“Good morning. Concentration is hard to come by these days, amid the nation’s strife. We are living through a tough and chaotic and wrenching time, filled with fury and an abiding sadness. We’re unsettled. We’re tense. We’re divided. The emotions arrange themselves in combinations that make it hard to work, to read, to watch, to listen, much less to think.
Cooking can help. The act of preparing food is a deliberate and caring one, even if you’re just making yourself a bowl of oatmeal at the end of a long night of worry. The way you sprinkle raisins over the top is an intentional act of kindness to yourself. So what I’m doing now, amid my restless skimming of nonfiction and news, thrillers and literature, poems that don’t bring solace: I read recipes, think about who in my family they might please, and I cook.”
-Sam Sifton, The New York Times
So much effort, yet so worth it.
While I was flipping through the April issue of Bon Appétit, N saw this recipe and asked me to make these “camouflage brownies.” And so I did. They required approximately seventeen different bowls, forty-two utensils, nine measuring devices and three separate batter components. (When a professional chef tells you a recipe is complicated and elaborate, believe her.) But the end result? Amazing. We don’t eat a lot of sweets, so we devoured this pan a little quicker than good sense would indicate, and it was entirely worth it. And I had to buy the cream cheese in a two-pack, so we’ll probably see these again in our kitchen very soon.
Plant starts hardening off in the goat shed.
Most of the hundreds of tomatoes and peppers I started earlier this year have been planted in our raised beds, and many more went out into the community as part of Quiet Farm’s first plant sale. The remainder of the starts are safely tucked back into the sunroom now, as we have overnight lows forecast in the mid-30s tonight. That is pretty chilly for these warm-weather crops, and though we’ll be wrapping the beds with blankets and tarps, I’m glad to have starts in reserve in case we have to replace freeze-damaged plants. Let no one tell you that farming is easy.
Why buy mulch when you can make it?
Nature does not generate waste; the idea of trash and “throwing things away” is an entirely human concept. One of our fundamental goals at Quiet Farm is to create a closed-loop ecosystem, where every last bit of organic material is somehow reused. We have lots of trees here, and therefore lots of branches, but without some assistance they won’t break down in the compost. Enter our tiny but mighty chipper, which we employ to make mulch for raised beds. This little electric machine isn’t the quickest or most efficient, but it does allow us to create something useful out of all the excess branches and twigs we have around – until we build our wood-fired bread oven, of course.
From left: onion tops, garlic scapes and chives.
It is impossible to overstate my love for the allium family: fresh, bright scallions; smooth, mellow roasted garlic; the burnt sugar of charred red onions; chives’ delicate bite. Nearly every savory recipe in every cuisine starts with onions as a base; they can be gentle and sweet or sharp and assertive, depending on how they’re used. We’re growing onions from sets for the first time this year, so I have plenty of green tops to throw on everything. Our garlic has just set its scapes, which would naturally become a flower; most growers remove it to force the plant to concentrate its attention on the bulb underground. These scapes will go into stir-fries and frittatas and pesto. The chives are nearly finished for the year; they’re very much a spring crop and don’t love high temperatures. Although their purple flowers are edible and delicious, I’ve left them on the plant to set seed because I want to start more chives for next season. This versatile, delicious plant family is truly the cornerstone of any small farm.
‘Sonoran White’ wheat in one of our test plots.
Much has been said over the past decade about creating a local food economy, but this argument – while important – usually focuses on small vegetable farms and ignores the truth entirely: that the centerpiece of the human diet, at least for the ten thousand years of established agriculture, has been cereal grains in some form or another. Since the Midwest learned to grow grains in abundance, however, most other regions of the U.S. have given up on grains, minimizing the potential for a true local foodshed. To that end, we’re participating in a heritage grain trial organized by the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance; we’re growing a number of different wheat varieties to see what might work best in our climate and our soil. We’ll return some seed to the alliance at the end of the year, so they can pass it along to other small farmers, and hopefully have enough to grind fresh wheat flour for at least one loaf of truly homemade bread.
Stay safe out there, friends. And cook something nice, for yourself or for others.