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Pans and Perspective

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

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hospitality

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!

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!

Picassos, Pottery and Profoundly Productive People

If you had been with me a week ago as we pulled into the circular driveway to the home of the Schwartz’s, you might have been as incredulous as me. A gorgeous brick building loomed over, casting a shadow across the entire driveway. As we exited the vehicle and proceeded up the stone path, a cool midday breeze poured over the hill and brushed against our faces. The birds were alive and the warm sun felt fantastic. We let ourselves into a small foyer at the front of the building where we were greeted by Gerry, a kind elderly woman. She welcomed us into the kitchen to a full spread of salad fixings. The kitchen was alive with aromas; roasted meat wafted into my nostrils, the oven sizzled away and a dark stock simmered gently on the stove.

Three other guests sat at a corner table and introduced themselves as Maggie and Sophie, both sisters and Dalton. Maggie, was a short girl with dreadlocks, braids and beads woven into her hair. Dalton, her significant other had similar hair to match. Sophie was more reserved with a happy demeanor and hair that ran down over her shoulders. We made casual conversation introducing ourselves, and in David’s case, caught up for lost time. I began browsing some of the art on the walls: each piece unique, culminating into an eclectic collection that was only a facadesp for the rest of the house. Shortly after the Sophie’s and Maggie’s father, Lain appeared and gave us a quick introduction to some of the astounding pieces hung about the walls. Gerry gave the announcement that lunch was ready and we were instructed to get Dean from his studio. David, Birte and I clambored down the stairs into the basement lead by Sophie to collect her grandfather. Still matching the theme of the house, the entire stairway was full of various hanging paintings, sketches and other mediums. We pulled open the studio door and there sat a tiny old man with large rimmed spectacles. He was meticulously lining up a picture in a frame – to undoubtedly hang on the wall too. Dean interrupted his work to show us some of the other pieces he had been working on as well. With some convincing we managed to get him moving upstairs for the impending feast. As we walked out of the basement, the house loomed with fantastic aromas. Rounding the corner into the kitchen they came together into a marvelous symphony of smells. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, half roasted squashes, peas and now along with the salad, various cheese, crackers and three different selections of bread. Lunch – they call it – happens this way each sunday at the Schultz house. This “go big or go home” mentality should have prepared me for what was to some.

We sat down to a perfect relaxed lunch, plates overflowing, with all sorts of accoutrements. We enjoyed pleasant conversation as the young folk went around the table telling each other a little about ourselves and what we are currently up to. Interestingly enough, each of us was on some sort of sabbatical or break to help realign our thinking. In classic grandmotherly style Gerry insisted we go for seconds, which Birte and I more than willingly did. We ended the meal with a spread of fresh baked desserts of brownies and an assortment of cookies.

Our plan following this repast was to attend the Decorah Symphony Orchestra. We had plenty of time before our show and David requested that we get a proper house tour, remember, “go big or go home.” We started in the dining room since we were all present. Dean commenced by saying, “if you have any questions about anything, I’ll lie about them.” I knew this was going to be wild. In the dining room we were surrounded by a myriad of items. Original porcelain made from molds of master potter, Marguerite Wildenhain; a slab of hieroglyphics 4000 years old, which only three people can read and translate; original Picasso painted pottery and a smattering of arrowheads littered the shelves; pottery thrown, of all shapes and sizes, by famous artists and family members were intricately laid out intermingled with paintings from same miscellany of artists, some friends and some millionaires.

We dove into a tour of the first floor. Each room we entered, totalling five, had various mediums of framed art matching the characteristics of the dining room. We then took a hike upstairs and were shown an even more extensive collection. Each room laid out intricately, walls laden with sketches and paintings paired with sculptures and pottery on beautifully constructed pedestals. Dean led the tour from room to room where the themes of each become more specific.

The proceeding rooms were stocked with various artifacts from around the world. An entire room dedicated to German artists and the Bauhaus and another loaded with artifacts from a four year archeological dig by Dean in Panama. The Africa room had ebony statues, intricate stone carvings, and yards of stone carved bead necklaces. An Asian theme dominated another with a collection of paintings and pottery, some pieces worth over a quarter of a million dollars. Hallways and some of the rooms themselves were decorated with extensive libraries of reference material relating to each respective room. As we toured each, Dean handed us pieces and artifacts, some over thousands of years old, to hold and inspect – it almost felt wrong.

We concluded our tour prematurely because we were running behind to the show. Dean has stories about about each individual item – and he shared many of them – but if I included them all in this post, its length would surpass even the miles of beads in their collection. As we descended the flight of stairs into the dining room we were greeted by one last surprise. Laid out on the same table we ate, were over 50 thrown miniature pots crafted by Lain and his daughters. We were instructed by the family to inspect them and select our favorite to take home. I was just as incredulous departing as I was on arrival.

Many are familiar with “Mid-Western hospitality”, the kind where strangers open their home and offer the guests nearly anything they want. For the Schwartz’s this was a understatement. The care I was given, along with David and Birte was some of the finest I have ever experienced. I felt honored to participate in a fantastic meal, magnificent tour of a living, tangible museum and receiving a gift made truly from the heart. It is quite characteristic of the people of Decorah to display this genuine hospitality but nevertheless it was still greatly appreciated and quite remarkable.

The pot I chose!

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