--Idaho is best)
2 mild onions, sliced thinly (Pioneer Valley)
2 tbs flour (Wheatberry in Amherst ground by you)
4 tbs butter (Pioneer Valley)
salt and pepper (up to you)
1 cup potato water (local from sink)
3 cups rich scalded milk (local in fridge)
1 tbs chopped parsley, 1 tbs chopped chives (backyard)

Stew the onions gently in one-half the butter for 15 mins. Add the potatoes and cover with a small amount of water, about two cups. Cook gently until tender. Drain, saving one cup of the water, and put the vegetables through a strainer.

Make a roux of the remaining butter and the flour (a roux is a cooked mixture of flour and a cooking fat that is used to thicken sauces and gravies), add the potato water and the seasoning, and stir in the scalded milk. Combine the mixture with the strained vegetables and heat thoroughly, beating with an egg beater for several minutes. Add the chopped herbs and serve at once, or chill and serve as Vichysoisse the next day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

RECIPE: Figs for now, for later, for lovers....

There is a man who lives around an hour from me due north.

He grows figs under glass. Comes from the eastern part of the state and before that the southern part of Italy.  He has the presence of a Mountain goat, more like an animal than a person, can grow just about anything….

Milo, first and last name, brought with him some culture -- how to stucco a barn or coax figs from New England soil.  I say, "hey, what kind of figs?" or "where are the seeds from?" and he says, "Maybe it was there in Italy, from my dad, or maybe my brother gave them to me to grow for my dad.....not sure." 

He is around 40 maybe 60. He has eyes the color of bottled mineral water and a long ponytail down his back. He wears old sweat pants and sleeps in a crows nest on the top of his house. He goes to sleep with the sun and rises with the sun. Milo's body is slight, brown and pliant like a fig when it falls, ripe to the ground.  

When I went to meet with him, it was to buy some figs and because I just stood there staring, he gave me a tour of his place.  We started with some news clippings about him and he served me a little a snack at the kitchen table of his oregano and tomatoes. When I finished eating, very good, astoundingly good oregano, he asked, "Back hurt? Sittin on the computer?" Hell yes. He pulled out a hassock and said to lie on my back and elevate my legs while he went off to do some errands. 

Milo's house is in the middle of town and can be entered through a gate, an elaborate creation of color and iconography. The primary hues of tie dyed t-shirts adorn the outer perimeter of his estate, a tangle of hearts and peace signs carved into the stone walls.

A tour of his place revealed spring-fed pool dug out of stone and heated with wood. His walls, the stucco barn walls are soft curves, "all by hand" he says, petting the walls. "No power tools." And the work, smooth stone inlaid with glass, mica and shells, is intricate, like cave paintings. "This one," pointing to a mandala on the wall of the entryway of the house, "is made from a buncha glass given to me by some guy who thought I would like it....I don't know.”   We leave the explosion of dinnerware. 

Next we climb hand hewn stairs toward a trapeze leading to the cows nest where our interview will take place. He takes a step up the ladder, grabs a nearby trapeze and hoists himself feet first, into the crows nest. He offers the trapeze to me.

"Are you sure you want me up here?" I say.

He smiles and shakes his head imperceptibly. An unnecessary question perhaps.  I ask him if he drank coffee. He laughed. Wine? No, at night he hikes and gets as close to where the sun is setting as possible. He discusses gravity and western medicine. “The best way to live life is to be like a plant-- just keep growing up ward!" He says and straightens his spine.

"Gravity is always trying to pull you your mother," he said, pulling at my hand down to the earth. How does he know about her?  He looks into my eyes and wraps his hands around my rib cage, hoisting it like a small calf, upward.  "Like your mother." He takes a look at my soul and shrugs. 

Glassed in greenhouse where he grows the figs. They’re not ready to eat yet. He splits one open anyway with a knife, cupping it in his hand. I swoon.


about 24 figs or 2 egg carton's worth
small jar, about 2 ounces

Peel and cook down figs over medium heat until they are reduced by about 20%. This will remove moisture and concentrate the fruit. Spoon into clean  jars and process in canning bath for 15-20 minutes. Store in cool place. When opened, keep refrigerated. For more information on canning, go to

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recipe: Politically Incorrect Chowder in Boise

Spuds to take a bullet for  ...
Morning in Boise
Coffee: Vacuum Pump Daily Special: Pink Titty Wake Up Juice

Afternoon in Boise
Store selling cigarettes and sandwiches with big electric sign out front: "If you have to habit, we have it!"

Evening in Boise
Liquor store big electric sign out front: "Livers are evil and must be destroyed." Then chowder that you would take a bullet for. Due to the spud.

Note to Self: When in Idaho order anything with potato especially chips and chowder with beer.

RECIPE: Chowder

All the usual suspects: Milk, cream, celery, clams, butter, bacon and most important, Idaho potato, cooked al dente. Sweat onion in bacon. Peel and cube potato, soak in water for one hour to remove starch and cook in chowder consisting of 1C clam juice 3 C water plus celery and onion for around 30 min depending. Remove bacon and serve in white bowl.

Monday, June 10, 2013

RECIPE: Hadley Grass Soup

RECIPE: Hadley Grass Soup

Asparagus has a lifespan in the Valley of four to six weeks. We are on our fourth week on June 10 so try this recipe on for size.

1 bunch asparagus with stalks trimmed
1 C yogurt
2 C chicken stock
1 C water
1 t white pepper
1 t salt
3-5 scrapes nutmeg
Slotted spoon

Trim tips off asparagus and set aside. Chop remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces.  Bring stock and water to boil. Add the asparagus stalks, salt and pepper. Simmer for   30 minutes. Add several scrapes of nutmeg. Process in food mill or food processor and return soup to pan. To cook them, add asparagus tips and simmer for five minutes.  Remove soup from heat. When still warm, stir in the yogurt. Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of yogurt speared with an asparagus tip as garnish. (You will have to fish them out of the soup.) Disclaimer: If you are the sort of person to share a bit of human food with your cat, resist the temptation with this dish. Asparagus soup has a similar impact on the feline digestive system to the female human digestive system.  Hadley Grass is an imposing crop and pretty much retains its character post consumption in soup or any other form!

Friday, June 7, 2013

RECIPE: Rhubarb Vinaigrette Salad

RECIPE: Rhubarb Vinaigrette Salad

Four Ingredient Salad: Lettuce (1 head), Onion (1/2), Rhubarb (2 cups) Vinaigrette (1/4 cup)
Remove leaves from lettuce, wash and trim stems and brown edges if any. Thinly slice onion. Trim ends of rhubarb stalks and boil in 3 C water for 20 minutes to. Remove rhubarb and reduce liquid by ½. Strain into bowl and mix in one to two teaspoons of plain vinegar.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons of oil to emulsify. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. In large bowl, combine lettuce leaves with onion and dress with rhubarb vinaigrette. Serve with broiled chicken.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rhubarb ... the new lemon....

Right now, rhubarb is just about everywhere you look. Although you can still pick rhubarb later in the summer, like most things early on the scene in spring, it loses its flavor after a month or so.

Tart like a lemon, rhubarb is New England's answer to citrus. It's just a matter of getting to the essence of rhubarb. Once you can do that, you'll have a gateway drug to: rhubarb gastrique (La Sauce) for meats, rhubarb shrub (fruit flavored drink) for cocktails, rhubarb (pie) pie with strawberries or 'fool,' clouds of whipped cream laced with rhubarb.  

For starters, infuse some vinegar with rhubarb by cooking it down in a one to one ratio. Use a strainer and funnel for best results. And the next step might be to pickle. It is a bit of a commitment ceremony but you well worth it due to an unusual crunch and character of flavor.  In winter, you'll be glad you did and have the opportunity, more than once, to say, "Why look, here is my pickled rhubarb." No need for a trip to the store. Rhubarb could be New England's answer to citrus, right there in the ground, right where you left it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Recipe of the Week: Avgolemono Soup with Fungi

Mushrooms in the wild or at the co-op:

This classic Greek soup can be made with your own local stock, a local egg, lemon not local, rice not local and locally foraged mushrooms from the woods or the co-op. Typically, the soup does not call for fungi, but the smoky woodsy flavor of fungi creates a nice balance for the lemon.

4 C chicken stock or vegetable (or poach an entire bird and skim off fat.)
2 C water
1t salt
1/4 C long grain white rice
3 local eggs
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
1 to 1-1/2 C thinly sliced foraged mushrooms - either crimini or oyster but not hen-of-the-woods or portabella.
S&P to taste
4 T chopped green for garnish such as parsley or chive or the green outgrowth from an onion, chopped fine.  
1 T chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)


First, identify a local forager (first generation Eastern Euporeans or Italians are good) or go to the woods and forage for local mushrooms with a guidebook and a friend.

1. In a large saucepan, combine the stock with water and bring to a boil and lower the heat.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add rice. Cook the rice for 12 minutes or until tender and drain into colander.
3. Skim off and discard the fat from the broth. 
4. In a soup pot, return the broth to a boil.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, lemon juice, and pepper.
6. Add a ladle of the hot broth to the egg mixture while mixing. Continue to gradually add broth until fully mixed.
7. Add mushrooms.
8. Return the soup to the medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the mixture thickens slightly. Do not let it bubble, even at the edges. Add the rice stir well. Serve with garnish.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Indian Line Farm, S. Egremont, 2012
photo by John Dolan
Outstanding in the Field’s first visit to the Berkshires took place in 2012 at Indian Line Farm of South Egremont. Tickets sold out the day they were announced.
This year, fans of  farm-to-table-in-the-field extravaganzas have two such events to choose from: 

On Saturday, September 7, Lila's Farm in Great Barrington will host a five-course meal. Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, will man the field kitchen with his crew on Saturday beginning with 3 pm with hors d’oeuvres and followed by opening remarks, a farm tour and dinner for 150. Tickets are $220 per person.  

The day after, Chef Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn presenting a five-course farm dinner on Sunday, September 8, at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield.
Outstanding in the Field describes itself as a roving culinary adventure that serves up local food in fields, gardens, vineyards, beaches and so on. They donate to a umber of farm and food related groups and have been in operation since 1999. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

RECIPE: Pickled Cranberries but why?

This is the kind of morning when you wish you made preparations. Now we're in the midst of March. Not much in the way of local fruit except for a bag of dried mango we bought last year in Las Vegas at the airport for a snack. Local because its in the house.

According to the doctor we must have fruit with oatmeal for breakfast, no excuses, but what fruit? We froze local blueberries last summer but those ran out at the end of 2012. Didn't get a chance to put up peaches but the good news is that local apples (from the Valley) are available year round. 

But we don't have any apples so Vegas mango gets a pass. I reconstitute it by pouring boiling water on the leathery strips. What results is a sweetish, flaccid fruit with a distinct airport flavor. But it is fruit and soon I'll purchase cranberries, not from the Valley but not from Vegas either. A bag of cranberries from nearby Cape Cod can be pickled passively (blanch in water then steep in honey and cider vinegar) in a jar and kept in the fridge for a month. This summer, I'll try to put up more fruit for next winter. For now, we're rolling with Hadley Grouts (whole oats) and Pickled Cape Cod Cranberries, hold the mango.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

RECIPE: DF was here

RECIPE: Irish Shepherd's Pie

The night before New Year's Eve and all is quiet. Except for the thing in the oven -- a dish containing all that you get after a long career of herding sheep. It's a pie of ground lamb with carrot and onion plus green beans with a good two inches of mashed potato cover and top of that plus a hoar frost of parm.  That last bit is most likely an embellishment because since when did Irish shepherd's have access to products from the Parma region of Italy?

The last supper of 2012 is DF's finest of year, vegetables sliced with precision and the layer of fluffy potatoes, not unlike the layer of fluffy snow outside on cars and trees. But his fluffy layer has the touch of man. The potato top has a graded surface, like the upper "T" at Mt. Tom doing nature one better.  "DF was here."

Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie (with sources)
Serves Four


1 tablespoon olive oil (trader joe's)
1 teaspoon black pepper (cupboard)
1 lb ground lamb (Chestnut Farm)
1 large onions, finely diced (Brookfield Farm)
3 -4 large carrots, finely diced (Brookfield Farm)
1 cup beans (the store)
3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped (grown by yours truly in south hadley)
2 tablespoons flour (store)
1 tablespoon butter (store)
1 glass red wine (store)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (substituted with V8 juice)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (fridge)
1 cup stock (lamb stock saved six months ago from Chestnut Farm lamb)
1 large quantity mashed potatoes ( estimating 1L or 6 cups, fresh or leftover) (Brookfield Farm)
1 eggs, beaten (lady from Chicopee)
grated parmesan cheese (optional - the store)

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400°F.

Saute carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender.
Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat.
Season with black pepper and thyme.
Cook until browned then drain fat.
Add the butter and beans
Sprinkle with flour and stir through.
Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy. Season to your taste.
Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish, big enough to feed 4 (see photo) with butter and add the sauce.
Spoon the mashed potatoes over top. Brush with egg, drag a fork across the potatoes with to create graded effect.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.
Serve to loved ones, one per customer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

the saudi's and grilled cheese

Recipe for our times

We live in an old factory in a mill town in New England. Our hand made Christmas consisted of a post-nap repast of tomato soup with grilled cheese. It's not homesteading but it's a start. 

Tomato soup by hand

1 jar canned tomatoes
1 quart lamb broth
1 small potato, peeled and cubed
2 skinny carrots, peeled and sliced

Cook down tomatoes in lamb broth (made by me 2 months ago from lamb weaned and reared 32 miles away on a farm) with potato (from farm 11 miles away) and carrots (same farm) for about 30 minutes. Toss in some dried sage (grown by me at community garden) and add salt and pepper (from store). Process soup in a food mill and re-heat adding a bit of butter (Cabot from Vermont) if desired.

Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich. As a special holiday treat, we had rice and cranberry bread (made by Buddhist baker next town over) with cheddar (store) and a little bit of smoked chicken, (smoked by people around 20 miles away) sage leaves fried in butter and onion for our grilled cheese. Oh, and we split a chocolate (made locally, cocoa not sure where from, but far away) for desert. I hate to think of the mortgage default swaps that may or may not have played a part in some of the ingredients of our post-nap repast. I know the tomatoes are mine because I grew them myself  but the seeds are from Ace Hardware and I hear they're in bed with Saudi's. What's a factory girl to do? 

Monday, November 26, 2012


Greenfield Local Television (GCTV) interviews gleaners Jessica Harwood, Danny Botkin and Mary Nelen on dumpster diving, giving back and oddly shaped tomatoes. 

What, why and how are we doing what the bible told farmers - plant some of your land for the hungry

Dan Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm, Gill MA
Click HERE to play Gleaning Video from GCTV.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Solar vs. Soil

Area Farmer Weighs in on Solar Panels and their presence on farmland.....are they taking food from our mouths?

"Town governments, land trusts, farm advocacy groups and private citizens should take all possible steps to preserve prime class 1 farmland for agricultural food production. Developments such as solar photovoltaic farms, new residential housing, industrial parks, etc., should be relegated to areas that are not rich in prime agricultural soils." 

-- Ryan Voillard, Red Fire Farm, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Friday, November 9, 2012

Winter Foraging Alert for Valley People

Apples local varietals, pears, greens and meat all winter long at a farm near you  .... 

The weather this winter is anybody's guess but we have local food on our side till spring. Shares, stores and farms are all offering storage crops and greens at a level of availability unprecedented until this year. Thanks to funding for extended season initiatives and the intrepid efforts of area farms including Red Fire, Enterprise, Winter Moon and Bashista. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Campus Farming at Skidmore in Saratoga

Skidmore students grow their own....

Faith Nichola, Elizabeth Cohen, Gabby Stern, Margot Reisner

Early in the school and late in the afternoon last month, a tightrope was stretched between two trees in the quad. One guy walked the entire thing after a couple of tries. Not far off at the Dining Hall, a similar balancing act is taking place. 

Skidmore students are taking on something called the Real Food Challenge (RFC) requiring food served at schools be humane, fair trade, ecological, and local. The goal is that this is true for 20% of school food by 2020. 

The school isn’t committing to the challenge, not on paper anyway, the students are. Because of their work, last October, over 11% of school food came from a garden next to the Admissions Building.

Skidmore has four things going for it: a decent growing zone, a dining services director who calls the shots, an aggressive grass roots Food Action Group and Gabby Stern, among others.

Last summer Stern (’13) toiled in the soil at the school garden, interned at American Farmland Trust and ran the Farmers Market in downtown Saratoga – a local food trifecta.

“I came into Skidmore with zero experience,” said Stern, an environmental studies major. “Then I started working the garden. There I was, 18 years old and it was the first time I harvested a carrot, or a sweet potato. There is a problem with that. How have I gone my entire life not knowing this?”

Under the umbrella of the Environmental Action Club, the Food Working Group began four years ago when students broke ground. Stern took over as manager of the garden in 2010 and contracted with the dining hall to sell the vegetables. That was the start of the Local Food Initiative, an effort dedicated to getting more local food into the school.

“I learned from other members of the group. It was hands on,” says Stern, “A few professors from school gave their two cents and we just learned on our own. We get a lot of support from Environmental Studies and it is incredible how much they covet this garden. It has been a great part of my education, this garden.

Stern gets no academic credits for this work but this semester Faith Nichola (’14) is doing an internship to perform data analysis for the Real Food Challenge.  She will also be creating reports from that data for Skidmore administration to provide them with a better understanding of the process.

Elizabeth Cohen, (’14) got involved in the garden when Sarah Arndt (’13?) introduced her to RNC. Originally from Putney Vermont Cohen grew up with a garden in the back yard so the origins of a carrot were familiar to her. Coming to Skidmore put organic food in a different light. 

“Working in the garden made me think about where things are coming from. Affordability and access aren’t the same for everybody,” she said adding that even if everybody decided to eat local and organic, it would be great, but it is impossible.

Riley Neugebauer, Skidmore’s Sustainability Coordinator, believes that food is a social justice issue. “Sustainability includes equity (justice), ecology, and economy,” she says.

‘If people don't have access to one of their most basic needs – food – or if the only food they have access to is unhealthy, grown with pesticides that accumulate in our bodies over time, harm the environment that we are all a part of, and doesn't tell a story about where it came from or who grew it or why that matters…then we have a justice issue.”

‘Margot Reisner, (’14) from San Francisco, is now managing the garden and takes the long view. This semester she is managing the garden and next semester she will travel to Australia to study permaculture.

Reisner, who is in the social and cultural track of environmental studies defined permaculture as follows: “Permaculture is the mentality is that everything we do as humans has to do with ecology. If it doesn’t have to do with ecology, then it doesn’t make sense at all. If there is a discrepancy between the way human systems work and the way ecology works, then you are going to have a problem. Permaculture mimics the way ecological systems work.”

After graduation, Reisner will return to California to start her own farm.
“I just want to have a place to have people live and be healthy,” she said. 

By Mary A. Nelen (’79)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Radical School Lunch

Chef Ann Cooper

In the Valley, there is no shortage of fresh veggies and fruit. So why aren't kids getting it in school? 

On October 2, FARM TO FORK radio show took a look at
'mystery meat,' 'pink slime,' and other health risks leveled at public school students.

The show interviews food service directors, teachers, program directors, activists and others who weigh in on their use of local food and other radical measures to change the system. We spoke with presenters at this summers' DIGGING IN, a Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Burlington, VT where people very, very much devoted to what kids are eating could cavort on the lawns of Shelburne Farm where sheep grazed in the background before going back to getting down to the business of saving the world.

Chef Ann Cooper, (who spoke this summer at the Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Burlington VT) rages against the school food machine, Lethal school food containing high fat, high starch, high fructose drinks, GMOs and hormones combined with extra short lunch periods are the enemy.  Cooper battles these forces with salad bars and a call for reform from within the system as from inside the system as Food Services Director, Boulder Valley School School System and Founder of the Food Family Family Farming Foundation. Results of her efforts can be seen in the  Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools program supported by Michelle Obama.  Also, Jennifer LaBarre of the Oakland Unified School District is heard from. She heads Harvest of the Month efforts that includes 22 produce markets that feed the students and the community.

Locals weigh in on the topic of food in public schools and we hear from Farm to Institution Coordinator Emily French of Farm to School in Amherst, Anne Hewitt Cody, Kindergarten Initiative Coordinator, Holyoke MA, Mauricio Abascal, Director, Eat Well Food Camp and the NorthStar Nutrition Program, Hadley MA and Adam Roberts, Youth Commission Director in South Hadley.

In the Valley, where there is no shortage of local fruit and vegetables, public schools are challenged by budget and transportation but change is coming slowly. And salad bars, field trips and cooking classes don't hurt so there is hope.

Please listen and comment. Does school lunch have to change, how can it change, if we can eat locally, why can't students? Do we need more money, better transport, an open mind? And if you want your kids or your school to get access to local food, contact Farm to School immediately. Emily will make it happen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview Reveals Aversion to Potlucks!


Serious Eats Interview Reveals Aversion to Potlucks!

Stevie Pierson Chats with Authors of "CookFight" 

Art Opening - Assemblage wth Fur

Assemblage by Rosemary Barrett

Art Opening
Assemblage by Rosemary Barrett
Thursday, November 1
Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA
6 pm to 8 pm