Being ‘from boston’

I’ve been in the greater boston area since fall of 1996. I’ve never lived in Boston. Closest I have ever lived to the city was 16 miles. The Boston area is a large metro population, with it’s spoke and hub, the suburbs spread far and wide. However when ever in a distant city, I always orient people to where I’m from as it’s location relative to Boston. I’ll always be a boston sports fan, even though I’m mostly a homer and a fair weather fan. While it has it’s issues, too numerous to name, it also has it’s reasons to be Proud. I like it inspire of it’s flaws.  I claim it as my own.

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My fondest memories of the city, are of the 2004 red sox victory parade. You can see from these photos, how crazy the city was. The streets are filled with people on a cold rainy late fall day. The spirit of the fans was electric having won the world series after such a drought.

This photo was taken during the parade, on Boylston St. street just feet away from where both of the bombs went off this past Monday.

I can’t help but think, with both Tasha and I (sometimes) aspiring runners, that some day in the future it could be one of us standing near the finish waiting for a loved one. As a matter of fact Tasha is signed up for her first 26.2 this fall in DC, at the http://www.marinemarathon.com/

This just hits a little too close to home.

I will try not to hold april 15 2013 in my mind as how I think of Boston, and the boston marathon (other than how amazing the first responders were in saving lives.) I prefer remember October 30th 2004 as how I see the city.

I think I need to go watch watch We still believe.

 

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Days go by.

As I sit here watching Monday night football, I’m pondering how much has changed since my last post. Back in early 2011 we had an 17 month old, and Tasha was very pregnant with our second. I was just dipping my toe into home brewing, Tasha had completing a the Dr. Sears nutrition course, and had begun contemplating further education. Abby was talking quite a bit for her age, and we thought we had it all figured out. Little did we know…

Flash forward 20 months. We’ve got a very active nearly two year old, a 3 year old with an amazing ability to communicate, Tasha will be graduating from Grad school in mid 2013, and I am starting a new job. Could life be more upside down? Well yes.

We’ve pretty much shut this site down, but if you do want to follow what we are doing you can do so here:

http://360lean.com/

http://thebottlefarm.com

http://www.bornwithcholesteatoma.net/

Basically, Tasha’s business, my hobby, and info about our little beanies’ challenges.

Happy Holidays from us here at Cranky n Stinky.com

A,T,A,L

Crossing long overdue items off the list

Sometime all it takes is a just a nudge to finally get something done. I’ve wanted to home brew beer for a long time. I’ve even owned most of the equipment for a few years. What’s been keeping me from getting it done? I suffer from perfection paralysis, I’m not a perfectionist, but with some projects, I can’t seem to get off the ground until things are just right. 

I finally had enough inertia to make the leap this past Monday, and all it took was getting a copy of the complete Joy of Home brewing. It’s funny that after reading the first few chapters of the book, I had enough confidence to get going. It’s rare the that a intro book is this good, if you want to try home brewing, this book will get you started no question. 

The beer I’m brewing is based on the True Brew american wheat extract kit, but I didn’t brew it exactly as it was in the box. I changed the boil time, the hop variety, quantity, and addition times. Those are the changes I intended. I have also made some changes that I did not intend, aka mess ups. I had a boil over, a few unintentional flame outs, I didn’t read the instructions on my yeast, and I had a cooling problem. All of these were just inconveniences and shouldn’t significant’y impact the beer. Or as they say, opportunities to learn. The good news, is that when I checked the airlock the next morning, it was bubbling away. I’d made beer! There are a few more steps to complete, days of fermentation, dry hopping, bottling and bottle conditioning before it’s ready for drinking, but I have made my first batch of beer. 

So what’s next? I’m going to follow the standard home brewing progression. I started with an extract kit, I plan to move on to extract and specialty grain brewing, and eventually making own recipes once I can follow a recipe well. Some day (when I’ve got a lot of free time) I’d like to try all grain brewing. I plan on brewing another batch as soon as I bottle this one, because I know my time afterwards will be limited. If anyone has recipe recommendations, or suggestions on an appropriate style of beer for me to brew I’d gladly take them into consideration. This first batch is going to be a light and hoppy american wheat beer. I’m thinking this next batch should be something appropriate for spring, bonus points for utilizing season appropriate ingredients.

This leaves one question for you. What’s been lingering on your list for a while that will be crossed off next? What will it take to get you to pull the trigger?

Why I love craft beer.

I feel the need to explain why I’ve been so interested in local craft beer after seeing some lists and examples of craft brewed beer in recent articles, like The Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Drink Craft Beer and 10 Great Beers Brewed In Unlikely Places .


These articles highlight a few of the reasons and craft beers without covering my reasons for loving it. Those that read my infrequent posts, will know I’m big on local food. While I’m far from new to good beer, I’ve liked ‘microbrews’ or imports for a long time, the interest or better yet fascination with local craft beer is fairly new for me. I can’t pinpoint when the light bulb went off, but I think I became more aware the craft beer movement. Things like this video

 and these interviews


http://www.belchingmonkey.com/content/interbrew/interbrew-anderson-valley-brewing-company/878/

Have solidified my interest.

Hearing these brewers talk about their commitment to brewing, their craft, and sustainability, it’s not hard to see how it meshes with my values. This is something they need to do, as they just can’t out cheap, distribute, or advertise the beer water makers. Which is fine, they can do something things the big guys can’t, be local, fresh, unique, and small. This is their differentiator.

Pretty much anywhere you where you go, you can find a local brewery. When I was on a trip to Long Island this past weekend, there were no fewer than 4 breweries with a reasonable drive. Near our home in MA, as you can see on this map (beermapping.com), there are a significant number as well. What I’m getting at, is that you can get local beer everywhere. Not only are you shortening the distribution chain, so you get fresh beer, you are also supporting the local economy. These smaller local brewers can also partner with local purveyors, like Cambridge brewing company (Cambridge MA), using Taza chocolate (Sommerville MA) in it’s Chocolate milk stout. It is that sort of double rainbow that you never see from the big guys.  


Even if local does not matter to you, craft beer has much more to offer the beer fan. You can get your traditional pilsners and lighter lagers, if that is what your pallet prefers, but you can also get double imperial stouts, black ipa’s and wild sours, interesting and unique variations that you may not find else where. The reason why craft beer can offer the variety, and the The scale at which craft beer operates means they are faster moving, they can try the newest variety of hops, or offer wet hopped beers, that operations of larger scale just can’t do. They offer something for everyone, and a beer for every season. I personally can’t wait for the release of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale every holiday season, but also look forward to the next iteration of Alagash’s Fluxus which is different every release.
This variety and scale means that fine craft beer is really approachable.  Unlike wine, where you may find premium wines starting at 50+ a bottle, going into many thousands. Unique rare beer seems to be much more available . Don’t get me wrong, there exceptions, like Portsmouth brewing’s Kate the Great, or Pliny the elder, that the average consumer can’t get. However, I find this is the exception, you can get a great six pack for under $10.  A unique limited release bomber for as little as $5-7. Rarely do you find a sku that breaks the $20 mark for a single unit. That makes even a very special craft beer accessible to the new comer, who wants to try it all like myself. That’s why I love craft beer.

Farm update.

A farm update is long over due. Plenty of things have changed since my last update… Lets see inside the house, A is quite mobile, following us everywhere, interested in pretty much everything she should not be handling, cords, remotes, laptops, and iphones.
The child proofing has begun, but will be an ongoing project as A finds things we have not yet secured. 

Outside the house has been just as exciting. Around sheering time, which we hosted here for the first time, we introduced a few more alpacas to the herd. We are up to 9, which is pushing the number of animals I’d want to have here. It’s not too much for the land, but we don’t have it equitably divided, or shelter in alternate pastures, so it’s one big group for now. We’d ideally divide this into at least 3 paddocks, if not 5, or six, extending the fenced in area down the side of the house towards the lower fences. That is a long way off.

A few months ago we lost 7 chickens to a fox. It was a sunny afternoon, we had let the birds to do their nearly daily roaming, scratching and exploring, which they have enjoyed for the past few years without incident. I look out the window and see a red fox jogging along the side of the house, towards the coop. I immediately ran outside,  there were no birds to be found. I was able to scare off the fox, but that was little reward. 

We spend the remainder of the afternoon searching out the remaining birds. Charlie our rooster survived, two year old young birds, wisely flew up into the windows in the barn, and the solitary Balaclava eventually showed up as well. 7 down, 4 left. We pretty much immediately rushed 3/4′s of a dozen off to incubate in hopes to save the genes of the birds we knew and loved. On a positive note, we had planned on rotating some of the older layers out once the hatches have grown up. This expedites the plan, and was a deeper cull than we had intended, but does prevent us from having to find new homes for two year old birds. As for the replacements, we had already hatched out 4 birds, 2 blue laced reds, 2 aracanas. It turns out one of the blr’s is a rooster, so he’ll need to find a new home. Of the 8 eggs we rushed off to the incubator, only two hatched, and we have yet to identify sex yet. I’m hoping for two more hens, to leave us at a 9 birds, 8 layers. Which would be a good volume for our coop this winter.

We’ve also added a half dozen guinea fowl to the flock. I built a small hutch for them, with the help of Joe. It might be a little too small, after all is said and done, but they now have a home. We placed it on the far side of the barn to hopefully insulate us from the noise of the flock as they can be noisy. Hopefully in a few weeks I can put on the pop door, and allow them freedom to range. 

Lets see what else is new…  This years Csa has been flying by, I’ve put up some pesto, a batch of tomato sauce, one batch of jam, but that’s about it no pickles yet. I suppose we’ve also put up some food for A, beets, summer squash, and carrots. I’ve not really had a lot of time to cook, and with my lack of motivaton it’s been tough using it up each week. When I get home I want to play with A, get her to bed, and relax. This however does not mean we have been skipping the farmers market, we have been regular shoppers there, which often is a highlight of my weekend.

So in a nutshell, a lot of little stuff has changed on the farm, but it remains the same. 

It’s on like donkey kong; CSA round 2.

We really enjoyed the CSA in 09, found it made us use a lot more vegetables than in the past. The variety and quantities were good for a family of 2, and we decided to do it again in twenty ten.

    Dear Aaron,
    Thank you for signing up with the Dragonfly Farms Community Supported Agriculture program this year!  We look forward to providing you with fresh produce during the 2010 season.

    CONFIRMATION

    You are signed up for a half share of vegetables at our pickup location in Pepperell, Mass at the farm.  The pickup starts June 24, 2010 and ends October 30, 2010.  

    Your pick up day will be Thursday between the hours of 5pm and 7pm.   Please note that the pickup hours will be changed to 4pm – 6pm in October as the daylight hours get shorter.

     

    We have received your                 _ X__ Full Payment of $300 for the vegetable share
    We will be sending out a FAQ as we get closer to the start of the season to give you more details on the CSA program.

    Thank you again!

    Sue and Frank Ventura

    Dragonfly Farms

    40 Prescott St.

    Pepperell, MA 01463
    www.dragonfly-farms.com

    farmer@dragonfly-farms.com

Just a reminder if you have a local farmer tis the time for sign ups, so get out there and get your share early. They need the money now, to ensure a stable year. Think of it as a future investment in summer meal diversity.

Aaron

PS. We are still around, just busy with a family addition, that’s kept us from doing all sorts of stuff, not just blogging. :) Look for more from us in the coming weeks.

CSA: Week Two

Week three is bearing down on us, and I’ve still got most of week two items.It’s time to get a move on! I’ll start by reviewing last week’s goals:

Take photos of the contents. Check!
Take photos of the prepared goods. Eh.
If I have time, see if I can chat up some of the other CSA members. Eh.
Make at least one recipe I’ve never made before. Eh.
Write blog three before I collect bag 3. Check!

I did not shoot any photos of prepared vegetables, nor did I prepare a recipe I’ve never made. However there is still time!

So, what’s in the bag?

A head of red lettuce, a bag of snap peas, broccoli, and a bunch of baby yellow onions with greens. We’ve also got some lovely beets and greens to use, which I think I’ll find a new recipe to make and take a photo of. Along with some of the broccoli, I’ll steam the snap peas, and serve with some raddish green pesto

Week one with the CSA

I figured I should try to write up week one before we go and get week two’s goods. Tasha had to pick up this weeks items, as I was some where between Littleton NH and Lebanon NH on my bike when it came time to retrieve our reusable bag from Dragonfly Farms this past Saturday. The week one newsletter stated it was going to be a bit lighter than planned due to a bought of cut worms that took down much of their greens. Instead they were able to acquire some local strawberries, and supplemented the vegetables with them. Our first bag contained a bunch of baby red onions, a small bundle of garlic scapes, a bag of the freshest snap peas, a head of green lettuce, a small head of golden cauliflower, and a quart of strawberries.
Not bad for a ‘light’ bag. I estimate the retail value of this to be around $10.
The first thing we did with our bounty was snack on strawberries and those amazing peas. I made a large fritatta using 1/2 the onions, a garlic scape, some green and red pepper. This was followed up by a meal of a sausage w/ peppers and onions, served with mashed cauliflower. The recipe was provided in the newsletter, and surprisingly rich. We had the last of the strawberries macerated w/ local honey, myer lemon juice over a biscuit w/ whipped cream. Last night we had a big salad, finishing off the onions, using 1/2 the lettuce, the last of the beans, it was much like the god salad from river gods. For the last bits I’ll make a pesto to freeze with the remaining scapes, and the last of the lettuce will be used in sandwiches or a salad. I’m glad we were able to use all of week one’s goods, and even made a recipe or two we wouldn’t normally make.
Here are my goals for next weeks bag:
Take photos of the contents.
Take photos of the prepared goods.
If I have time, see if I can chat up some of the other CSA members.
Make at least one recipe I’ve never made before.
Write blog three before I collect bag 3.

CSA post number 1

This is the first post that I hope will become a series of posts about our CSA share. Tasha and I are buying a 1/2 vegetable share in a local CSA. What is a CSA you ask? It is when a farm sells shares of it’s harvest for a fixed price at the beginning of the season. The farmer gains financial stability, and the share holder gets weekly boxes of fresh vegetables for a reasonable price.
We are fortunate enough to have a Dragonfly farms very close to the house. The farm / pickup spot is about 2 miles away, so I plan to pick up our box via bike. I’ve already exchanged emails with the owner, and they seem very friendly. They grow everything from potatoes and onions to melons and garlic scapes. The CSA lasts for about 19 weeks starting mid June.
This has been a tough decision for us. There is so much to consider about a CSA. It is an unguaranteed commitment of $275, there’s no telling what could happen this year on the farm. You have no choice in what you get each week. It’s a lot of vegetables, and sometimes you get ones that you have no idea how to cook. Other times you maybe getting beets for the 4th week in a row.
Even with those ‘downsides’ I look forward to the challenge of using a random box of veggies each week, and I really like the idea of supporting a supporting a local farm.
Don’t worry, we still plan on patronizing the farmers market, shopping at Lull, and picking in season local fruit, as this is mainly vegetables. Also how else would we get our regular Bagel Alley bagels?
So for those of you keeping score at home, we are still enjoying are own eggs, locally grown beef and chicken, and our own black berries. You can now add a seasons worth of local vegetables to the list. We’ve still got a lot of food miles in the other foods we eat, but this is another step towards eating more local goods.
Next up, I’m going to get some local honey, and see about finding a more local source for organic dairy products.