Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stop Sign Farm Kitchen - New Favorites

New favorite kitchen tool - herb scissors!  These ingenious little guys make short work of fresh herbs and come with a handy comb that ensures nothing goes to waste and clean up is fast and easy (BONUS:  No trip to the ER  required).  Found mine for under $10 on Amazon.

New favorite ingredient - fresh garlic!  Ever wonder why we eat garlic cured and dried?  Well, because we have to.  We are so fortunate that garlic cures, dries, and keeps so that we can enjoy its pungent flavor in our food all year long.  But, now - just now and not for long - fresh garlic is out there in the markets and farm stands and I say go get some quick!  It's a little juicy and the little cloves pop out of their skins with a simple squeeze and the bright fresh flavor perks up just about anything.  We roasted it with other spring veggies last night and I threw it in the soup today.  So good.  Get a lot - use some fresh now and hang the rest in your kitchen to dry.

Delicious spring

How fortunate to have our very own market here on the island, where we can get fresh-picked vegetables direct from our neighbors.  Not quite the overwhelming bounty of the Portland Farmers Market where Dylan shops, with its rows and rows of tents overflowing with the colors of the rainbow all year long - but a treasure nonetheless.

This afternoon's spontaneous treat:  cream of celery soup!  Hey, hey - contrary to its reputation as a tasteless stalk of chewy fiber fit only for stock and peanut butter, fresh celery with its glorious leaves left intact packs a flavor punch perfect for a light spring soup.  In my enthusiasm at the market yesterday, my eyes fell upon big broad spiky leaves and my brain said "parsley," but when I was unpacking my bag once home my husband said "celery."  I'd neglected to notice the thick stalks attached to the beckoning leaves!

No worries - we had enough Italian parsley in our own garden to work its magic on our slow-cooked "pot roast" short ribs and fresh island veggies.

But, what to do with bunch of beautiful, leafy celery?  Epicurious helped me out with a simple recipe using just what I had at hand - boiled potatoes from last night, onion, fresh garlic, butter, broth, a little dill and a splash of cream.  30 minutes and a quick blend later - a soul-satisfying, brightly colored and intensely flavorful lunch.

Spring, you are delicious.

Monday, May 16, 2016

10 years - and a lot of life lived

10 years.  So many clich├ęs – hard to believe, we blinked, it flew by - but they’re all true.  This Mothers Day marked 10 years that our family has lived together here at Stop Sign Farm.  A lot has changed -  like me. 

I’m a different person than the 40 year old mom excited at the possibilities of making a home, making a farm in the middle of this island in the middle of Puget Sound.  Close friends have walked through the fire, and then the ashes, of ultimately failed marriages.   Dylan has gone to college out of state, my mom has gotten really, really old (93!), and both Mark and I are working demanding, fulfilling jobs.

We still run sheep and goats, although we give them the minimum attention they require; we’ve pushed the pause button on chickens since every predator on the island apparently got the memo that dinner was on us.  The combination of my returning to work and Dylan going to a STEM high school then looking at and preparing for college had the unintended consequence of neglect for this place we lovingly built.

But, the good bones are there, we are back to turning our attention to making this place beautiful, and a new chapter in our lives begins to unfold – one with events of loss that are seeming to become the backdrop of everyday living – but with rewards and gratification and new adventures. 

Yes, a lesson for 50 year old me appears to be that the 2nd half of our maybe-centuryish time on this earth is that you have to get comfortable with loss.  Your every-Saturday-night friends break up and now Saturdays look different.  Your comfortable dinners together are in the past.  If you’re lucky, your child goes off to their college adventure and now you are that dreaded animal:  the empty nester.  Your beloved pets say good-bye one by one.  It’s hard.  Really hard.

But how can you try on new clothes if you keep pulling on the old ones?   People who live on their sailboats always have one common piece of advice when interviewed – don’t bring on anything new without getting rid of something old.  It’s good advice, and hard to live.  Until life just makes you.  Say good-bye.  Start saying good-bye.  Get good at it.  Because if you don’t, there’s no space to say hello to anything new.  Did I mention that it’s hard?

When your kid goes to college, everyone congratulates you.  That’s nice.  Of course, you’re excited for what lies ahead for them.  But getting a little space to feel loss would go a long to helping parents not feel so isolated.  Maybe it’s just parents of only children – or maybe it’s just me.  But it was hard, last fall, to smile and talk of pride and excitement when I also felt a deep loss that I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge.

But, here’s the good news.  If you’re lucky – and I’m really, really lucky – home is still home for them.  For now.  For a little while longer.  Or maybe even a while longer than that.  And then you get to enjoy the newness and excitement of this new chapter for them – and let go and make space for a little bit of a new chapter for yourself. 

At least, that’s the plan.  I’m getting there.