Maine Fiber Frolic 2017 Poster
MOFGA Common Ground Fair Poster

SOLE food

I don’t remember exactly how I heard about the Dark Days Challenge but when I did, I knew it was something I wanted to try.  It’s the brainchild of Laura over at (not so) Urban Hennery.  More about how you can follow along later… 

I don’t think I’ve talked about our thoughts on food here but eating sustainably and (somewhat) organic and local and ethically (SOLE) is something Jim and I try to do regularly.  Actually, we get very excited about food…especially the local kind….maybe because we’re providers ourselves. 

We’re very lucky to live where we can find fresh seafood easily (although I’m not crazy about fish with fins) and there are a couple of nice farmers markets we can visit in season for cheese, bread, mushrooms and other goodies.  We’re also members of a thriving member-owned market that offers a lot of locally grown/made items.  It’s been at least 5 years that we’ve been shareholders in a veggie CSA, too.  All this frees us up from growing veggies ourselves.  We’re full time sheep farmers but we grow our own pigs, roasting chickens and laying hens, too.  We buy a quarter of a beef critter every year from friends who raise and finish them on grass.  None of this meat is certified organic.  It does, however, come from animals that are  raised in a way that allows them to express their natural behaviors and eat the way they’re supposed to for optimum health.

So why sign on for this if we’re already eating locally and all that stuff…where’s the challenge?  Well, I tend to get stuck in a pattern of same-old, same-old because we’re busy, tired or whatever… so I’m hoping this will give me the kick that I need to plan ahead, to prepare something different from time to time and to seek out local foods that we haven’t yet experienced.  There are a few vineyards cropping up in this neck of the woods…we should visit them!

The Dark Days Challenge runs from December 1 through April 15.  I’ll be posting about my Challenge meals regularly. Oh! that’s the other part of the challenge for me.  We all know how bad I am about posting regularly.  Maybe this will get me into some kind of rhythm.  If you’d like to follow along and see what all the other Dark Days Challenge participants are cooking up, you can check out Laura’s site…and watch for an icon you can just click on in the sidebar here…coming soon.

I’m going with the default definition of local being 150 miles, and  I’ll be trying my best to use SOLE foods but I will throw in some non-local spices, oils and salt.

So without further yabbering, I bring you my first Challenge meal…

We were given a really nice looking smoked ham steak by our friends at Three Little Pigs Family Farm in Wiscasset.  They take their pigs to a different butcher so we were eager to taste their pork.  It didn’t disappoint.  I didn’t want to cover up the taste at all so I just cut off a small piece of the outer fat and rendered it enough to coat a frying pan.  I then quickly fried the ham steak — simple!  Meanwhile, I had thinly sliced some beautiful Carola potatoes and yellow onions  from our CSA and layered them in a casserole which I’d buttered lightly (not local).  Some (local organic) MOO whole milk  and heavy cream from Butterworks Farm (leftover organic from VT that needed to be used or tossed) with salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg became the sauce for the potatoes which I baked for about an hour.  Reducing the milk and cream a bit and adding it to the starchy potatoes made quite a nice sauce and I didn’t have to use any flour or butter. That Jersey cream is very sweet.  The (organic) multicolored carrots were also from our CSA and they were just steamed a little bit and dressed with a bit of butter.

meal #1

That was really fun…already thinking about what comes next!

and another thing

WARNING…In this post there are photos of a whole pig being prepared & roasted.

Just about the time that our pigs went to the butcher and the beef & lamb we’d ordered from our friends arrived, it became obvious that we had a bad case of  freezer overload.  It was definitely time for the whole 40 pound pig that was hanging out in there to go.  He was completely stretched out and as long as the freezer…and every time I needed something that was under him I had to lift him out.  This gets old really fast especially as the weather changes to cold. I wasn’t loving hugging the frozen pig so much.

Our neighbors, Doug and Heather, who are always up for a food adventure came to our aid and the roast was on!  A few phone calls and emails produced about 15 friends who were willing to take a chance on our 1st attempt if it meant  feasting on some slow roasted (and a bit smoked) Tamworth pig…assuming we didn’t incinerate it.

We picked up the roaster from our friends at Three Little Pigs Family Farm and armed with detailed instructions and hours of internet research we went to work at about 7AM. 

Jim and Doug (aka The Cooks) got the fire started and then prepared the pig.

prepping pig

Doug and Jim butterflied the pig

  I tried not to get involved.  I had plenty to do preparing the sides and getting the house ready to receive hungry friends and family.  Heather arrived about 10:30 to help and brought some beautiful desserts.  Bless her!

waiting for fire

The roaster is getting up to speed...

By about 9:30 the fire was ready —

placing pig

On he goes!

Now it’s all about waiting…and waiting…and waiting — and resisting the temptation to lift the lid!

inside roaster

checking on the fire through the peep hole

OK…had to look!  At about noon, we’re almost there!  And people were starting to arrive — following their noses to the roaster in back of the house — and bringing more yummy food for the feast!  Wow!   The spread was spreading!!

half baked pig

Looking good!

The Cooks declared the pig DONE around 1 o’clock — YAY! — and called on me to carve.  Like I knew anymore than they did about how to dismantle the pig. I thought The Cooks should do it but…

pig done

That's one good lookin' pig!

As it turned out, the meat just separated from the bones…perfectly done,  juicy and flavorful. YUM!!  Those who braved the cold and smoke got to preview the main event.  Notice everyone snacking around the roaster…

attentive dogs

The dogs got into position just in case!

With one side completely “carved” we were off to the house for feasting and merriment…

carving

half the pig ready to go

And a good time was had by all!! 

pig party goers

gathering in the kitchen for pulled pork and all sorts of other goodies

I promise… This is the end of “catching up.”  More current news coming soon.

a little more October

We’re in the thick of mistletoe and holly but I just have to show you these pumpkin photos I took back in October.  I went to Pumpkinfest, camera in hand, with you all in mind.  The nearby– and normally low key –small town of Damariscotta gets revved up and puts on a  great celebration of the giant pumpkin every year.

crowded main st

Even early in the day, Main St was chock-a-block with people & traffic!

It started out as a local event some years ago but now people come from all over to see these works of art.  So here are just a few of many…enjoy!

witches

witches & ghosts at sunset

carver

carver at work

carriage

Cinderella's coach -- it's just the cutest thing!!

But this has to be my favorite for this year —

mermaid

A mermaid complete with bejewelled navel. Love it!!

Didn’t make it to the Pumpkin Regatta this year.  Will just have to plan on it in 2011!

Ninety + Days…

On Columbus Day weekend, I heard myself saying to some visitors, “We have a farm blog.  Well, actually, I haven’t posted for a while.”  After they left I checked… July?!  O-MY!  Then I was bogged down with preparing for the trip to Rhinebeck.  And then there was…well, who knows…just days that go by.  Believe me when I say I’m not sitting around sipping champers and eating bon-bons!     

Before we get into the holiday crazies…I bring you August through October  in review…not in any particular order —

The little layer chicks I brought home from Maryland in May and their more local buddies got a new home and just loved being out on the grass.  At first, we kept them in their hoop house and moved it daily.  But once they’d learned that this was their “home base” we let them out to forage and moved the house every third day.  This turned out to be a really nice way to raise the hens.

chix hoop house

The chix learning about living on the land.

Jim gave me a Flower CSA Share for my birthday so every week there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers in our veggie CSA bag.  What a lovely gift!  Big points for the hubby…

CSA bouquet

Fresh flowers every week!

The Ranger chicks grew really well on the pasture — just as we’d hoped.  Thank you Rangers!  Yum!

oven ready ranger

chicken ready for the grill

We had a couple of wild storms. One of them took down what was left of one of our ancient sugar maple trees in the front of the house.  So sad that it’s gone.

maple tree down

The end of our ancient maple tree.

 That same gust of wind opened a fairly wide path through our oldest stand of lilacs, too.  Fortunately, the lilacs will regenerate themselves over time with careful pruning.  This made us feel a little better…

rainbow

rainbow over the barn

We participated again in the Maine Fiberarts Tour Map Open Farm & Studio Weekend.  My friend, Penelope, came on Saturday and kept me company.  I was here alone as Jim had gone off to NY state for a week of T’ai Chi Camp. It was a fun weekend with a number of people stopping by and was especially nice to be “stuck” in the studio — I actually made some progress on a project I’ve been working on. (more about that later) And Jim had a wonderful time at camp.

Jim got tired of hearing me bitch complain about the “coffee dust” that covers everything in the kitchen every time he grinds his beans.  He drinks a lot of coffee…he grinds a lot of beans.  So…he made this screen.  He really believes that it works and keeps the dust loacalized.  He’s not wearing his glasses or doing the white glove test (that’s against the man rules) but hey! he’s trying.  And the whole idea is just so Jim… lol!

grinding coffee

Jim's absolutely awesome coffee containment system

 The hearing protection is for real.  He spends a lot of time around loud equipment so he lives with those yellow pillow-type-earmuff-things draped around his neck…or on his ears. You wouldn’t believe where I’ve seen him with those things on…     

We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with dinner at our favorite lobster shack.  This was the view from where I sat.  I wish I’d thought about taking a picture of the lobsters before my hands were full of butter…

view from MBLC deck

View from Muscongus Bay Lobster Company deck.

Earlier in the summer, I made some strawberry-balsamic-black pepper jam but didn’t take any photos.  I haven’t made much jam so I was a little nervous about the process.  It was fun, though.  We haven’t tried it yet…only made a few jars so we’re saving it to be enjoyed at Thanksgiving with some fabulous cheese from our friends at Ruit Farm…and maybe (if we don’t die) we’ll give some away at Christmas. 

We were gifted a ton of green tomatoes (thanks Greg & Aaron) so I made some of our favorite relish.  It’s pickled rather than sweet.  We shared it with the tomato growers and have enough to keep us happy til next year…and maybe some to give, too.  I also put up a few jars of pickled veggies with multicolored cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers and chunks of green tomato.  I added a couple of sprigs of fresh tarragon to the normal pickling spices & garlic.  Looking forward to trying these.

pickles etc

cooling jars of pickles and relish

Our CSA grower, Rosey, offered us some ripe tomatoes.  She cautioned that they were “sound but should be put up very soon.”  I took her up on 25 pounds and went to work on them immediately.  I just love the Italian “tomato squashing  machine” that Jim and I bought when we were first married and had a huge garden.  You put the washed, quartered tomatoes in the top and it spits out the seeds, skins etc separately from the juice and pulp. It took no time at all to process about half the tomatoes into sweet, juicy pulp. I was tempted to just drink it right down!  But I let it reduce to about half its volume in the crock pot overnight.

cooking tomatoes

first batch of tomatoes cooking down

The aroma in the house was amazing!  The next day, I repeated the process with the other half.  Now we have a nice stash of tomato puree in the freezer to be enjoyed during the dark days. 

The Common Ground Fair was great — it never disappoints!!  YAY for MOFGA…we are so fortunate to have this organization to work on our behalf.  I took a couple of fleeces from our crossbred sheep and one that I’d debated keeping for myself (silly me!) and put them for sale in the Fleece Tent.  The one I was going to keep, Hazel (aka NoTag), I decided to show as well.  It won a blue ribbon in the natural colored, longwool division!!   Honestly…Hazel is a beautiful ewe but is the most unfriendly/uncooperative sheep we have.  The blue ribbon is making me like her more but all our applause and sweet talking isn’t making her warm up to us.  She still won’t give us the time of day.  I wish I could put a photo of her here but she’s not big on photo taking.  I’ll keep trying…

Rhinebeck (NY Sheep & Wool Festival) came and went.  The weather was typical… from the drive down in the rain to the damp, raw days in our booth.  But as always, we had a great time, saw lots of people we only see there and we made new friends, too.  I didn’t get out of the booth much and forgot to take photos when I did…

Our May hatched layer chicks began to lay eggs and what beautful eggs they’re giving us!  Yes, those dark eggs really are that dark…

colorful eggs

colorful eggs!

We said good-bye and a very big thank you to our Berkshire X pigs in early October.  They grew beautifully and are providing us and a bunch of other families with delicious, heritage breed, old world pork.  If you try this type of pork, you will never be able to eat “the other white meat” again.  If you’re my age, you’ll probably recall the flavor of this pork from your childhood. YUM!

Market Day

On Friday mornings, the lawn and parking area beside an old farmhouse in Damariscotta comes to life and a tiny town of EZ-up tents and open ended vehicles pops up within a matter of minutes.  Soon following — folks from town and the surrounding area.  Before too long the place is hopping!  This is my favorite place to shop…the Damariscotta Farmers’ Market.  It’s exciting to connect with the farmers, growers & makers and get to know them.  The selection of veggies from several different farms here  is amazing and actually quite diverse.  I don’t usually need many veggies on Fridays because we belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and our share arrives on Thursdays. But I love exploring the stalls for something a little different and this market has lots of other good stuff to take home…

hahns end cheese

Always my first stop...we're addicted to Debbie's cheese!

mushrooms

gorgeous mushrooms -- farmed and found

bread

crusty breads

pemaquid oysters

fresh shellfish

carrots

colorful carrots

chevre

More cheese -- mostly goat milk -- lots of choices!

flowers

Flowers by the stem -- make your own bouquet!

fast food

Handmade potstickers, spring rolls, rangoon and dipping sauces aka farm market fast food...and often our Friday lunch.

bouquets

Buckets of ready made bouquets -- quick color to take home -- and inspiration for the dyepot...

 and the view is a bonus!GSB farm view

If you look closely, you can see a tractor cutting hay in that back field.  Finally we’re having a good hay year!  These fields are part of Great Salt Bay Farm, home of the Damariscotta River Association and it’s in preservation so we can all enjoy it for a long time!