posts tagged with 'local food'

cider economics

For Backyard Farm Club yesterday folks came over to our house to press cider. We got through all the drop apples we've been saving—the ones that hadn't turned entirely into gross decay, that is—and bottled nearly three-quarters of a gallon of delicious appley goodness (then drank half of that, in very small servings, with our snack). With the pressings we did before that brings our total to around 1 1/2 gallons, worth $16.50 at Chip-In Farm prices! Or $12.00 if you go to Whole Foods (I don't even count the cheaper grocery store cider; if it isn't locally pressed it's kind of something different). Even if we take that Whole Foods price, that means we just need to produce 48 1/2 more gallons to break even on our equipment costs! Um, does anyone have any fruit they want pressed?

cider flowing out of the press into a jar

let the cider flow!

big milk

If it were up to me, the only milk I ever for would be Shaw Farm in glass bottles from Chip-In. Local, relatively humanely-raised cows; returnable bottles; supporting the most local business... what could be better? Only, those bottles only hold a quart and cost enough that I can never bear to buy more than three at a time, and our boys go through a lot of milk. Leah, who wants to make sure they never run short, fills in the gaps with half-gallons from other stores: Shaw Farm if they have it at Wilson Farm or Whole Foods, or store brand from wherever else she might be shopping. But even those can go pretty fast. So yesterday she brought home a gallon jug of Hood.

So yeah, a gallon is a big thing! All of us had some trouble pouring from the full container this morning, into oatmeal or tea. And many Americans buy multiples of these containers at a time? Maybe we don't drink that much milk, after all...

summer supper

Determined not to see the end of summer quite yet, we enjoyed the most summery of meals yesterday evening. Hamburgers (hot dogs for the little one who doesn't eat real food), corn, watermelon, and lots of tomatoes. The corn was not perfect—the first disappointing corn we've had from the farmers market—but the burgers, also locally sourced, more than made up for it. And of course the tomatoes only had to travel ten feet or so to get to our table on the deck. They were perfect! The grocery store watermelon was a watermelon.

Harvey chomping a big burger


For dessert we had smores, as I like to do when we have a fire going. The meat cooks so quickly and the fire is so lovely, it seems a shame not to do something with it! Especially when I haven't made anything else. This batch of smores was notable for Elijah's first unqualified success at making his own—and his second, too, because once he figured it out he went right in to making another one! His problem in the past has been with holding the marshmallow steady over the fire, where it needs to be; between heat, smoke, and boredom or distractedness he usually gives up before his marshmallow is much more than gently warmed. He doesn't actually mind raw marshmallows (ew) but they do tend to break the graham cracker when you try and squash them. There's been some shouting over that in the past, but no more! He's figured it out. It must be because he's a first grader now.

Elijah biting into his first perfect smore

bad picture, PERFECT smore


to market, to market

We went to the Farmers Market today. It started up last week, but we forgot, so today was our exciting first trip. Of course, things are different than they were last time we were there: there's a fence around the whole thing, separate opening to enter and exit, and a one way path among the widely-spaced stalls. And you can't touch any of the produce before you buy it. Still, we were delighted to be there and to have the chance to buy real food. Most important for me was getting some ground beef: the meat from River Rock Farm is so much better than what we can get at Whole Foods or from the meat delivery box place. The vegetables were less exciting, because almost everything there we already have in great quantities from our own garden. But I still wanted to get some, to support the farmers and the market, so I spent $5 on a pint box of snap peas. I also picked up some plants, which I guess I'll find room for somewhere...

Of course, I've been shopping three or four times over the past couple months; the boys have been away from the temptations of commerce since the beginning of the lockdown and they had money for treats burning a hole in their pockets! (metaphorically speaking: they all asked me to carry their money). Their favorite bakery wasn't there, but they found someone selling homemade cookies and spent $12 between them. Totally worth it. They were good cookies, and part of a good scene. Hooray for farmers markets.

goodbye October, goodbye farmers market

the boys checking out bright peppers, tomatoes, and gourds

bright bounty

Our home school day Tuesday concluded away from home, at the last regular farmers market of the year. Overall, we did well this year: we didn't miss a single market, and we saved enough food stamp coupons to come away the last few weeks with two gallons of maple syrup and five pounds of honey (that should be enough Leah-grade sweetener to last us through a long winter!). And we enjoyed lots of delicious fresh veggies and fruits, along with a fair amount of ground beef and bacon.

Of course, there's always room for improvement. We bought lots of kale, because rabbits, caterpillars, and our own chickens did such a number on ours. Beets, because I didn't manage to plant any. Carrots, because... well, we eat a lot of carrots. My dream is to be able to grow much of our own vegetables and fruits, leaving us with money to stock up on meat for the freezer, honey, and maybe even some cheese. That didn't happen this year. I can assign some blame to Lijah—or really to having three kids!—but I still have to take most of it myself. That we were spending money on tomatoes this September is entirely my fault, and nearly unforgivable.

Still, those are high level worries. All in all the market was great, and we'll be sad to see it go—we'll especially miss chatting with the fine folks from Charlton Orchards, and not only because they responded to our faithful patronage by letting us have the funny-looking donuts from the end of the batch for free! We're looking forward to the special Thanksgiving market on November 24; after that it'll really be winter!


market time again

Today was the opening day of the Lexington Farmers Market, and we were all happy to be there!

the family at the market manager's stall on opening day

here we are again

Especially happy after a long hot bike ride (the boys were wearing their designed-in-winter Tintin and Snowy costumes on the bikes so they were especially hot), and happy despite the absence, this year, of lemonade for the boys and ice coffee for Mama. There's not a lot coming from local farms this time of year, but we picked up some greens, a couple greenhouse tomatoes, and a pound of bacon—and, more importantly, a chocolate croissant and some apple cider donuts.

Zion, Harvey, and Lijah sitting on the grass eating doughnuts

thanks, farmers

The boys were happier still after that. Hey, no pictures!

Lijah smiling and reaching for the camera

he's ready to be behind the camera


(strawberry) field work

some of the berries I picked

strawberry season!

The fields at Parlee finally opened after a cold spring, so we took our first picking trip of the year this morning. Well, most of us did; Leah and Lijah stayed home. She says she has too many bad memories of trying to do pick-your-own with an infant, which is more then fair. But the bigger boys were excited for the adventure!

Harvey and Zion, with backpacks on, heading towards the strawberries

ready for anything, including picking strawberries

They brought their backpacks so they could carry their own lunches, water, and, in one case, diapers. Harvey showed his seriousness by getting right down to picking berries, not all of which ended up in his mouth.

Harvey's head peaking up above the strawberry plants

the plants are big and healthy

Zion was only serious about eating. The only berry he put in his basket was almost entirely white; a little of it was green. But he enjoyed himself!

Zion studiously eating a strawberry, among the plants

just one more

We met the Stevenses there, and I was very impressed at how well elementary-aged children can contribute to the family welfare through their labor. The younger boys, working together, chipped in a tiny bit.

Harvey, Ollie, and Eliot in the strawberry patch

sort of helping

But the best part of the whole trip was that Grandma Judy came along. After she picked her own four quarts and helped Harvey with some of his one, she gave the little ones something else to do while we finished up the harvest.

Grandma Judy reading to Zion, Ollie, Harvey, and Eliot

alternate entertainment

Between all of us we ended up with 32 overflowing quarts: besides Grandma's we took home 12 and Bridget and co. had 16. It was a true team effort, and we were all proud and tired.

Harvey and Zion posing with the strawberry haul

they're meant to be smiling

Now I suppose I have to make some jam!


the easiest homemade

freshly-brewed mint tea in a jar and a pitcher

free and sugar-free

We make a lot of things from scratch around here, like bread and deodorant (two projects from yesterday). The ones we do over an over again aren't hard for us (though they are sometimes tedious), but I totally recognize that they might be hard to approach for the first time. But some homemade projects are so easy that I really don't know why everyone doesn't do them, and probably the easiest one is mint tea.

There's actually one bit of the process that's a little tough for me, and it's the reason that "MINT TEA" features prominently on my part of the to-do chalkboard: to make mint tea my way you have to start the day before. But once you remember to start, you've got it made, because all you have to do is boil a pot of water and turn off the heat, then put some stems from your mint plant in there—preferably washed, unless you like a more buggy or dirt-infused flavor. Then in the morning strain the tea into a pitcher or jar and stick it in the fridge, and drink it when it's cold. That's it!

Of course, you may be protesting that you don't tend to have mint lying around, which is fair. But you'll be happy to know that, as mint tea is the easiest thing to make, mint itself is the easiest plant to grow. It's actually pretty much a weed, so if you don't want it to take over everything you should grow it in a pot, where it'll do fine with no more water than it gets from the rain. As an easy rule of thumb, I'd estimate you need one five-gallon-sized pot of mint for each day of the week you'd like to make your tea (and I should mention that I make it a gallon at a time). Or if you have the space, let it roam: when it starts to spread too far outside its bounds pull up the plants you want for your tea instead of clipping off just the top half of each stem with scissors, as you should in cases when you want more mint to grow.

mint plants

the source

As you may have guessed from the paragraph above, we have plenty of healthy mint plants to give away, so if any of this sounds good stop by next time you're in the neighborhood and I'll hook you up. Or just come in for the tea; I try to always have some in the fridge this time of year.


spring eating

the tip of an asparagus spear in the garden

springing up

It's spring, and there's things to eat outside. I always like it when the garden starts to produce edibles, since it helps to justify my hobby to the world. Two and a half pounds of asparagus so far, over the first three days of the harvest, and it's still as exciting as the first time lo these many years ago now. Asparagus is definitely one of the embodiments of spring, culinarily speaking, so it pairs well with that other symbol of the season, the egg.

poached egg, asparagus, and corn bread on a plate

the freshest

Something is going right when we can enjoy, as we did Saturday supper, eggs a few hours old and asparagus picked 20 minutes before it hits the plate. Plus leftover cornbread, but that doesn't signify anything.

And it's not just asparagus around here either. The woods are full of garlic mustard, a tiny bit of which I made into pesto on Friday (with almonds, cheap parmesan, and olive oil). And today's couscous (made to accompany more asparagus) was livened up with a generous handful of chopped spring onions.

The best thing about all these delicious ingredients is that I barely have to do any work for them. Sure the asparagus was a bit of work to set up, and I suppose I must have planted the first bunching onions at some point, but now the food just rolls in every spring with no added work from any of us besides bending down to pick it. Since there's plenty to do in the garden otherwise this time of year, some easy payback is very well appreciated.

Do you think we'll get tired of asparagus?


our free CSA

As much as I love the food pantry, it isn't always the best thing for us health-wise much of the year. We do generally give back the store-brand canned ravioli and chunky soup, but I'm unable to resist the allure of the white bread and Ritz crackers, to say nothing of the occasional Panera cookies. This time of year, though, the situation is totally different. Thanks to the fine folks at Gaining Ground Farm in Concord, we get to go home every week with a very respectable selection of local organic vegetables. Just this past week out take included swiss chard, beets, potatoes, basil, parsley, two kinds of summer squash, beefstake and cherry tomatoes, and a whole watermelon. Not too shabby!

Just like with a CSA, we don't have much idea what we're going to get from week to week, but that's no problem: this time of year we're more than happy to build menus around whatever fresh veggies we have in the house. And between the food pantry, the Lexington farmers market, and our own garden, we have plenty of veggies. Eggplant and tomato sandwiches, curry, beet greens and beans... summer time and the eating is easy!