Spring is truly here and the Quiet Farm project list expands daily! The weather has been unusually warm, so much so that everyone is concerned about our wonderful mesa snowpack melting too quickly and flooding the creeks. This sunny (and windy) week alone, we received deliveries of soil, lumber, fencing and concrete. We hauled railroad ties, hefted 80-pound bags of Quikrete, wheelbarrowed soil, hammered in T-posts and more. Our farm muscles are coming along nicely, and we’re trying hard to remember to apply sunscreen and drink enough water. When people say farming is hard work, they aren’t kidding – especially when you don’t yet own a tractor.
Making something beautiful out of something horrible.
We’ve been trying for some time now to figure out what kind of flooring to lay in the master bedroom and finally decided on beetle-kill pine. Anyone in the Rocky Mountain West has seen the millions of acres of devastation wreaked by this tiny, insidious creature, whose lifespan has been extended by climate change – it no longer dies off during winter as it should, because temperatures no longer stay low enough. Most of these dead or dying pine forests have to be cleared now to mitigate wildfire risk, and so the unique blue-stained planks have become popular for furniture and siding. Pine is very soft and so not typically used in flooring, but we’re looking for a weathered, antique appearance to match the home’s original floors. Patina, you might say.
So tiny! And so delicious!
There are lots of reasons to grow your own food. As a chef, I’m driven primarily by flavor and the need to know where our food came from, closely followed by the opportunity to grow and eat things I cannot regularly find in stores. Fennel is one of my favorites; I use the crisp, licorice-flavored bulbs raw in salads or lightly braised with apples and potatoes; the fronds can be a microgreen garnish and the seeds are a traditional Indian digestif. Although fennel is available in high-end supermarkets, I’ve never seen it in stores over here and I can’t wait to harvest my own.
This is the “before” photo. Hopefully the “after” photo will be more impressive.
One of the things we swore when we sold our Front Range house and went searching for a farm is that we’d never, ever again have a lawn of pointless, silly, thirsty green grass. We even gave away our mower to prove our point. (Lawn grass is by far the largest “crop” grown in the U.S.; this is even more perplexing in Colorado, where drought is the rule rather than the exception.) To maintain this promise, we’re working on replanting what little grass we have here with perennial wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants. I spent a number of hot hours clearing this southern patch, which was filled with mallow and other tenacious weeds. Now it’s seeded with lots of interesting wildflowers but we protected it with landscape fabric to keep the dark-eyed juncos away. Hopefully this summer we’ll have a gorgeous drought-resistant perennial bed to share!
Healthy, nourishing, tasty and quick. And vegan, too!
The harder we work outside, the hungrier we get. I’m trying hard to keep the fridge stocked with a variety of easy-to-eat meal components that we can put together for a quick lunch or gobble at the end of a long day. These smashed chickpea toasts were one of our recent favorites; it’s basically a chunky hummus layered on grilled bread. I added some of the red pepper and fennel spread that I preserved last fall, plus microgreens harvested from the seed starting room. It was everything we needed for a restorative meal, and when people claim that vegan food is flavorless and boring I’d like to offer this in response. (Idea loosely cribbed from this recipe; grilling the thick slices of homemade bread with garlicky olive oil made this even better for us.)
What are you cooking this week, friends?