Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
This past winter I went down a rabbit hole. What began as a new obsession with behavioral economics soon morphed into self-improvement. I know, I know, it’s a leap, right? But behavioral economics teaches us about human behavior and an understanding of our own behavior can lead us into improving that behavior.
It’s now mid-July and I’ve been down in that rabbit hole since sometime last year. Listening to book after book on changing my mindset, improving the workplace, motivation, creating unique customer experiences, learning learning learning.
Just as our bodies wear out about now from the constant physical part of our work, it turns out our minds can wear out from all that learning. I rely on audiobooks to keep me awake for that super early Saturday rise and load and drive to market, and last Saturday I’d finally just had enough of the non-fiction. The drive had begun to feel long again after many years of not even noticing the distance.
So I downloaded a young adult dystopian fiction novel and like magic, the drive suddenly wasn’t long enough. I arrived at market suddenly like I’d just driven to the neighbor’s house and indulged in a few “driveway moments” before getting to work.
Don’t fret teachers, I will get back to the learning. Sometimes, one just needs a vacation from self-improvement. I mean, don’t we need some time to just sit back and enjoy the improvements we’ve already made? Like we’ve just built a new deck—we don’t want to just rush into the next improvement project without even spending a moment just enjoying the new deck right? So yeah, I’m on a self-improvement vacation.
I definitely think this heirloom tomato tart is improving my self though (maybe that's just improving my mood, but that counts right?). This is definitely on of our favorite summer tomato dishes.
Recipe of the week:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling ·
8 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed ·
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs ·
8 ounces cream cheese ·
1/4 cup mayonnaise ·
1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced ·
Flaky sea salt ·
Basil leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Lay 1 sheet of the phyllo dough on the baking sheet; keep the rest covered with damp paper towels. Brush the phyllo with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the breadcrumbs. Repeat the layering with the remaining phyllo, olive oil and breadcrumbs.
Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, until golden and crisp; rotate the baking sheet halfway through cooking. Let cool completely.
In a food processor, pulse the cream cheese with the mayonnaise until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture in the center of the tart, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Arrange the tomato slices on top and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Cut into squares and serve.
The blog is on vacation this week. Please enjoy this picture of the farm instead.
Do you ever have a disagreement with someone that doesn’t go as well as you rehearsed a thousand times in your head? And afterwards, you spend an inordinate amount of time in autopsy mode regretting, wishing you could do it over, and rehearsing the next conversation?
How many times have you been told to just “let it go”? Move on. Face forward. Well that’s how we feel about this past spring. I hope you didn’t notice, but we had a bit of a rough spring this year. Incessant rain and flooding proved an insurmountable challenge to some of our spring crops, and I have to admit that our spirits took a bit of a hit as well. But we’re practicing the art of letting it go. Of moving on. Of facing forward.
And so I find myself turning my back on the spring fields and scouring the summer crops for good news. And, as it turns out, there is plenty! I just have to look for the right thing. If I look for disappointment and problems, I will find them. But if I look for the good, I’ll find that! It seems so simple! Yet isn’t it ever so hard to do this? Don’t you sometimes just want to wallow? (asking for a friend).
Lucky for us, the farm season moves along far too swiftly to hang out with failures too long. I’ll be walking by, innocently nursing some disappointment, and what do I behold? Some ripe sungolds! A ripening pepper! A little bean! And boom, I’ve let go. Moved on. Faced forward.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of a “bucket list”. You know, things you want to do/see before you kick the bucket. Bucket lists are often full of grandiose things like visit the Taj Mahal, climb Mt. Everest, or swim in the dead sea. Or maybe those are just the bucket lists I’ve heard of.
My bucket list is much more low key. It contains things like float the rivers as often as possible, pet as many kittens as is reasonable, porch sit with the people I love.
Don’t get me wrong, I will jump at the first chance to eat in Italy or Spain or see the salt flats of Bolivia, but it’s not a burning desire that I feel I must accomplish before I die. It’s those smaller things that fill up my heart with happy. So I’ll do my best to keep checking those things off repeatedly from my bucket list.
I claim to be anti-body shaming. I say “diversity is strength” and “it takes all kinds”. But here I am, body-shaming vegetables all day long! Just look at our edible rejects counter! Tomatoes with slight malformations, cucumbers too skinny, zucchini too fat, carrots with an extra limb—smells a lot like hypocrisy to me.
Don’t worry though, we do still believe that there’s someone for everyone and usually, all the edible rejects get adopted by someone here at the farm. In fact, if there were no rejects, I’m not sure what the farmers would eat!
Did you know there’s no such thing as talent? Well, at least according to one school of thought, that is. A school of thought that includes authors like Daniel Pink, Geoffrey Colvin, and Carol Dweck. What, then, separates the world-class from the rest of us? Blood, sweat, and tears basically. And a mindset that turns mistakes and failures into learning opportunities instead of finding excuses and throwing blame.
Some days I want to be world class. I work well into the evenings thinking that if I just work a little longer and harder, I’ll achieve success. Other days I’m just tired. I think I’ve been delving a bit too deep into these schools of thought, trying to fit in with those fish, that I forget that I’m a mammal and I have to surface to breathe.
I forget that I owe it too my employees to get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition. I forget that pursuit of other interests often helps me be better at my regular job. I forget to surface.
But not this Sunday. Nope. I read somewhere that you should pay attention to what makes you happy and do more of that. Hanging out with my pets makes me happy, so this weekend I embraced another school of thought. One that believes that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress toward a successful and ultimately happy life. One that believes I should “hang out with my pets”.
But I’m also an incessant list maker (if it’s more than three things-I need a list), and also find joy in crossing things off from lists. So I literally put “hang out with pets” on my list. And, I’m happy to say, I was able to cross all the things off from said list.
We made Aunt Ella's Shake Pickles last week, so this week it's time to enjoy some cucumber salads. This is one of my favorites:
Balkan Cucumber Salad
Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Kazan
serves 4 to 6
4 medium cucumbers
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup yogurt
2 small cloves crushed garlic
4 fresh mint leaves, minced
½ cup thinly sliced onion – red is the only onion that works
4 cups of finely chopped parsley
optional; 1 or 2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup minced scallion greens
lots of black pepper
1 TBS. Chopped dill or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup of chopped toasted walnuts – Toast at 350 F for 15 minutes
NOTE: There is a fair amount of wiggle room on what you put or don’t put in this recipe, as long as the obvious essential ones are in it.
Slice the cucumbers. Combine all the ingredients except walnuts. Chill and serve on a bed of lettuce with the walnuts on top.
Optional garish could be… hard-cooked egg slices, tomato wedges, chopped black olives and carrot slices.
June. Named after Juno, the Roman goddess of childbirth and fertility. The weeds that escaped our hoes in April and early May have all grown up and are having children of their own now. Usually, June rolls in on a saucy heat wave, announcing her presence like a child demanding your attention, stamping her feet and screaming “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!”
But Juno was evidently distracted by the floods, because June just sort of slid into the raucous party through an already open door and sat down. I hardly even recognized her. Sweatshirts in the mornings and evenings, no desperate popsicle breaks, breezy, sunny skies--even the squash seems to be confused and isn’t growing so fast. A subtle and perfect June will have us all complacent and unprepared for that blast of July that is sure to come, but since there’s nothing we can do about that, let’s just enjoy the sweatshirts while we wait.
The cucumbers have been enjoying the perfect weather of the last few days, which means we have some overlap of production between the greenhouse and the field. Which means it’s a great time to make a batch of Jason’s Aunt Ella’s Shake Pickles:
Aunt Ella's Shake Pickles
Cucumbers-1/2 gallon, sliced
2-3 onions, sliced
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1/8 cup salt
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp alum
1/2 tsp celery seed
Fill half gallon jar with sliced cucumbers and onions. Mix together. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Put in refrigerator. Shake once a day for six days.
Early tomatoes and plump blueberries: the sunny side
May is too early for a tropical storm. Plus, we’ve already had too much rain. But mother nature did not get that memo and you can’t argue with mother nature, so it’s time to practice the art of letting go and moving on. Oh, and don’t forget the art of keeping on the sunny side.
So I try to keep the losses in my peripheral vision and focus instead on those early tomatoes! And the fact that it doesn’t matter that our blueberry irrigation system needs a bunch of repairs because the blueberries love all this water and we didn’t even need to turn the irrigation system on.
Yes, the arugula and little gem lettuce threw a temper tantrum (turns out they’re not aquatic plants), but we ate the first ripe tomato last Friday and the blueberries are beginning to change color! And, I can shake off all that regret for not growing strawberries this year because this is exactly the heartbreak-inducing weather that did in our strawberry-growing desires last year.
Also, as soon as the sun comes out there will be fantastic tubing potential on all the rivers that were previously too low to navigate! So yeah, there is always a silver lining if you keep the losses out of focus and look instead toward where the sun will be when it finally comes out.
With the rains comes lots of lettuce and Jason is on a mission to make salads into main courses. We have seen strawberries at the market, which inspires one of our favorite salads:
Strawberry and chevre salad with balsamic vinaigrette and toasted walnuts:
Baby lettuce mix
Plain chevre (goat cheese)
Balsamic vinaigrette (see below)
Slice strawberries and goat cheese on top of salad mix. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven (or stir them in a cast iron skillet on the stove top until dark brown). While the walnuts cool, make the balsamic vinaigrette:
The standard ratio for vinaigrettes is three parts oil to one part vinegar. But it's a flexible ratio.This is also not something for which you need to take out the measuring cups — eye-balling the proportions right in the salad bowl or jam jar is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Balsamic vinaigrette will take you far in life. This is made just with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the balsamic adds just the right touch of sweetness when tossed with salad greens. If you're feeling fancy, you can add other ingredients the mix, like a dollop of grainy mustard, some minced shallots, or a tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs. If you'd like a little more sweetness, whisk in some brown sugar or honey.
Drizzle your vinaigrette onto your salad and top with chopped toasted walnuts and voila!
Jason tried to mention that the weather pattern is reminiscent of 2013. I jammed my fingers in my ears and hummed a little tune and stomped my feet a little. We are not going to drown! Although I don’t consider myself much of an optimist, I’m trying to ignore any similarities with 2013 and believe that the sun will come out tomorrow (now that’s in your head too!).
I’m squeezing my existence into the moments between the rains. It’s slippery work, but there are some of those moments. The sun even comes out sometimes (bet your bottom dollar…). Just enough for me to empty out the rain gauge and mash my fingers in my ears and hum a little song about the sun coming out tomorrow.
All this rain isn’t all bad though. Greens loves the rain. Which makes this prime weather for some kale chips! The secret to great kale chips is preheating the pan
Garlic roasted kale (a.k.a. kale chips)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale , stems removed and chopped
1. Arrange oven racks in center and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°. Place 2 large baking sheets in oven for 5 minutes.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Divide kale mixture evenly between hot pans, spreading with a silicone spatula to separate leaves. Bake at 425° for 7 minutes. Stir kale, and rotate pans. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until edges of leaves are crisp, but not burnt.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light November 2010
I love office supply stores. I can’t help it. All that organization packed in so neatly into one big box, all categorized and labeled. What’s not to love? Uncle Harold once said, “Anything you love, they can take away.” And take away they did. They took away my beloved Staples store and left me with nothing but online office supplies. It just doesn’t smell the same.
But it did make me smarter. If they can take away my office supply store, they can surely take away my other love: Paper Mate Ink Joy 700 RT 1.0 medium point. So I went and got me a mess of them. I mean, I do work in an office about a half day a week or so. I’ve got to have my favorite pens! How else would I type this blog every week?