good tidings by train

Ayana is taking the Vermonter train tomorrow up from New York and is staying the week. She thinks she is coming up to enjoy apple cider donuts and the peak of the trees. Really, she will be here to help me move the pigs across the farm, to shear the sheep for my first time ever, and to plant garlic. I also don't plan on letting her leave, for, as you know, I am short in the Friend Department up here in Vermont and know enough to not let one out of your sight once they have been found.


good morning

Every morning the sun rises through these still-green hills right up over our East-facing bedroom window. Long before it actually cracks the horizon and soaks our room golden the cats furiously purr and knead my slumbering body. Nick and I have an unspoken arrangement of a tradeoff for who lets out the chickens in the morning. The other gets to sleep in an extra 30 minutes and to Top It Off they get their choice of coffee or tea in bed. Today was my morning to serve.  In an unprecedented bout of planning I had us put the chickens in garden for a couple of days. After they have scratched and pecked and eaten the left over kale and the fallen tomatoes and deposited as much poop as their little bodies can muster we will put them back on pasture and replace them with the pigs to finish the garden job. Manure and tilling and garlic prep all through the power of animals. Its a glorious thing.

So, this morning, it was I who lay, body still, eyes open, in wait for sunrise. The cats had long since woken me but I refused to rise until that impossible sun rose even with our window sill. When he did, I pulled my used body from the unbelievable warmth of the blankets, put on my long wool underwear and one of Nick's sweatshirts and my muck boots and poured the cats, Rudy, and myself out into the coolness of today's sunrise. While it always seems insurmountable, getting out of a warm bed on a cold morning, there is nowhere I would rather be than there, with those chickens and their unabashed enthusiasm for life. It always reminds me of this photo I snapped one morning on the farm in North Carolina.


packing summer away

Slowly, we move inside. Green tomatoes are our new housemates and we watch them ripen on the every surface. The garden is dismantled. The beds prepped for garlic and winter rye. The cows make their last rotation on pasture. The second cutting of hay is finished. The chickens are given warm water in the morning to help them ease into their day. The pigs hut has been fetched from a nest of pigweed and burdock and filled with new bedding. Suddenly you find your dear old friend, Time, has started to visit again after months of having no idea where he went.

Today is the last day of summer. Autumn has already sunk into our bones. The first woodfires begin to impregnate the air. Now begins the final push to prepare for the cold ahead. Winter is coming.


where one has nothing to do with the other.

Ripening green yellow orange and red tomatoes on every surface of our SouthEast facing bedroom.
Last night I was in a yoga class about an hour away from home. It was pouring buckets of warm rain all day and we are in the tail end of the Harvest so the two factors afforded me the time. My friend Rachael teaches the class and this was the first time I had been. Rachael lives with 3 other dear friends of ours that we don't get to see as often as we like because they are busy, we are busy and the Vermont dirt road system between our two homes makes it nearly a day on foot, ten hours by horse, seven hours by bicycle, and one hour by car. There are no buses or subways to or fro. They are our closest friend in Vermont.

If I had to chose the one truly alarming Fact of Life about moving to a rural community it would be this distance from our friends. It would not be the outhouse, or the molasses-slow internet, or the complete lack of a cafĂ©, or that nowhere in a 20-mile radius seems to carry the New York Times.  This distance from friends is the one thing I honestly miss about living in the City.

During last night's class Rachael came over to my mat to give my stiff body an assist with a bridge. She wrapped her arms around my back and shoulders to lift me up and I was hit how unusual it is for me these days to be so close to another woman. I have Nick here to depend on, to hug, to laugh with, to fight with, to lean up against while watching a movie, to work with, to cook with, to swim with. We share nearly everything together in our new lives as farmers and I am so grateful for the way our rural life has changed our relationship. We depend on each other and know each other in a way I don't know would have been possible for us in the bustle of the City. But as much as I tease him and love him, Nick is not a substitute for a girl friend, just as I am not a substitute for a guy friend for him.  Having a girl friend who is there to assist you with a yoga pose, or to skinny dip in the pond with, or to go for a hike with, or to bake a cake with, or to lie on the high field with or to simply talk to is something I need in this life. I need a girl friend. I know that sounds soooo sappy, and I don't mean for it to at all. It is a fact. I need a girl friend.

I need a girl friend who doesn't live an hour away. I want one that lives right here in my town. I want one that farms, or doesn't farm. I just want one that loves me the way my old friends love me. It is so impossibly frustrating to make friends at 28 years old in a new community. All of the women (and men) here have their own lives in full swing. They aren't looking to go to see a movie with the new girl. They aren't looking to go apple picking with me, or teach me how they grow garlic, or how to shear a sheep.

The community we have fallen into here in Vermont is beautiful. I don't wish to discount the kindness of the people in it and their warmth towards us. We have been so grateful for their Welcome. But, I miss my girl friends.  I want to be able to walk the 1/4 of mile to Meghan's house right now and see her 39-week belly. I want to meet Lindsay on bikes for ice cream at our general store. I want Ayana to join me for a rainy afternoon at the Vermont Historical Society. I need Fiona there on the running trails behind the farm. I want Julie in my kitchen teaching me for the seventeenth time How to Bake Scones. I want Eve to accompany me and a bottle of wine to see a movie that nobody else wants to see at the little theater in Montpelier. I want Melissa to do my make up and hair and put on a pretty printed dress with me before going to a barn dance.

I fantasize about having my girl friends here in Vermont with me. How full life would be if I could meld the city and the country into one. I love my girl friends and I so selfishly wish I could have even just one of them here. I can't let my happiness, of course, depend on their futures. I need to create friendships with the women who live around me. I just don't know how to do it. I find myself always awkwardly bumping into a gaggle of them at farmer's market, or at the fair, or the tea house in town. We don't have much in common yet aside from gardening, so I always bring the conversation to broccoli or blight or weeds and they must think I am the most profoundly boring flatlander to ever arrive amongst their hills. Why does making friends have to become so much more difficult the older you get? I know it all takes time, that some how some day, something will bring me closer to the women around me and then poof I'll find one day that I do have girl friends here. I am merely impatient for that day and wanting one of them to stop by on this brisk fall Wednesday morning to talk and share a cuppa tea.


pictured, not pictured


1. Our South-sloped sundown sky.
2. I wonder if these two miss cuddling with Lucky fox as much as I do.
3. I planted these beets in MAY and completely forgot (read: ignored) them. We assumed they'd be woody and cow food by now, but they are tender and pink (and huge).
4. Best friends.
5. The squash is hiding under landscaping fabric next to the peppers. It was downright chilly on Monday night.
6. Nick walking Ted to greener pastures. Literally, walking towards better grass and will be joining the rest of our herd.
7. Everly once told me she wants a Pink Farm. I do too.
8. Yogurt snacks are for kittens.
9. Edamame and tomato harvest with the baskets Toby brought back from Tanzania.

Not pictured: 

1. Spots of Jack Frost on the pastures Tuesday morning. We have our work cut out for us this winter.
2. The eggplant pulled and tossed to the pigs. The End of That.
3. A rainy Saturday night filled with friends and whisky.
4. The sheep jumping out of their pen and helping themselves to new grass.
5. Me, in my pajamas with a headlamp, carrying out bedding hay to the pigs mid-night Monday for fear their Carolina bodies would be too cold in Vermont's sick joke of early September.
6. Leche (Ted's adoptive mama) bellowing at 11pm. Telling us Ted Escaped!
7. Me and my sweetheart in our pajamas (again!) chasing despicable Ted around in the pitch black after we found him IN MY GARDEN.
8. Fiddlehead-cat in my lap in the red canoe doodling around the pond (must get a picture).
9. The boys installed a grease tank in one of the trucks earlier this week. Cheers to a future of used veggie oil and not one of Oil oil.
10. Nick being a better milker than I.
11. The Tunbridge World's Fair tonight. It is the oldest running fair (apparently) in America and was only cancelled one year, and that was for the Civil War (so goes local legend).
12. The year's first bath. I indulged on Monday when it was Winter for a Night.
13. My bruised legs after this coming Saturday night. I am running in a 200 mile relay and will run about 30 miles  in 24 hours with my own two feet. Good gracious wish us luck.


sun dried tomatoes in evoo

I know, I've been absent again, but we are in the throes of the last few weeks of the Harvest and we are busy bees and praying for the tomato plants to collapse on themselves and give us a moment's peace. We've already made the call on the cucumbers. We're letting the remaining beans dry on the vines. The onions have cured in the attic. The garlic won't be ready to plant for another month. But, the tomatoes are unrelenting. They are cheerfully sunning themselves on every surface of our South-facing bedroom. The computer seceded her rightful place on the desk to the infiltrating toms. I just now unearthed her from a deep and crazed pile of cookbooks on the coffee table. I'm about to do another big harvest from the garden this morning as the weather reports are calling for lows in the 30s and it being September in Vermont I guess you just Never Know.

Some harvest traditions we have begun to feel in our bones, like having a pot of simmering tomatoes on the stove, every day from August 23rd to First Frost to put up for sauce and soup. But there is only so much sauce one can consume over winter and to look for other inspiration for tomatoes (and beans, and cukes, and fruits) we have turned to a book we slid from the bookshelf a month ago and haven't been able to wedge back in its place.  Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning (Chelsea Green) has become our new kitchen companion. A book my parents gave to me for Christmas when the garden was no more than a glint in my crazed Vermont-driven eyes. It is a compilation of traditional preserving methods from folks all around France. The beauty of these recipes is that they rely on oils, vinegars, and salts to preserve your food instead of freezers and fridges and electric dehydrators.

One of the recipes that immediately called on me was the Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil (page 47). I first saw a recipe for Sun-Dried tomatoes on the visually-stunning and always mouthwatering blog Fig and Fauna back in January. But, because Megan and Rose have the pleasure of living in Florida and I in Vermont I had to table the thought for another 8 months.

When we moved up to Vermont in April Billy sent us the Sun-drying Rack from Lehman's as a farm-warming present. It has become indispensable in my sun-dried tomato effort. It is beautiful and wooden and completely quiet as it relies on the sun's natural power. You can also put the whole thing in your gas oven and it will dry using only the power of the pilot light if the sun is not cooperating that day.

It is important, before I go into the recipe to say that there is a concern about the growth of botulism in infused oils. Botulism is an anaerobic bacteria that can live in conditions where there is no oxygen, like in infused olive oil. Food safety officials would recommend that if you preserve anything in olive oil it should be stored in the fridge and used immediately. While the threat of botulism is terrifying it is also very very rare. And, much like the warnings on raw milk bottles (including my own) I try to take such U.S. government edicts with the proverbial grain of salt. Grandmothers of the Mediterranean have been storing sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil since the First Tomato ripened, much in the same way thiat the world has been drinking raw milk since the first cow stumbled upon the first thirsty human. Some how life managed to continue on and flourish without everyone killing themselves from food poisoning. I would argue that it is more dangerous to buy a tub of conventional peanut butter or a  California melon from a Rhode Island grocery store than it is to can your own food or milk your own cow. But that soapbox is for another day. 

Please do your due-diligence when preparing any food in researching the dangers yourself and being as clean as possible.  

I digress.

For anyone who does not wish to take the risk, you can simply store this product in the fridge for immediate consumption. 

Sun-dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil by Marie-Christine Martinot-Aronica, of St. Dizier, France

Very ripe tomatoes (plum, paste, oblongs are best; fewer seeds)
Coarse salt
Olive Oil -- This can be used as a deliciously flavored cooking oil after the tomatoes have been eaten, so you needn't feel like it is a grand waste of expensive oil.
Drying apparatus
Cheese cloth
Clean, dry cloth
Glass jars

Slice your tomatoes in half (if using small tomatoes) or into 1/4"inch slices (if using bigger toms).  Place them on a tray, set in the sun, sprinkle salt on the side facing up and cover with a light gauze or cheese cloth to protect against flies.

Flip your tomatoes twice a day to allow for an even sun-baking. Bring the whole shebang indoors at night so the evening's dew doesn't continually set you back.

Depending on how hot and windy it is where your tomatoes are the process should take 2-3 days. Your tomatoes are done when they are dry but not completely dehydrated. Wipe off any extra salt from the toms with a clean cloth. Taste one to test. They should almost have the consistency of a fruit leather. They are immediately delicious and I wouldn't judge if you ate all your dried toms that instant. I did. Try to plan for that.

Put your tomatoes into clean glass jars and cover with olive oil with approximately 3/4" inch of oil over the top of the toms coming to 3/8"inch below the rim of the jar. Seal tightly and store in a cool place.

The recipe concludes; in Italy, tomatoes preserved in this manner are eaten as hors d'oeuvres, with no additional preparation. 


I joined Instagram earlier this summer because it seemed like the natural, band-wagon, thing to do while trying to avoid duties of sheep and gardens. Social sites like these are in my facebook-laced blood;  I can't shake them even if I want to and even though I am not very good at them. So, this is where I've been. Posting cheap shots of sunflowers and cute tomatoes in exchange for here. I have found that the fast photo (made possible by Nick's old, thrown-to-the-wolves iPhone) and the accompanying quick, slutty post to Instagram has matched my zombied End of Summer/Height of Harvest self better than this blog could. For, while I have been at a big fat loss for coherent, articulate words, the photo-rich world continues to present herself as ever.

My absence here has not been for a want of trying. Wednesday I was going to write to you about my sister and our short summer weeks together, but then I missed Fiona too much and spent the rest of the day loudly cursing the State of California and the grip it has on her. I was going to write to you today about sun-dried tomatoes and then my friend Sarah scared me about botulism so I thought it wise to do a teeny bit of research on the ol' matter before I infect you all. I'll get my shit together and start updating this page more often and stop lazying about on such dirty Insta-sites. 

Have a rockin' weekend. I'm making a cake with chocolate frosting for my friend/farmer/neighbor/generally sweet man who always remembers EVERYONE's birthday and is turning 57 on Sunday. Other than that, the days will continue on as they have all summer. I am ready for a Autumn. 
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