thank our farmers for the view

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, our open places were mostly golf courses, an occasional park and a random old graveyard. Of course there were patches of trees or cliffy areas that broke up the continuous housing or industry, but little open land like those I have grown accustomed to in rural Vermont. My dad was a man who needed to roam a bit, especially after a day in surgery and the hectic commute from New York City to our suburban New Jersey town. He walked the nearby golf course daily, even in the winter months, cutting through under the clustered oaks and evergreens which formed a respite from the sprawl. On occasion I would tag along, and it was here, in these mini-woods, that he taught me to sit in silence. Not the kind of stillness that one finds in Vermont forests, but at times, as the wind picked up, you could be transported momentarily into a peace. Now, as I leave my work place in the afternoons, I too look for that same solace from the natural world. So much of our open land is in jeopardy. For once these small and struggling family-owned dairy farms are gone, so will the grazing pastures, the hay fields, even the acres of corn that have shaped our iconic New England landscape.cows in the pasture on a misty morning

The art teacher and myself, along with a young woman from the Lamoille County Conservation, brought a bus load of students to visit four farms, the first that has been in the same family for generations. We stood watching as the mist settled down low and the spine of the Green Mountains appeared and disappeared and appeared again. As the farmer talked about his favorite part of the day, starting at 4:00 am, he described walking the cows out to pasture just as the sun rose and the whole sky filled with light. It was a daily gift that he prized, for decades and decades, seven days a week, and, when he described it, his face lifted with sublime joy. There was no one listening who would deny that was indeed a gift.farm on a misty morning

He talked hardships too. Eight children but maybe not a one who might be able to take on this life style once he is gone. Hundreds of acres all open, all cleared by his herd, and his labor, might be lost. Last winter, one of his barn suffered a roof collapse after a massive snowfall followed by heavy rain. We saw the broken rafters split and still laying helter-skelter in disrepair. Money is tight. Actually, money is nonexistent. We saw that reality etched across his brow too.cows in the pasture

We left him smiling as he set to continue his daily routine and boarded the bus to our next farm just a few miles away, in yet another million dollar location. This dairy farm has been run for eight generations. Imagine? Organic milk and maple syrup. At least 1,000 of those taps are into buckets, so that sap is still collected by hand. We heard all about the herd, which are all named. Generations of them too.

Here too there is worry about the future. For a while organic milk seemed to be the answer to the low prices, and many small farms made the switch, but now, with all the nut and other varieties of “milk” these farms are struggling each day, each eighteen hour day, all seven days in the week.

Vermont farm in the morning

No matter where you looked while touring the local farms, you saw labor. In the very pregnant cow waiting for her delivery, and in the continual raking and haying and cleaning and milking and feeding this life demands. Once again, we listened to these (female) farmers talk about raising children on the farm, the happiness they felt having their children working along side of them, the pride they have in the work, the endless hope they have, despite the way the numbers are always sliding into the red. One of the women talked about her drive to create the best quality organic milk, from the happiest cows, cows that could just live like cows. As we drove from one farm to the next, the farmers began to echo each other. They all voiced how they just wanted “to create the best of the best.”

pregnant dairy cow

“It’s not an easy way to live, but it’s a good way.”

hay in a barn

“If you can be happy enough, you can carve out a good life.”

“Driving a tractor outdoors on a beautiful day, you just can’t beat that.”

So, how do you thank a farmer? For starters, find out where they sell what they are producing, and buy local. Perhaps pop in and see what a barn looks like, and what it takes to keep that whole enterprise standing, along with all those acres required to feed their herds. After that, think of them when you vote.

 

Spring Dressing

It’s April and once again we are craving Salad! Look no further for a fresh new dressing recipe to feast away on all the early greens available in your market. Bon Appetit!

Nine Cent Girl

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Looking for a quick and tasty dressing for your spring salad? The following recipe is guaranteed to satisfy anyone wanting to top those delicate greens showing up in our grocery stores. Right now I can’t get enough of parsley, sunflower and pea shoots, young spinach and early strawberries on my plate. Along with this fabulous dressing, composed of honey, lemon and flax seed oil, you will have created something sensational!

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Detox-ober

From the vineyards of Cassis in Provence, France, to wineries of Santa Barbara, California, I tasted more fabulous rosé this summer than a Master Sommelier. Bottle after bottle, with an ocean or mountain or city view, shared with friends and family well into the night. I never regret those glasses raised in laughter and love.

But traveling meant there were plenty of meals on the go. Days when chips and m&m’s were lunch or maybe a second lunch. Eating in airports or roadsides where the selection wasn’t a healthy one. There were plenty of fabulous restaurant dinners too. Extraordinary plates of homemade pasta and fresh breads, local fish or eggs, burgers on the grill, corn with butter and peaches over ice cream. Oh, and pies, custards, and tarts. (I was in France, after all). Food highlighted my days, without regard to calories or consequence; I often dined quite splendidly, as evidenced by my scale.

Detox-ober came in the nick of time. Clothes ill-fitting, energy level flatlining, and little desire to run up any of the hills my crazy life demands me to surmount; acting like it was a breeze to keep hiking when in actuality walking through the motions winded me. I owed myself a breather, so, as I do every fall when I find myself in this exact same transitional place from summer fun back to work, I closed the liquor cabinet, stopped eating out, and focused on revitalizing the core of me.

Autumn colors in a maple tree

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Breakfast of Champions

Even on the busiest of mornings, I make time for breakfast. Sometimes while standing, while multi-tasking through rushed pre-work tasks, but eaten all the same. And not because it’s proven to be the most important meal of the day, or any such trendy sense, I just love all the options of breakfast.

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What better start than citrus? The dreary winter is elevated greatly when Florida Sunshine arrives on your doorstep fresh from the growers or grabbed from your supermarket bins, it matters not. Just smell the sweet burst of flavor and savor every juicy bite. Of course, although distant cousins to their summer relatives, we are grateful for the berries available in February, and chop those up for the breakfast muesli.

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A quick bowl of granola, with a splash of our homemade almond milk makes a delicious start for my Monday–Friday work-day. Make it yourself, or buy local. While EVERY town has a great granola maker, Nutty Steph’s is certainly the best for us.

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But then, oh then, a Saturday and then a blessed Sunday rolls along and yes, then, we take the time to pull out the pots and pans and make an event out of this first meal of the day. Whatever you do, where ever you live, find honest to god, real farm-fresh eggs, like from a coop that has a few chickens pecking around the dirt; crack open one of those and you will never again return to a store-bought egg without a struggle. Fortunately, we have loads of choices here in rural Vermont. We can even get a dozen for $3.00 from the guy across the road. But our all time favorite, with the brightest orange yoke, are Axel’s Eggs. Just wow.

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While 2 of those are dropped into boiling water for 3 minutes the toast goes down. Yes, we also have a plethora of extraordinary bakers here in Vermont, but are most fond of Elmore Mountain Bread. Gluten be damned when it comes to eating a thick slice of this wood-fired stone-ground joy on a weekend brunch. Spread real butter and local raw honey liberally, of course. Why not make this meal celebratory?

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Can you start the day without a proper cup of tea? Jeez, I hope not. A five minute steep of Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend will be sublime, but a dark cuppa of Barry’s Gold Blend isn’t bad either. Regardless, don’t drink tea out of bag unless the world is near its end and you are desperate. A splash of organic whole milk is yet another worthwhile weekend treat.

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Get your timing down and all is ready to be plated together to be savored while conversing with your favorite consorts. Leisurely.

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Slow down. Chew. Sip. Share all your best dreams. You’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and a full belly. What can’t you do?

 

Make America Delicious Again

Despite what most journalists and bloggers are writing about on this busy week, I’m focusing on food, yes delicious food. I guess getting ready for the Women’s March just makes me hungry. And not only hungry, but longing for smells and tastes that bring comfort and nostalgia along with warm and satisfying feelings that are so so so very needed during this time of upheaval and uncertainty. How about you? Spending more time in your kitchen than usual? Is there anything that brings your household together more than tomato sauce simmering for the afternoon?

 

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Fast Foodies

I am one of the lucky ones. I live with someone who treats me to fabulously yummy meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. We eat mostly vegetarian, but sometimes fish or the occasional poultry or red meat are added, and sometimes strictly vegan; regardless, we eat with health in mind. We keep it local, mostly, and organic, mostly, and gluten free, mostly, but always delicious. Now don’t get me wrong, we often have little time to whip up mid-week gourmet dinners. We work full-time, arrive home dog-tired after long-days, and are hungry. So, we try to keep what might be the answer to what’s for dinner? on hand and simple to put together.

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