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You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007

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Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane

Imagine…

The crisp air lightly brushes against my skin. Rays of the afternoon sun beam down with glorious intensity bathing me in a contrast of deep warmth. Each step through the lawn is met by the gentle rustle of grass under foot, almost like a broom running across an old wood floor. With each step creatures, beautiful and unique in design, bellow forth to escape the oncoming assault to their once serene resting place. I reach the old worn wooden gate, paint peeling from its many days standing watch over the bounty housed just behind. It creaks gently as it is pushed open, moaning from arthritis in its hinges. The timid robin flutters away, each wingbeat reverberating through the air to create a soft rumbling. Welcome to the garden.

Intricate plots of seedlings push forth from the Earth, woven amongst patches of dirt and weeds, delicately swaying in the breeze, creating a surreal quilt surpassing the second dimension. I slowly walk across the grass paths, savoring each step among the culmination of our work. The grass abruptly transitions to earth which gently depresses as I waltz across the tilled ground towards my objective. I pull my yellow leather gloves from my back pocket and little bursts of dust and dirt liberate themselves from the mass of their caked-on brothern. As I split my hands into them the crust continues to crack resembling the ground to my left that offers the beans a chance at life. I grab the black tarp and gently pull it off the pile. Some of it disintegrates in my hands into black ribbons. A myriad of organisms come to life as the sun pierces into the once darkness. Prehistoric insects scuttle across the compost into crevices and earthworms writhe, like oiled spaghetti in a dish, before descending into the mass of decay.

I grab my manure fork, my senior by countless years, rust encasing each tine creating a brilliant gradient of rich brown tones before fading into a brilliant sheen at each tip. A quick thrust into the compost produces fleeing arachnids and a cacophony of crackling branches. Each matted scoop permits a resounding thud as it slowly fills the wheelbarrow. Again, again, and again. The air looms with the aroma of old leaves, rich earth and the slightest hint of fungus. I spear the fork back into the earth; it juts out like a piece of giant silverware in a chunk of chocolate cake. I tilt the wheelbarrow forward as it releases a quiet grown, vocalizing my sentiments as well. I push the load across the lawn with little resistance to its final resting place. I tip the wheelbarrow forward, rocks clatter against the metal and the compost scrapes out onto the ground. A collection of neat nodes of compost create an invisible line. I spread it in rows, new beds for the future. In the distance David pulls the cord to bring the tiller to life. A quick snap pierces the air proceeded by a flurry of colorful commentary. I look up from my work to see David scolding the tiller as if it were a misbehaved child. The simple task of setting up planting beds had no been brought to a screeching halt in only 15 minutes.

Pictures from Week 7

Week 7: Spring Smackdown

I tore out of the gate this Monday after a lesuirely breakfast with the crew and Jim, the maple syrup guy. (He usually stops in on Mondays and the last time I reported this I mistakenly called him Dave). I began at the hospital garden with transplanting which took the better half of the morning. I then rotated back to Pepperfield and began the process of setting up planting beds for corn. This was the usual procedure of laying manure and tilling it into the ground. With corn, since the plot of land required is so large, there is no leaf mulch. This process resulted in a few hard hours of work and 11 prepared corn rows. Keeping with the theme I tested a Corn Gateau and we all sat down for a relaxed early dinner. Ellis invited me along for an evening morel hunt, which I graciously accepted and we set off into the woods until the light faded away. But alas, the hunt was fruitless. Tuesday was predominantly occupied by potato planting. This involved tilling the ground, digging a series of small holes, dropping the sprouted potatoes in with sprouts towards the sky before backfilling them into place. We started at one end of the plot and worked backwards to prevent other beds from getting trampled in the process, exactly how you mop a floor. I took a quick break in between some of this for lunch but resumed it shortly after. Upon completion I moved a little manure and prepared one row of beds for turnips and rutabagas. Dinner was simple composed of leftovers. The next day brought bean planting. I learned a lot about the different categories and requirements from David and then began by sowing seeds in trenches along the trellises. I only tackled half of the planting and then moved onto setting up beds for tomatoes. It was the usual drill of manure, tilling and mulching. Fortunately these rows are much smaller so I completed it quickly and then proceeded to move onto the actual transplants. Birte was in on this and we made quick work of the whole thing. David ran off to go pick up some guests from the airport and I spent that time collecting dirt for potted plants. We called it an early day as David’s friend Tess arrived for a dandelion green harvest. We all gathered for an early wine time and spent a few hours conversing over italian wine, an assortment of homemade pickles, preserves and cheeses and various breads. Our guests departed and Ellis prepared fish cakes for dinner that were fantastic.

First thing Thursday I made a sourdough starter. Then I finished up the tomato transplants starting with the beds and then moved onto some weeding. Most of our weeding is easy, it can be done with the tiller or hoes, both of which are simple and fast. Our biggest nuisance is quack grass, it is rhizomatous which means it has deep thick roots that if left in the ground will sprout again. I was tasked with digging out these beasts which took a solid hour. Both David and I were exhausted so we elected to take a quick nap before getting back into things. It was only a brief 45 minutes but it was refreshing. I got back to the garden and began planting bush beans. These don’t require trellises so it was just like sowing seed for a regular crop. Again with Birte’s help, we tore through four rows of planting and called it quits. David made a vegetable lasagna, the same one I enjoyed upon my arrival at Pepperfield and it was just as good as I remember. Friday graced me with more weeding. I fought back the quack grass and creeping charley in the flower patch and then turned over the soil in it. I finished the bean planting and then David and I crafted a bean teepee. This was cool, both the construction and concept have given me some great insight for future gardening. I got a start on corn planting only completing one row before it was time to stop. I harvested some spinach for the week and baked a couple loaves of sourdough; they were good but in my opinion, not as good as the last. We all spent Saturday at the hospital garden. Ellis and I arrived first and started with some some weeding. When David and Birte arrived we formed a symphony of workers each tasked with a different component. Within a few hours we had all of our work completed. My job was mulching the tilled beds with composted leaves. Truth be told I had a relatively easy job compared to my other teammates. Once I got my task completed I helped Birte finish up the transplants. We all departed for lunch and afterwards I resumed corn planting back at Pepperfield. Dinner offered a brief taste – and smell – of summer as I grilled off chicken quarters and marinated potatoes over the grill. The rich aromas of charcoal, roasting meat and wood smoke bombarded our small valley filling it with a glorious combination of smells that were reminiscent of summer. Sunday was predicted to rain so we all spent the day indoors on domestic tasks. Mid-morning, after an absence of said rain, David decided to do some flower transplants. It was a quick hour of work. It was before noon and I decided to run off to town to catch a movie. I was pleasantly surprised that my admission was only six dollars. I got back to Pepperfield mid-afternoon and I got changed for a graduation party. One of David’s friend’s kid, Rye, had graduated high school and Birte, David and I spent the evening at the party with pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, grilled vegetables and an assortment of snacks. Even with a relaxed Sunday was was exhausted from a busy week; I departed for bed at 7.30 and slept for 12 hours.

Click here to see what you missed this week!

Corn Gateau

Here is a recipe for a super light corn cake. It is fairly sweet so I reccomend serving it as a dessert.

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients

2/3C Sugar
1/2t Salt
2C Cornmeal
6 ea Eggs
3/4C Butter
1/4C Milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven as you are measuring out ingredients to 375.
  2. Melt butter on low on stovetop, separate eggs. Simultaneously beat egg whites to stiff peaks adding in sugar gradually as they start to aerate.
  3. In a separate bowl mix cornmeal and salt, form a well in the center and drop the reserved yolks into the center of well. Mix the yolks in gradually to the cornmeal mixture as you slowly pour the butter and milk in. It will look crumbly.
  4. Fold a quarter of the whites into the crumb mix. You can be aggressive with this mixing. One this mix is loosened by the whites, fold the rest into the batter carefully as to not deflate the meringue. Bake for 30 minutes, checking at the 25 minute mark with a cake tester.

Notes: The recipe yields a super light cornbread with no leavener. When making the meringue ensure that the bowl is clean from any fat residue. Any contamination will prevent the meringue from inflating. Following this recipe will allow you to minimize required tool clean-up because you will have made the meringue with clean utensils and can safely use them for the next part of the recipe. Be careful to not overbake this recipe, I can attest it will turn into a hockey puck. The sugar can be backed off to a ½ cup.

(Vegetarian) Chili

Here’s a great recipe for a meatless chili. Check the notes below if you want to add some!

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients
Chili Paste:

1.5C Tomatoes
2 ea Onion, chopped
1c Sundried tomatoes, reconstituted, save the liquid
4T Cumin
3T Coriander
1t Allspice
1T Hot pepper – optional, and depending on peppers used amount may vary
2T Salt
8 ea Garlic cloves

Remaining Ingredients and Garnishes

1qt Tomato juice or sauce
2# Beans of choice
2# Meat if desired
1# Eggplant
1# Corn
1# Diced tomato

Garnishes

Minced onion, crumbled queso fresco or desired cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Method

  1. Cook beans to 80% doneness. While cooking prepare the chili paste by combining all ingedients in the blender until smooth.
  2. Sweat the chili paste in 1/4 C high smoke point oil. You want the oil to be smoking so that it fries the paste.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Add in the sundried juice, tomato juice or sauce and beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the remaining vegetables and cook for 10 minutes
  5. Serve with minced onion, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Notes:

If using meat feel free to saute it in the oil before frying the paste. Leave the brown particulate on the pan and it will infuse the flavor of the meat. If the chili is to thin you can use masa harina or corn starch to thicken it. Add this at the same time you add in the final vegetables.

Week 6: Its Begining to Look a lot Like Springtime

Check out this quick post for some updates to Pans and Perspective!

David has aptly named the month of May and June spring planting. We began the week at the hospital garden. Our full crew, David, Ellis, Birte and myself, spent the day on cleanup in the garden. Some of it involved shoveling excess dirt away from the paths. We tore through the work and left soon after. Ellis and Birte ran some errands in town while David and I tilled Raul’s, a friend of David, garden. When we got back I tested a pavlova recipe and found a great website for tips on making it. We enjoyed an evening of leftovers and waited with anticipation to see how the pavlova turned out. The next day I hustled down the stairs and pulled open the oven to see what it looked like. I let out a defeated “Damn!”, because the merignue had cracked and deflated by 25 percent. But it was still the best version I have ever executed. I took some notes for future corrections and I am excited to give it another go. This quest for a perfect pavlova has a long story for another time. David and I made another trip to the hospital to finish up a segment of the beds. It involved tilling and mulching the beds before actual transplanting could happen. When we finished we returned to Pepperfield for a quick lunch and then transitioned to our garden. After many wheelbarrows of manure we were prepped to do some more transplanting. I spent the better half of my afternoon up to wrists in dirt and compost. Dinner was a repeat but our dessert was the pavlova served with fresh whipped cream and local berries from last years harvest. It was fantastic.

Wednesday brought profuse rains and I spent most of my day indoors. I got ahead for the week and prepared egg salad and a bacon vinaigrette. I ate my lunch and took a much needed nap that lasted for too long. Nevertheless, I woke up quite rested so I jumped on a tomato sauce for meals for the week. Thursday was spent back at the hospital with more transplanting. David and I returned for lunch and afterward I took off with Ellis for some store runs. I got back a couple of hours later and finished up a few tasks here on the farm as I was greeted by and early evening rain. The evening evolved into taco making and preparation of a sourdough starter. The next day I awoke to the pattering of rain against my window. The better part half of my morning was spent working on tasks for Pans and Perspective. My day slowly melded into recipe testing as I made my sourdough loaves and a corn gateau which – like a true shoemaker – I overcooked into a monstrosity I came to call as corn rock. One of Pepperfield’s acquaintances, Gloria, joined us for a dinner of venision chili. Later in the evening, our bed and breakfast guests arrived for the weekend. I closed out my evening with Michael Pollan’s, Cooked, as I drifted off to sleep.

Saturday commenced with a lesuirely breakfast with our overnight guests. David ran off early to aquire some wood chips for mushroom propogation and I helped shovel them into place. We spent the rest of the morning in the gardens and called it an early day. Our afternoon and evening was spent at Decorah’s innagural pride parade. I have never attended an event like this but I was glad I could offer my support and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We skipped the post parade festivities and had a relaxed evening. Sunday was much a repeat of the day prior. We enjoyed a long breakfast with great conversation and followed it by a morning in the garden setting up more planting beds. We took a quick break for lunch and then followed suit with the same cadence at the hospital garden. The weather was perfect and after a quick stop at David’s neighbor’s farm, I returned home just on cue for wine time. A few of David’s friends stopped by to check out the skunk cabbage bog and we met up. Dinner was late and I called it early night after a busy week.

Check back later in the week for recipe updates from week six as well as some other cool posts!

Thank You for your Support and Feedback!

I wanted to personally thank everyone for their ongoing support. The numbers for Pans and Perspective are on the rise and the feedback is more responsive each day. Those of you being drawn by the Pepperfield Project facebook page, I encourage you to extend your support from Pepperfield to me, please review some of the ways you can do that in by reading this post. I hope to see more discussion on posts; I have made commenting easier by removing some of the limitations for first time posters and also have changed the comment threshold to only require and email and name (more info is always welcome though!) rather than signing up through wordpress.

Months ago, prior to the presidential election I deleted my facebook account. I have a myriad of reasons, some of which were proved accurate when the Cambrige analytica scandal surfaced, and felt it best to remove myself from social media. I haven’t missed it at all but I have realized that it is the superior tool for, as the name implies, networking and publicizing. I have now re-created a facebook account only for facebook page management. The Nathan J. Buckley page is now live again and is linked to post through wordpress. Additionally, I have joined the twitter force for similar reasons. All account information can be found under the Contact Page, along with some supplemental information for further inquiries.

Lastly, P&P’s numbers originate from two sets of viewers. First timers and recurring visitors. I hope to increase these numbers significantly. One way you can help support P&P further is to subscribe so that you will be notified when I post. I know people are hesitant about spam email and giving away sensitive data but I can personally assure you neither of these are an issue (If you are still concerned, I understand, but I would encourage you to check back weekly because content is constantly being uploaded!). There are a few ways to remain connected to P&P: like the facebook page, follow us on twitter or subscribe via email. I have included a quick tutorial infographic below that will detail the email subscription process. It isn’t difficult but the placement of the button can be somewhat inconspicuous, especially to those first time visitors.

Again, I want to thoroughly thank each and everyone of you who have taken time from your busy schedule to see what is going on in my life. Collaboration is in the near future for P&P, I am waiting to hear back from a new potential team member and have started to make requests for collaborations between other food writers as well. Please feel free to contact me through any means with questions or comments, it helps let me know that you, the reader, are engaged! Acquiring a proper domain name, rather than sub-hosting through wordpress, is also on the agenda but at this stage in my career the funds aren’t quite accessible. Nevertheless I am optimistic about the my future and that of P&P. As always, please share P&P, through any medium, with your friends and family. There is a wide variety of content that covers a diverse spread of topics, not just food! I hope to bring you back each week with interesting content of the world of food.

With sincere gratitude,

Nathan J. Buckley

Email subscription tutorial \ | / Below \ | /

Never Give Up, Just Try: Planting the Future through Perseverance

The simplest, maybe easiest, approach to dealing with anything is to not try. Surrendering is appealing to some because it requires no further effort. This can be compounded if the fight or battle against or with someone or something repeatedly ends up unsuccessful. Striving to actually “do”, whether it be in life, work or any other capacity, requires an investment. It might be financial, but more often it is time or energy oriented. One of the most strenuous elements of combating an issue or goal is to maintain a path of advancement. Simply, to try. I have always revelled in the feats of humanity. Each time I witness something amazing – cars in space or an egg cooked, then reverted back to its raw state – my belief to “Do my absolute best even when facing adversity because I can do anything as long as I try”, becomes even stronger. Humans have the ability to do anything. But that’s not to say there aren’t physical and mental limitations.

About a week ago I witnessed one of the best living examples of trying, more aptly called perseverance. It was a warm afternoon and David and I went to the upper vineyard. Our plan was to plant some new vines to replace others lost to winter kill. I watched as David meticulously planted the new Blue Bell grapes for future harvests. As he completed the series of plantings I asked him a few questions. “How much will these vines grow? Will they double in size?” Looking at these skimpy twigs I was curious how they could ever turn into the massive vines that dominated over two-thirds of the vineyard. David told me that if we had proper growing conditions they had the potential to double, possibly even grow more than that. As I gazed across the vineyard another spark of curiosity ignited within. “How old are these vines up here”, I asked, observing some of the behemoths with trunks thick as my wrist. David pondered for a second and I interjected, “Are they as old as the vineyard?” He quickly replied, “yes”, and followed it up with an explanation. He told me that he put this upper vineyard in about five years ago. Without any inquisition, he also added “These guys” – the vines we just planted – “will take about that much time before they set good fruit”
This is where my amazement peaked. David is 76 and yet he’s still planting vines. He’s looking to the future with optimism that he will still be around to care for them – although I’m sure he will be – and with hopes to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I’d like to talk about David. Author of several books, entomologist, and photographer, although he claims these are just hobbies, teacher, naturalist and farmer, he has lived his life in a similar fashion for its entirety. Even at 76 this season he planned – without any real knowledge of my participation on the farm – to manage his own life and land, the gardens of two of his neighbors, an edible landscape at the local hospital, oversight of a bed and breakfast, with efforts predominantly spearheaded by Ellis, countless donations to local non-profit organizations, and teaching people about growing in body, mind, and spirit. This testament alone demonstrates his drive to persevere: to never give up. But he isn’t a god, just a man. He has made countless sacrifices, which I applaud and respect, to achieve these feats; each carefully calculated to maximize his success and efficiency.

It would have been significantly easier for him to decline these supplemental garden projects; he could have taken a year off with the hospital landscape; hell, he even could’ve just brought me out here as a body for work and kept his philosophies and teachings to himself. (I’m extremely grateful he didn’t) He could’ve forsaken the grape vines and the vineyard and chalked it up as a loss. But that’s not David. Instead he is going “full boar” – one of his favorite euphemisms – looking beyond his daily tasks and comfort to plan for and plant his future.

Pepperfield – but moreso the man behind it – has taught me something everyday, ranging from farming to philosophy. It has given me the chance to be introspective and determine how I plan to live my future. One of the biggest components here at Pepperfield is the work. Laboring for countless hours, hauling pounds of manure and expelling gallons of sweat for a fabulous finished product. A living example planting the future through perseverance. David understands this so well because he has lived it for his entire life. He has seen the conversion of raw physical energy and mental determination transform into a beautiful bounty. David knows how much easier it would be to call it quits and lead a different life. The most intriguing point is that he doesn’t want to. The best part of this lesson is understanding it physically as well as mentally. I have only gotten a taste of David’s teachings and the work involved but each day as I grow, just like the vines we planted, I continue to experience what is like to try. Life isn’t easy, if it was it would be boring. Hard work, determination and perseverance are only a few of the keys to success. The biggest proponent is you! Next time you want to quit or surrender, don’t. Just try, strive to achieve more, plant those grape vines: plant your future.

Week 5: 5000 Pounds of Manure

Monday commenced early in the morning with a pre breakfast shoveling of horse manure. Once I finished that I moved onto pruning apple trees. I spent most of my day on this until Korbin came by and helped plant some of her seeds for the three sisters garden. I left her and David to that task as I prepared dinner, tortilla soup. The next day Ellis arrived mid evening at which point I had spent almost an entire day finishing the pruning on the upper trees near the house. We dined on leftovers to keep things simple and spent time with introductions and conversation. Wednesday I finished the monumental task of pruning the upper orchard. Ellis and I went to town to pick up some items at the store and run a few errands. We spent the rest of the day relaxing as the skies clouded and gave a few signs of rain. I cooked up some venison shank in a stew and Ellis completed the meal with coconut banana ice cream.

Thursday we started early, this time with Birte, slaughtering a chicken. With all four of us awake and kicking the kitchen was a buzz; it felt like I was back at work. David zipped around preparing our breakfast: polenta, eggs and bacon. Birte was leaned over the sink plucking the feathers of the freshly slaughtered chicken. Ellis and I were locked intently in the creation of the week’s sourdough loaves. Along the whole process he shared with me the technicalities of the bread; I learned it doesn’t require the addition of yeast to rise. As I looked around the kitchen, sun flooding the busy room with warmth and brilliant light, the novelty of what was happening around me began to sink in. Before I started in on my farm tasks I made a quick pasta dough and let it rest for the day. I began by heading to the garden and pruning the five remaining trees on the property. Once I had it cleaned up I then cut down the rest of the jerusalem artichoke stems and did some light cleanup around the garden. Ellis spent the day making a chicken and rice soup that was fantastic.
The day following was spent doing more domestic chores. Ellis and I finished the cleaning of the cabin for our weekend guests. We also took this time to build a small bridge across the creek that runs through the farm so the same guests wouldn’t have to wade through. I plugged some holes in the cabin with steel wool and wood plugs to make sure no unwanted occupants found their way inside and then helped Ellis reassemble the riding mower for use. On my way back to the house I helped David move some plants to the other side of the house. Midday I took Birte to town and then arrived back at the farm shortly before the guests arrived. Ellis and I treated ourselves to a pizza at Luna Valley Farm; each Friday they offer pizzas, beer and wine in a fabulous setting crafted from ingredients local to the area. Saturday started early with a full breakfast spread for the guests. David crafted a vegetable scramble and Ellis baked an apple crumble. We spent a leisurely morning over great food and excellent conversation. When our guests ran off the start their day, we took the chance to go for a quick hike to see some of the skunk cabbages in the marsh on Pepperfield’s Property.

When we got back I weeded the rhubarb patch. Once I got that finished I went down to the main garden and pulled out the remaining corn stakes. I took a break by wiring label stakes for future use. After that I went back to weeding and moving manure. We finished our day later than normal with a dinner of tomato sauce over homemade pasta and finished with a dessert of chocolate ice cream. Sunday’s breakfast was the same as the last with our guests. I made corn pudding to match the spread of other items on the table. We spent another fabulous morning among company and conversation before starting in on chores. I spent the first half of my morning moving manure, to total by my calculations over 5000 pounds since my arrival. I spent the better half of the afternoon in the upper vineyard with David planting grape vines for future harvests. We retired early after a busy week for wine time which slowly morphed into a relaxed dinner of polenta.

The weeks are getting busier but it still feels great. I am excited to start to see some of the fruits of our labors, some of which have already started to blossom!

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