Thoughts on the Gulf

I realize I haven’t blogged in almost a year, not even on our daughter’s birth and amazing life unfolding. This is a big topical leap for such a long time… but I want to capture some of my thoughts on what’s been going on in the Gulf because I will be asked about this someday by her. And rightly so. I often picture her asking about many events in human history, most of which I will have only read about myself. I’ll do my best to answer those questions based on what I’ve learned, rather than experienced. But not this. This will join an already painful set of 9/11, the wars, and Katrina as the American experience in the early 21st century. She’ll ask what happened, how we let it happen.
There’s no soft-shoeing, we’re failing here. I see that BP was just the breaking point in the chain of events. It could have been Exxon, Conoco, or some other oil company. When the platform first blew up, the public didn’t really know the extent of the leak; maybe BP did not either. BP certainly did not seemed very concerned, and even now the concern from the company seems more about itself then the spill.
We mostly watched at first. Surely this would be contained quickly, impact minimized, and we could go on with our lives. Lives that depend on plentiful, cheap oil. Lives where most Americans give little thought to how we get our energy. We drive or fly ourselves and our food everywhere, we use plastic bags, toys, tools, medical equipment. For the vast majority of us, even with concerted effort to minimize our oil use, it is pervasive. We like what it gives us for a lifestyle, it makes a lot of tasks easier. And if it’s not oil, it’s coal, also dangerous and destructive to source, and polluting to use. This oil spill came on the heels of a horrible coal mine disaster where 29 miners lost their lives, where another company was scrutinized for safety violations in an effort to save money and speed production. It’d be reflexive to say we didn’t learn the lesson, but these two events were nearly simultaneous symptoms of the problem, the energy appetite unchecked, yet in crisis.
So, in the case of the oil spill, the government deferred to industry; industry said it would be handled quickly. Hours passed into days and weeks. All the while it flowed, estimated 29 million gallons that oozed its way across the ocean, wreaking havoc on any life crossing its path. Now, 46 days later, the oil is still coming. The blame for the lack of clean up floats heavy on the surface, just as the oil does. The blame for its cause, a dark and bigger undercurrent.
The oil has washed up on the shores, covering pelicans to the point where they can only flail in its midst, where even the best efforts of the most numerous and dedicated volunteers will only save some. Humans are so good at damaging each other, which is hard enough to witness. When what we’ve done is put upon animals and ecosystems that have no anticipation, defense, or response, it is numbing, embarrassing. Unlike the claimed intangible damage of climate change, the impact of this human behavior on the environment is laid bare for all to see.
And so we are at a crossroads. What will I tell my daughter in 10 or 15 years, when she asks me these questions? Will I be able to tell her that this was the true gut check to the American people (if not all people), the waning of the days of energy at any cost? Will I be able to tell her that we finally moved to more varied and more sustainable sources? That human and animal lives became more valued in the end, not less so? Will I be able to tell her that her parents played a small part in making this happen?
Or will I be telling her of the opportunity missed, apologizing with heavy heart?

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.


    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

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.


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.

We’re jammin’

Aaron and I have been busy doing other things this summer too. We haven’t (obviously) been spending time on the blog. But, in general, this does not mean we don’t have things to say and eventually some of them will get posted. Here are some highlights of what we’ve been up to.
-Picked over 30 quarts of berries (straw, blue, rasp, black)
-Made 3 batches of jam, our first ever. I have great pictures somewhere. We have made straw, blue, and a mixed berry. We’ll make one batch of peach jam next.
-Have gotten several interesting CSAs incl. beets which means we’ve made some interesting salads and stir frys
-gone to baby birthing class, had two baby showers, and are setting up the nursery (in progress)
-Aaron’s ridden two big rides – the B2B, and Trans NH
-Have had three sets of family visitors (my parents, my brother’s family, and my sister’s family) for a total of 11 visitors over 16 or so days
-work has been stressful and busy for us both
-we had 3 more male crias, making it 11 in a row (and had one pass away earlier this summer)
-put in a clothes line
so, all in all it is just another run of the mill summer here where we sit around and do nothing… ;)
We have two more baby related classes coming up, then whatever else we feel like doing… truthfully I am ready to not have to do ANYTHING major for a while. We still have a lot to do, but whatever gets done, gets done. The rest will happen at its own pace.
I’m beyond tired from what we had on the plate…

Squid update

This may be the shortest blog ever.
I haven’t updated my Squid stats in a while, so here’s some info…
Aug – $22.81
Jul – $12.56
Jun – $22.92
May – $7.32
Apr – $6.95
Mar – $2.99
Feb – 0
Jan – $2.18
which makes a total of $77.13 for the year. I am hoping to have some more time for it when the baby comes (yeah, and a million other things). I just haven’t had any inspiration for it recently…

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.

Time to start storing up…

Amazingly, and probably in part due to the fact that I didn’t want to eat much for 3 months, we saved enough berries last summer to get us through the winter. We have two small bags of blackberries, half a gallon bag of strawberries, and a small bag of blueberries we are finishing up.
But with the arrival of pick-your-own season, it is time to start thinking about the upcoming winter, and with a little one on the way I want to have some extras on hand. Although the baby won’t be eating foods right away, knowing we have a good amount of fruit saved up will be a big morale booster for the middle of winter.

Today, I put aside our first two trays of fresh strawberries. I’ll go picking at least two more times for strawberries, but coming soon will be blueberry, raspberries, and blackberries. Not to mention the produce that will begin to ripen soon now.

We did plant strawberry plants of our own, and I have gotten one small berry, but I don’t expect much from the transplants other than to settle in for next year.

Mystery eggs

It’s time for a quick farm update. Well, I actually have a lot more to say than this, but I’m too tired to write a full blog at the moment. Last Friday was shearing (I took the day off), which included 34 alpacas to do. It was an exhausting start to a busy weekend. Sunday, we had a different adventure to tackle.
Some of you may recall we had a dozen eggs make a trip a few weeks back. Well, here are the results of the journey:

That’s right; 8 of the 12 eggs became adorable, fuzzy, healthy chicks. These are crosses of our Blue Laced Red Wyandotte rooster (Charlie) and our Easter Egger hens. The two grey chicks (blue in chicken parlance) are offspring of the roo and our Black Star hens. I had forgotten how fun chicks are, before they get big.

We will see how many turn out to be male or female. It’s impossible for me to even guess right now. At approximately 5 days, they all have Charlie style combs (flat), and are getting wing feathers already. It won’t be long before they have to go to the big brooder, but for now the little tub in the barn is working out well. These guys should be very winter hardy with Charlie’s extra feathers and comb style.

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.  

Homemade pasta in just a few minutes

This isn’t a recipe for pasta, we’ll post that some other time. I can say that we used ingredients we had around already for this dinner; flour, eggs, lemons, some parsley, garlic, tomato paste, and pine nuts for added crunch. However, I found the process of making the pasta very easy and enjoyable, which I wanted to share. I did make some of the pasta, but Aaron was showing me since he’s made it before. We had enough to save and freeze what we didn’t eat, for some other day.
First, you start with the appropriate dough pieces. This shows the before and after states.

We have a Kitchen Aid mixer, and the corresponding pasta roller and cutter attachments. Pasta can be rolled out by hand or dedicated machines as well, but the mixer attachments made this quick work. This picture shows rolling out the dough. You start at the widest setting then gradually get to the thinnest one or two settings. As you go through this process, you need to add flour on the noodle surfaces periodically so the dough does not stick to the rollers.

You catch the pasta as it flattens out and carefully feed it back in. Be careful the motor is not taxed too much by feeding in dough that is wider than the current setting will allow.
As we were doing this, we had a nice hot pot of water heating up to boil the noodles.

we dressed the noodles with: lemon zest, pine nuts (slightly browned first), garlic, parsley, and a little bit of tomato paste (not shown).

It is finally time to swap to the pasta cutter attachment; here is a picture of the fresh pasta after slicing.

Next, we boiled and drained it. We combined with our ingredients, and it was time to eat the fresh pasta. It was delicious!