Don’t be fooled by the title of the article… Mike Sula (Chicago food-writer) loves our salad! My farmer heart is all swelled up with pride. Now time to get to work! We’ve been selling out for the past month or so… thank for all the support, Logan Square market customers! Your purchases go a long way towards keeping this not-for-profit, teaching and research aquaponics farm afloat (and keeping me in a day job, so I can spend my “free time” working on our house, making soap and writing about our homesteady-adventures here… instead of slingin’ hash browns in some brunch joint trying to keep the lights on…)
Well, while neither the fella or I have gotten too much of a reprieve from work, we have been relaxing and enjoying the season regardless. Our friend and new neighbor B came over on Sunday for dinner along with her friend L who works for a rigging company in the neighborhood and was helping her build fence panels at their shop. We didn’t sell many mushrooms at the farmers market that morning (but sold out of greens and herbs… go figure. Whatever we bring more of is what we sell less of… but isn’t that the way it goes?), so we had oyster mushroom ragout with rich rabbit stock veloute, mashed potatoes with preserved lemon, our salad greens with walnut, pomegranate, and half an avocado and kalamata dressing, and pasta with tomato-vodka cream sauce (from a jar, but doctored up of course), arugula, and bacon. A feast! I can’t say how much it does for my psyche to be able to occasionally have a normal impromptu dinner in the middle of our camp-cabin-construction zone… I wiped the mortar dust off the farmhouse table, excavated enough chairs and room for everyone to sit and we had a wonderful time.
Someday we’ll both be done with our major rehab projects and be able to enjoy such happenings all the time! For now, she’s just starting to lay out her strategy, secure the property, and is staying with her parents while she waits for the weather to warm and to heal from her upcoming shoulder surgery. As for us, we’re trying to track down a truck that is roadworthy and rated to pull our big trailer to the insulation warehouse a couple hours away. Know anyone with an F250, cargo van, or similar beast for hire? Send ’em our way! Know anyone who wants to buy a classic ’77 Ford highboy with a custom rack and a crane on the back? We just acquired a sensible small Toyota from a friend, and are putting ole ‘Blue on the block. She’d be a great restoration project for someone, or a scrapper’s delight, and we’d like to see her go to a good home… and I can’t wait to get the half of the yard back that she takes up, much as I’ve enjoyed the things that she brought us- like the chicken coop and rain “barrels”. Heh.
We’ve had a pretty non-traditional but still enjoyable holiday… we stayed home, and his parents are in Florida visiting family, so we got to spend it together with just us and the dog. We ordered Chinese food on Christmas Eve, which we usually do on New Year’s Eve while hanging out with neighbors, but I think we all have other plans this year and will be hanging out at the studio on New Years Day instead. I didn’t do much decorating, other than the outside of the house, where our fence is decked with yew boughs (trimmed from the bush in our front yard that otherwise will turn back into a tree), the front door bears a giant red bow with more greenery, the urn of kindling branches on the porch have ornaments hanging, and I fired up our still-hung Halloween lights, which are mostly green with a touch of purple. Close enough.
He had only Christmas day off work, and I had Monday and Wednesday, my usual days off (thanks to a volunteer who lived nearby and filled in on fish feeding for my other coworker who was out of town) and only stopped in for an hour or so on Christmas day to feed, weigh out the next feeding, and return the farmers market gear (coolers, tables, banner, bins, etc…). After sleeping in a bit, and a breakfast of bacon and eggs, the fella and I drove down to the farm in the afternoon with the big Bella bear, and she had a holiday frolic running free in the fenced two-acre lot around the building. It makes me so happy to let her run off leash somewhere safe but bigger and more interesting than our yard- she positively glows, and floats about two feet above the ground as she trots and races in circles, sniffing everything, checking the perimeter, and hoping for rabbits. I wish I could take her with me more often, but she’s just too unreliable still, and would fuss and bark and whine the whole time that I wasn’t with her… and dogs aren’t allowed in food-processing buildings. Oh well, oh dear. She’s best left at home where she can hold down the fort while we’re gone.
After work we headed back to the house, where the fella got a roaring fire going while I threw together a simple dinner- more mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, roasted baby brussels sprouts from Iron Creek farm with bacon and caramelized onion, and a roast chicken with red and white turnips from Radical Root farm, carrots and onion and half a preserved lemon and some good garlic stuffed inside, and finally a green salad. I chatted with my family on the phone while I cooked- the were mostly being spared in the snowstorm that was sweeping through the south that day. We sipped eggnog and rum, and Revolution porter, ate in front of the fire, and talked about plans and the new year. It was the first Christmas I spent not either at home with my family, or at someone else’s home with their family, and was weird but nice. I would have liked a tree. Someday we’ll get there. Maybe next year?
We traded gifts- one each (we didn’t plan it that way but luckily neither of us really need much, and we’re both hard to shop for!). I got him a tastefully nude farmer calendar, of the ladies of women-run Rosasharn Farm CSA- what could be better than beautiful farm women thoughtfully posed in their fields or with their food, and a recipe per month to boot? If it’s also for a good cause! The calendar is a fundraiser by a group in New York that is putting together a mobile food-processing facility so that nearby farms can sell value-added products… it’s a great idea and a sexy concept! You can learn more about the project and get your own here: Pasture to Plate Calendar. And thank you to the Greenhorns and their blog, The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles for helping me find a great gift for a guy who doesn’t need much of anything! If anyone is feeling charitable, we’d love a copy of their New Farmer’s Almanac here at Alewyfe Farm, or at The Plant!
He got me an even better gift: a still-sturdy leather-bound copy of “The Household and Farmer’s Cyclopedia: One Hundred Thousand Facts for the People.” from 1878, “A Book for the Farmer, Mechanic, and Working Men of all Trades and Occupations, the Stock Raiser, the Household, and every Family who wants to Save Money, a Book of Solid Worth and Practical Utility, containing a Remedy for every Ill, a Solution for every Difficulty, and a Method for every Emergency”!!! Wow. I didn’t know I needed this, but I don’t know how I managed to get through life without it. And from it so far I’ve learned that a horse can drink a LOT of laudanum syrup when unwell (laudanum is basically opium dissolved in booze- a heroin cocktail. Would cure the most persistent cough or lameness I’m sure), that if a mad dog bites you in the butt you should pay someone to suck the evil out of the wound, and that two parts flour of brimstone and one part potash, heated together in an iron pan and then dissolved in water, will rid your house of ants. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Thanks, hun!
I hope that you’re all enjoying this time, wherever you are and whoever you’re with… here it’s finally white and magical outside, and the yard looks a bit less drear and trashy with a partial coat of fluffy snow. Our house is cold but it could be worse, and we’re warm and well fed. And we’re getting a pig! For the freezer, not the farm, but from a woman who raises a few a year on pasture, with organic feed, veggies, fruit, and whole grain bread scraps, and finished on acorns… I found her on craigslist and suggested we take a half… but the fella is going whole hog! We’ll be making sausage, curing bacon and ham, rendering lard, and swimming in pork and cracklins soon! Such riches! I’m looking forward to next year and all the projects, challenges, and opportunities that lie in wait… now let’s go get ’em!
Check out this great video snippet our friend and documentarian Ben Kolak put together about The Plant’s first appearance at the Logan Square Farmer’s market (and about the mysterious origins of our proprietary pearl oyster mushroom strain)! Come see us every Sunday in the lobby of the Congress Theatre from 10-2. We are dangerously located next to the cheese guy and kitty-corner to the cream puff vendor (Puffs of Doom, indeed). It’s going to be a loooong winter, haha. A long, delicious winter, that is!
And I’m very excited to announce that the Urban Folk Circuit is pairing with the Logan Square Farmer’s Market for select winter sales… look for Alewyfe goodies at the January 27th and February 24th markets… and March market date TBA!
Monster truck rally at The Plant, Saturday Sept. 22. See you there, squares! Ps… I’ll have a soap table set up with various wares… You know, to wash off the mud from the monster trucks doing donuts in the parking lot. What do you mean, not that kind of monster truck? That the “monster trucks” are actually “food trucks’? You mean… there might be ACTUAL DONUTS?? Like the kind with bacon bits and maple drizzle, mah nizzle? Now that’s HOT. And fancy-pants cupcakes and burritos and beef and even vegan cheese (hey, whatever rocks your boat… er… truck?)! Prepared on actual trucks that are now allowed to cook actual food on the actual truck (thanks Chicago, it’s about time)? OH heck yeah. Now I’m SO there. But I’ll still sell you some soap. Soap that looks like food! It’s food for your skin though, don’t eat it, like that guy who took a bite of the mint chocolate chip bar…
I’ll also have a sign up sheet for more information on the series of upcoming classes this fall… more on that very soon!
Ever wonder what about 45 or so pounds of potato salad looks like? Kinda like that. For reference… that bowl is about 3 feet in diameter. I really had to fight the urge to climb in and roll around for a bit… I love potato salad. I really do.
Mixing and scooping that will give you buff forearms, lemme tellya.
Seven half-pans worth, heaping…
And the start of two pasta salads… 16 boxes of pasta, two ways- creamy and vinaigrette. Another 14 half-pans. Two very full fridges worth of foods… and one very pooped chef-farmer. Though I think I’m going to revert back to my original half-jest job title of Food Czarina, at least for tomorrow…
Oh, and four pork shoulders slow roasting, half-pulled, half to-be-pulled in the morning… nom nom nom nosh.
Bring it, open house! Oh yeah, if you’re in Chicago you should definitely be at The Plant Open House, 12-5 tomorrow!
Happy Mardi Gras y’all! I made two king cakes, one for The Plant, and one for our homebrew club meeting tonight, and big pots of chicken and sausage and vegan gumbos for staff/volunteer lunch today… there’s plenty more gumbo (king cake is only for the quick) so come volunteer Thursday and get a tasty Nawlin’s lunch (that is, if you don’t actually keep Lent. BYOFK, in that case… bring your own fillet knife, and grab yo’self a fish to fry).