Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Simple Pleasures of a Farm Stand.....

It's harvest time here in New Hampshire. I can't help but think that it is nature's way of not only providing a feast of food for our plates, but also a great burst of color that is a feast for the eyes. As we slide into the monochromatic gray of winter the autumn colors fade in to all but our memories.

One of our favorite farm stands is Lull Farm in Hollis, New Hampshire. James and I have been going there for decades, I dare say. When our daughter was in kindergarten I went on an apple picking field trip with  her class to Lull Farm. Her bag of apples had as many apple leaves as it did apples and before we could eat them, those leaves with apples attached became the subject for one of James' paintings.
In June, I would take Ana strawberry picking, she loves strawberries, so James would joke that they should weigh her before and after and charge us for the amount she ate while in the field. All the many strawberries that made it to her mouth instead of the box. " They look so good!" she would say to excuse herself.
Like the tomatoes grown here in the summer, the variety of apples grown here is amazing, from the classics to wonderful heirlooms. Thanks, Farmer Dave!

These rows of sunflowers remind us of  similar scenes in Umbria and Tuscany.....but we learned that sunflowers are indigenous to the USA.

It was a surprise to see Romanesco broccoli filling  baskets here as I had never seen this crop outside of Italy. When in Rome, we shop at the Campo dei Fiori open air market for our vegetables, and often find things we don't find here in New England.

Today, at the farm stand a head of Romanesco goes into my shopping basket.  James has an idea for a pasta dish that will feature this crazy looking  head of broccoli, or is it cauliflower....supported by garlic, anchovies, swiss chard, red pepper flakes all tossed in our superb Umbrian olive oil.
Perfect.....we like big flavor! We add garlic and swiss chard to the basket, and suddenly we have dinner for tonight. This is our kind of fun!

In Rome, zucchini flowers are a common sight at the Campo dei  Fiori market (above) in the late spring, fried and stuffed they are heavenly. This is one of those recipes we have not yet  fully conquered, but if they are on a restaurant menu we always order them. Maybe next summer I will find zucchini flowers here at the farm.

  Meanwhile, back here in New Hampshire...... Bushel baskets filled with white sweet potatoes, Japanese yams, classic yams, garnet yams....who knew?
So many farm grown varieties to choose from, all the vegetables and fruits with so many named varieties, it really is hard to choose, and for us easy to fill our basket so full that my arm is aching and I must hand it over to James. Why didn't we take a cart?  Anyways, on our last shopping trip we bought two types of yams and used them along with other root vegetables with a roasted chicken, our Sunday dinner. Since we cook each day it is easy for James and I to sample all these wonderful gifts of the harvest.......a simple pleasure.

But beyond food, the harvest also supplies these classic pumpkins.

Pumpkins that soon will be transformed into Jack-O-Lanterns for
All- Hallows-Eve.
 Before we get to Halloween, let's look at the amazing variety of pumpkins that  call out to us, the reds, orange, tan, and green pumpkins, mind boggling! Pumpkins with stripes and pumpkins with warts. Pumpkins big and pumpkins small, even sugar pumpkins for pies.
Really, how does one choose?

.....and then there is this way-too-big- monster of a pumpkin!

When you think you have found the perfect pumpkin, "Wait! don't pick it up by it's stem!".....didn't anyone ever tell you that!!!!

Back to Halloween for a moment and a few facts before we start eating the candy. Halloween proceeds the Christian holy day named All Saints Day, a day to remember dead Saints ( I didn't know there were any living saints). Some speculate that this day originated as a Celtic pagan feast to honor the dead and perhaps a harvest celebration as well.

The Christian All Saints Day was a time of abstinence from meat. People dined on apples, squash, potato pancakes, fruits and vegetables in general as well as soul cakes.

"A soul, a soul, a soul cake
Please good Missis a soul cake
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry
Any good thing to make us all merry"

A traditional song  for the day following All- Hallows -Eve.
( remember Peter, Paul and Mary's version?)

 The eve of All Saints Day, Halloween is the delightful and spooky, every child's dream holiday given
the chance to dress up as a ghost or princess, a pirate or a cat perhaps. It is a magical day filled with imagination, wonder, candy and carved pumpkins.
A simple pleasure is choosing the perfect pumpkin to take home for that all important Jack-O-Lantern that will sit on the porch  lit up to greet all  of those costumed trick-or-treaters that will come a knocking on the door on Halloween.


Oh! and yes,

live free and farm 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Garden In October Sun

I often get asked if I would like to have a greenhouse, so that I would be able to garden throughout the year.  When I see greenhouses kept by other gardeners I must admit in the cold of February it is nice to enter and see things growing.

I like the notion of a greenhouse, but I have to say no, I really do not want a greenhouse.
James and I both agree that we enjoy gardening in spring, summer and into the fall, but then it is over for a year.
Benches and pots get put away or covered. Hoses are coiled and stored away with tools in the shed. The gardens get cleaned up and cut back once the plants have spent all their energy for the season.

This year October has been beautiful and there has not been a frost yet, so I am still able to cut small bouquets for the house. Extending the garden season this late into October is a treat, but soon a frost will bring an end to the nasturtiums, and the other tender plants.
The lemon trees have returned to their sunny place in the house and the figs will find a dark place in the basement to spend the winter. 

Most of the geraniums and begonias are inside, and will be repotted and put back in the garden next season.

There are still a variety of herbs, parsley, sage, chives, thyme and tarragon, in the garden, and one or another get used on a daily basis in our kitchen.  An omelette  we made for lunch today made good use of the chives and tarragon. The rosemary came back into the atrium yesterday. Pots of herbs are kept in our kitchen window to use over the winter and I will plant paper whites and amaryllis......thats about the extend of our winter gardening.
But, if we did have a greenhouse, think of the guilt factor, we would spend far too much time in there and our studios would be vacant!

With winter coming closer and the days growing shorter and darker here in New Hampshire it is time to close up the garden and spend more time in our studios
This is the view from my studio window.....not a bad place to spend the winter.

 Our days will now be spent in our studios and when early darkness falls we will be in the kitchen cooking and yes we will think about next seasons garden.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Last evening, as the sun was setting the top of the Shagbark Hickory was highlighted by the sun.
It is quite a grand tree, it reminds me of a tree in a George Inness painting.
Well, anyways, just a look at some of the autumn color here in New Hampshire on this Columbus Day.