14 June 2009

Week 4 Pickup

I'm the most tired energetic person you'll ever know. I don't sleep much, I'm always on the move (hyperkinetic, according to a recent blog comment - thanks, Gatton), I'm jittery all of the time and I've been off of caffeine for a couple of years. I'm exhausted, though. I dream of long naps and full nights of sleep. I wish for refreshing wake ups and days without yawning. Not gonna happen in this lifetime!

That said, I am often a victim of inertia. Without proper motivation, I could stay in bed all day. I'll read, surf the web, catch up on my phone calls and emails, plan lessons, grade papers, and even groom the dogs; but I won't get out of bed unless I have to. There are variations on this routine - I can remain planted to the couch or to my lawn chair in the sunshine. I get plenty done (though not the things J wants me to get done), but I really will stay put all day if you let me.

Getting up to go to the farm on Saturdays has been a push out of the house for me for a month now. Each Saturday I have, quite uncharacteristically, gotten up and showered and gotten J and myself fed and out the door, pups in tow, well before the noon hour. For me to wear any clothes other than pajamas on a Saturday is rare indeed, so imagine J's surprise when I'm suited up in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers and packing up my bag on a Saturday morning. This CSA thing might be good for me in more ways than one.

J slept in yesterday, so I had time to scrub down the shower and bathtub, read a few chapters in my latest favorite literary series (have you read the Chronicles of Chrestomanci yet?), shower, get dressed, make and eat breakfast (including coffee - decaf, of course), and hang out on Facebook before he staggered, bleary-eyed, out of the bedroom. Coaxed awake by coffee (the real stuff for him), he showered and dressed and "surveyed our lands" with me.

The asparagus have gone bananas! We don't have a lot of them, but the ones we have are growing like crazy! They're huge. We brought a tape measure in the garden to get a sense of just how tall an asparagus can get and we were really surprised.
There are some tiny red berries on the strawberry plants and lots of little green berries peeking out of the pots.
We've got some pods plumping up with peas and tiny tomatoes popping out on a plant or two.

The green bean plants are climbing their cages, spiraling their way up the wiry frames.
Everything is growing, but little is flowering. It has been very gray and rainy so far this spring, and the plants want their heat and sunshine. I hope it comes soon before I have a garden of plants that miss their opportunity to bear fruit this year.

Lands surveyed, we loaded the pups into the car and headed east. I popped my netbook onto my lap and wrote about how we used up last week's food while J listened to the radio and exceeded all posted speed limits until he came upon a $1 iced coffee special at McDonalds. That slowed him down for a couple of minutes.

Before pulling into the farm's parking area, we checked out an 8 acre farm for sale next door. It's got a big house, several out buildings, and a golden-retriever dream pond. We drove around the property edge for a few minutes, each fantasizing about life on a farm:

Nicole: I've got my neatly-laid out rows of veggie plants and fruit trees next to my chicken coop full of silky chickens in every color. One of the out buildings hosts my commercial kitchen space, where I bake cookies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes to sell to the masses of people who flock to the North Fork for wine tastings and pick-your-own fruit and roasted corn at the farm stands. My pack of a dozen or so golden retrievers swim in the pond and torture the chickens by shaking out their wet coats near the coop.

Jason: He's got one out building housing his home brewing operation and another to hold all of his stuff so I stop complaining about how much of it he has.

Holden: He's chasing ducks in the pond and bossing all of the other goldens around because he is the oldest and the favorite.

Riley: He's drinking dirty pond water and chasing anything that moves fast enough to be chased. When he's tired, he naps in a sunny patch on the grass, within earshot of me, so he knows when treats are being given out.

It's a happy fantasy world for all four of us, each in our own special way, but one that is not going to happen any time soon unless someone knows how I can get my hand on $1.3 million to make it happen. Sigh.

Garden of Eve's animals were lively and particularly noisy yesterday. The big white sheep let J touch his curly coat while he munched on whatever he could get his mouth on and the goats bleated out happy hellos to all. The piglets had gotten noticeably bigger (in just a week)and were frolicking with a couple of little white sheep.

The cooler was full of good stuff, waiting to be taken home. Here's this week's haul.

The wheels started spinning right away. I knew the strawberries would have to be cooked somehow because they were so very ripe that they would hardly last a day in the refrigerator at home. I didn't want to repeat the strawberry-rhubarb combo two weeks in a row, so I had to use the rhubarb either alone or in combination with something else. Hmm... J wanted to try the pea shoots cooked this week, so I know some garlic and olive oil will be involved with that. What to do with a bunch of cilantro? No tomatoes yet for salsa... The arugula and lettuce would easily be used up in salad or on a sandwich or two. The radishes? I'm still a big question mark with radishes. Leeks? More leek pasta? It's too warm for leek and potato soup. (Don't tell me to make a chilled soup. I'm not a fan of cold soup.) Asparagus...maybe on the grill this week...

The strawberries and rhubarb were a top priority as both were very ripe and very soft. I still had a few apples left from the first couple of weeks. They were going soft, but still usable. Aha - apple-rhubarb compote. The apples are almost too sweet and the rhubarb is quite tart - that should balance out, right? Right. Apples, rhubarb, butter, brown sugar, a sprinkle of kosher salt and some bubbling on the stove time made for a tasty sweet-tart-tangy treat. J spread some on a toasted bagel (or two) and pronounced it delicious.

Two quarts of strawberries, hulled, and cut in half, and slightly mashed with a potato masher hit the heat for ten minutes before I doused them with sugar and cooked them for another half hour. I had combined ideas from several different recipes I found online and used more berries and less sugar than the average of all the recipes I had seen. It was still too much sugar. The jam is loose (not enough sugar to tighten it up) and tooth-achingly sweet. Some lemon juice and kosher salt stirred into the mix tempered the sweetness some, but it's still very sweet to me. I know I need the sugar to get the jam to set, but I'd like to stay cavity-free. I'll have to look into using pectin next time so that I can cut down on the sugar some more but still get the jam to gel properly.

All of the fruit cooking on the stove smelled amazing. Even Holdy and Riley were drawn toward the kitchen, where both camped out by the gate we use to keep the furry beasts away from the food. The sweet stuff is cooked and put away, now to figure out what to do with the rest of the shares.

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