Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Week of Thanks: An Old-Fashioned Carrot Pull

Rich organic soil yields plentiful sweet carrots.

One of the things I am most thankful for is our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Siena Farm. This year "our farmer" Chris was able to purchase 26 acres of land in Sudbury, Massachusetts to be conserved in perpetuity. This is not the kind of community "development" that typical banks support. Instead the money to purchase the land came from fundraising dinners, generous supporters and CSA members.

Farmer Chris walks beside the tractor that loosens the soil for easy pulling.

Our family has purchased 3 full-year shares up front to help fund the sale. We will get 48 weekly boxes per year from now until the spring of 2017. I feel like I've gotten a bargain. Instead of our money sitting in the bank hardly keeping up with inflation, we have secured 3 years of food security and wonderful health.

D takes the greens off the carrots before putting them in the bin.

This weekend CSA members were invited to help pull a huge field of carrots before today's hard frost. Between 10am and 4pm, nearly 100 members of all ages put in some time to fill storage bins throughout the field.

filled bins in alternating rows

It was wonderful getting into the field and putting our hands in the soft, rich soil. We pulled up carrots by the dozen, ripped off their green tops, wiped off the rich dirt and filled bin after bin with carrots up to 2 inches in diameter.

J drops another carrot into his almost-full bin.

R and her friend laughed the day away.

Our family filled at least 8 bins and were rewarded with a few bags for our own winter stores.

On our way home with a golden bounty.

So far we've been eating carrot sticks with every meal. And a few big carrots went into tonight's vegetarian chili. I make a great carrot and cheddar gratin. I'm sure I'll be posting more terrific carrot recipes soon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cranberry Products

The day after my cranberry picking adventure was processing day. I wanted to preserve the incredible freshness of the harvest and not lose any berries to spoilage.

The first thing I did was wash and separate the berries. I had just enough for 2 recipes, a sauce I'm saving for Thanksgiving and bread loaves, one saved for Thanksgiving and one for a just-baked treat.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce: 12 oz cranberries, zest and juice of an orange, cinnamon stick, and (oops) sugar not pictured.

In a few minutes. They are on their way to being sauce.

Ta Da... in less than half an hour: Cranberry/Orange Sauce, the perfect accompaniment to my dining room wallpaper.

The breads take a bit more effort and time, mixing wet and dry ingredients then waiting for the long bake.

The bread is delicious especially warm out of the oven. The rest is frozen waiting for Thanksgiving. What a great start for holiday preparations, Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Bread with local berries picked by my own hands.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gathering Cranberries

What a rush and pleasure to discover a new crop to harvest, especially one I haven't grown it myself. Tended only by nature at the edge of a reservoir, a bountiful harvest of cranberry is there for the diligent gatherer.

With temperatures in the high 40s and a steady breeze, a friend and I were nonetheless warmed by the strong sun and our efforts, a little walking, lots of bending and constantly moving, searching fingers.

We walked about 1/2 a mile through the forest that borders the reservoir. As we approached the water, there were lower shrubby plants. Then  we entered the swampy zone where low grasses and cranberries hug the water's edge.

This area is unusual for its varied microclimates. (Or maybe many areas would be as diverse if I crawled around in them keenly investigating large areas of ground.) There were spots where the cranberry plants were nestled among mosses. In other zones nearby, the cranberry stalks seemed to come right out of the sand. In those spots the cranberries that had fallen were well preserved and easy to collect. In some areas the picking was good, and you didn't notice how wet it was until your toes were wet and cold. Not far away, you could sit comfortably in a thick patch of cranberry and rake your hands along collecting.

Can you spy the cranberries? It's like finding Waldo in a red striped picture.

We spent 2 pleasant hours, chatting, picking and picnicking and collected 4 to 5 cups each. As usual, harvesting food yourself gives you a great appreciation for the effort it takes. Of course, the cranberries in our supermarkets are not hand harvested. Bogs are flooded and machines collect the cranberries that float to the top of the water. You can see a National Geographic video of cranberry harvesting here.

In prior years when I've purchased bagged berries, I would diligently go through them and remove any that were soft or too blemished. I will be much more accepting of this year's well earned harvest. The softer berries will be made into sauce for Thanksgiving. The firmer ones will go into a bread. After having picked cranberries myself, I will be much less picky.

Check back soon for the delicious results.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


As October turns to November we turn back the clocks and watch the last few leaves fall. Soon we'll settle in for the long cold season. I've been taking invigorating daytime walks before it gets too cold. And I took one unusually warm night-time walk with some spooky young ladies.

Brussels sprouts are ready for harvest at Mainstone farm.

A strong wind blew this hummingbird (?) nest out of a bush. The eggs are 1/2 inch long.

My Halloween doll with a cracked porcelain face.
My daughter and her friends trick-or-treated in a very festive neighborhood.
My husband took this fantastic spooky picture. Happy Belated Halloween.