All I do is eat, eat, eat

After two weeks of gin-infusin’, here’s the finished product:
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Dark and fruity and awesome with tonic water.

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Also, some food failures. The apples are finally coming in and I was so excited about baking a batch of apple-oatmeal muffins– so excited that I forgot to add the baking powder. Alas. When I took them out, they were deflated lumps. Tasty lumps, but each one was a rock in your mouth.

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I wish I knew how to cook, because all the things I make for dinner are Variations on a Theme (vegetables, eighty ways).

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Kim, who is a much more accomplished chef, is making sauerkraut in a special sauerkraut crock.

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Sleepy these days. More verbose post to come.

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Food and drink

Too long since the last post, but I’ve been busy jammin’ and infusin’ and all sorts of things.

First of all, Aaron came and visited, and is now sitting next to me on our Porch of Wi-Fi. We’ve been doing a lot of reading (Ender’s Game [him], The Poisonwood Bible [me]) and eating our faces off. Subsequently we’ve come to know the inside of the outhouse quite well.

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Today we picked onions. We look none too thrilled, but it was really fun. There was no need for quality control, as we could just yank up all those little suckers.

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Tomatoes are in full bloom!

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Leading to many tomato-mozzarella-basil sandwiches.

Since we have such a plethora of blueberries, I decided to infuse some gin. I found all these recipes online for different infused alcohols, so I’m going to try a bunch.

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Today it’s a much darker purple, and I think it’ll be ready by tomorrow.

Jam-making also happened:

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We had to throw the jars in the oven before we plunged them in the hot water, etc, to disinfect and make sure we all don’t get botulism.

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I’ll have a picture of the finished jam next time. Delicious.

Tomorrow we’re going to meet up with Lucy and Paul and Caitie in Madison and go to the New Glarus Brewery!

Must leave, as have only 10 minutes left on the laptop.

Baking, death, etcetera

Today marks a week that I’ve been here– and I still can’t believe that much time has passed. I’ve been busy gardening, writing, reading, baking, attempting to cook, etc.

First, a sad story to get it out of the way: yesterday the cows were crying and crying, and I asked Kim what was the matter, and she explained it was castration day. Someone came and took all the male calves away and the cows couldn’t handle losing their babies. They kept mooing and mooing all night. Today, one of the cows kept crying, so Kim went and looked, and her baby girl calf is dead. I didn’t want to go see, but I’m very sad. This is how farms work, I suppose.

Oh, the Fermentation Fest is coming up in October, and I’m doing a reading– the first weekend, I think, at the opening.

Last night, Kim and I and two of her friends went to an open mic in a nearby town. We got grilled pizza, which was delicious, and saw an open mic where a man played guitar on his guitar app on his iPad, which was… interesting, but best of all: I met a cheesemaker! Of course, after one second of meeting him I asked if I could come along and see the process. He works at an artisan cheesemaker; he said his favorite variety is this kind that incorporates sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and cow’s milk together. He said he’d take me, which I’m thrilled about, and that the day starts at 2am, which I’m a little less thrilled about. More on that to come. (I hope I get to swim through a vat of Brie.)

In other news, I’ve been baking a lot and cooking a little. We picked all these beautiful carrots:

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But a lot of them had little rotten parts or were weird-shaped so we get to keep them. Now we have bushels of carrots and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. You can only make so much carrot cake.

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The tomatoes are starting to come in!

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I cooked my very first thing, which was a weird kind of ratatouille with all the zucchini and tomatoes. It was delicious, mostly because of the red wine vinegar. I was surprised it didn’t turn out to be a bland disaster, but I guess you can’t really go wrong when you put in that much olive oil.

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Baked some blueberry crisp, which unfortunately I ate in about a day. We’re going blueberry picking again this Saturday so we can make a lot of jam. I used to not like blueberries, but they’re growing on me.

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These are the beautiful eggs the hens lay. Apparently we get around 8-12 a day.

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The yolks are so startlingly burnt orange. The first time I cracked one, I thought something had gone wrong– but no, they’re just such a dark gold. You can’t really tell in the picture, but they’re around 5 shades darker than store eggs.

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Chopped up a load of zucchini, then:

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Zucchini-blueberry bread, with a crumble topping. This was way more delicious than my other attempts at carrot/squash/zucchini bread (there was a sad, sad time in State College when I tried to replace all the oil with applesauce and double the amount of zucchini, which resulted in a squishy, stew-y mess.) I used sunflower oil instead of vegetable oil, and it turned out well.

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I was hoping I’d become healthier since I’m only eating vegetables (as Cori says, a “situational vegetarian”), and not snacking all the time since we can’t bring food into other rooms (mice), but the amount of baked goods I eat is mitigating any other positive steps I’m taking.

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We line dry our clothes, so I’ve been putting off doing laundry, but the smell in my room is becoming swoonworthy, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow.

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This is Crookshanks (named after Hermione’s, of course), and although I am a verified pet-ambivalencer, this one is nuzzling its way into my good graces. Mainly by being quiet and not trying to be on me all the time.

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This is one of our farmstands where we sell our veggies.

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Chickens, chickens, everywhere.

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The baby ones are so wobbly and cute.

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Mini-lesson on green, waxy vegetables

Today: in which I learn the difference between a cucumber and a squash.

I woke up this morning and it was pouring rain, so I put on my raincoat and my wellies (secret: my wellies are just rainboots. Rainboots from Target. But here, we pretend they’re wellies.) I don’t know how dirty I was expecting to get, but it got real muddy. In a refreshing sort of way. The sort of way when you know it’s your first day of farming and you’re a little neophyte, a little padawan, and everything is exciting to you.

That aside, I really enjoyed it. I enjoy instant gratification (for example, my favorite things to knit are hats because they’re quick–I also have three pairs of mittens that I only knit one hand of because I got bored) and activities where you can see the results right away (baking 10-minute cookies, painting postcards, etc). Harvesting is the best of both because you can immediately see the fruits of your labor in your bin and it happens so quickly– you get a summer squash with one snip of your weird spring knife-scissors.

(Of course, there’s the whole planting, weeding, waiting all spring and summer bit, but I got here for the good part.)

And then you get to eat everything you just harvested!

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This is quinoa with vegetables. I didn’t flavor it very well, so it doesn’t taste like anything, unfortunately. The muffins turned out better: cheddar muffins with a tomato-oregano topping. I baked those for the weekly potluck we have on Sunday.

But back to my first day gardening– we harvested zucchini, green cucumbers, white cucumbers, English cucumbers, all sorts of summer squash, kale, Swiss chard (which I embarrassingly asked if was rhubarb on the first day), and kohlrabi (which I just had to Google how to spell). There’s only photos of a few of the vegetables because I put my camera down my muddy shirt for a while, in order to “keep it clean,” but then I just left it by the sinks.

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This is a rotten kohlrabi. The good ones don’t look like sad, smushed pears.

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We picked twenty bundles of kale for our CSA. Each bunch has eight leaves in it. I was very slow; Kim (the farm manager) had to assist me a lot. I missed making different varieties of kale chips and popcorn with Lauren at Penn State (kale chips with goat cheese was very successful, popcorn with balsamic vinegar was not.)

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My first bin full of kale and chard. I was so excited. Too bad my right pant leg wouldn’t stay in my boot.

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Kim told me that we soak all our greens in water for about 10-15 minutes so that their cores get cold. That way, when we refrigerate them later, they won’t wilt.

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Different colors of Swiss chard. The magenta ones are so enticing, but right now I’m afraid of these vegetables because I don’t know how to cook any of them yet. (Speaking of afraid: I’ve had three dreams about electric fences, after I didn’t hop high enough the first day and got zapped. As I told Cori, it felt in between a mosquito bite and getting kicked in the face.)

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Then we boxed all the greens for the CSA.

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I picked all those this morning. I only accidentally mutilated one zucchini when I tossed that tool in the bin too hard. Now it will go to the graveyard of my zucchini bread.

Now our favorite game: which is a squash and which is a cucumber? If you can figure it out, let me know, because this was an everlasting struggle for me when I was sorting them!

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Oh, I’m also doing a good bit of writing. I’ll talk about that later, since I was so excited about the vegetables today.

Landed at the Wormfarm!

Well, I managed to find my meandering way to the Wormfarm Institute, where I’ll be a farmer slash artist-in-residence until mid-October. Wormfarm is an artfarm with a sprawling vegetable garden; it focuses on the the intersections of “culture and agriculture.” Since most people are confused when I say I’m going to be writing and farming for the next ten weeks, I thought I’d give a virtual tour.

AWP

Well, I’ve packed my professional-yet-hip clothing. Have gathered my granola bars, my PB & J, my saltine crackers. My bag small enough to cart around all day yet large enough to fit 20 literary magazines into. I’ve printed my schedule and highlighted relevant booths at the book fair. So of course I’m still not ready, but probably as ready as I can be.

Perhaps the thing I’m most excited for is VIDA Prom. Speaking of which, gotta dig my Hadley Hemingway dress out of storage.

writing time

I’m staying at a house owned by the woman in charge of New Light Residency. It’s quite lovely. Lots of sunlight, places to sprawl, and she cooks for me, too! It’s kind of like a B&B just for writing. I’m getting a lot done because there’s no Internet connection (I’m at the library right now.) I think I wrote about 25-30 pages in the past two days. Hopefully another 25 or 30 more in the next two days!