Browsing Posts published by grammy

The fragrance of apples as I walked through the orchard jolted me into the realization that summer is waning. Already the nights are cooler and the days just perfect with warm temperatures and low humidity. In the orchard store, the scent of peaches still predominates but that will soon be overpowered by the presence of all kinds of apples.

We spent several weeks traveling in July and August. It was fun but also makes me feel like I’ve missed summer. We hadn’t made travel plans other than my trip to Vieques, One morning Max said, “Let’s go to Nova Scotia,” so we did. We spent several days on Cape Breton Island, the northern part of Nova Scotia. We followed The Cabot Trail,  a drive that follows the stunning coast line around the northern edge of the island. Intrigued by a little dot on the map called Meat Cove we turned down a dirt road that ended at a lovely little cove with a campground and a restaurant. It is on the northernmost  part of Nova Scotia and got its unusual name because it was a stopping place for early seamen to come ashore and hunt game for meat.

 

Cape Breton Island coast.

Nova Scotia was the site of some fierce battles between the French and English, both wanting a foothold in North America. We visited Fort Louisbourg, built by the French as both a fort and a settlement. It was lost to the British who abandoned it when they settled further inland. It was buried over the centuries. It has been excavated and rebuilt to look like the original. We had lunch in a tavern there. Our wine and turkey pie were served in a pewter cup and bowl, our only utensil a pewter spoon. Potatoes were considered poisonous by the French in that period so the vegetables were carrots and turnips.

 

Turkey Pie ala 1744

Prince Edward Island is only an hour away from Nova Scotia by ferry. We spent a day driving through prosperous farmland, charming villages and beautiful beaches. There were also some striking red cliffs in addition to the long red sand beaches. It looks like a lovely place to spend a week.

PEI Cliffs

PEI Beach

 

 

 

The first week of July I spent a few days on the island of Vieques just off the coast of Puerto Rico. The rustic lodge was in the rain forest with the sound of frogs peeping lulled me to sleep and the chirping of birds wakened me. There I feasted on tropical fruits. Every morning the day started with mangoes and starfruit picked from trees just outside our door.

The fruit season here at the orchard starts slowly in June with the queen of fruit, strawberries. Before we get our fill of those, suddenly the raspberries and cherries and blueberries and peaches are ripening. I have blueberries on my cereal, snack on cherries mid-morning, eat a peach for lunch and make raspberries smoothies in the evening. Summer wealth.

Walking through the orchard I see the pears and apples, still small and green but I know that by the end of August they will start to ripen as the summer fruits finish for the year.

There was a time when I would have been baking daily making pies and crisps and rich fruit desserts but I don’t do that much anymore. Lemon squares were always a family favorite. I discovered they are even better with blueberries added. They freeze well so it is worth making some to keep on hand for an occasional treat. I cut them into squares, freeze them on a tray without them touching each other. Once frozen I can put them together in a container.

Lemon Blueberry Squares

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients 
2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces

4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups fresh blueberries

Method
1. Mix the flour and the powdered sugar together. Process with the butter in a food processor or cut the chunks of butter into the flour and sugar with a fork or fingers until the dough holds together when pressed.
2. Press the mixture firmly over the bottom of a greased or parchment paper lined 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the crust is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
3. While the crust is baking mix sugar, flour and baking powder together. Whisk the eggs with the sugar mixture. 
4. Whisk in the lemon juice and lemon peel, then stir in the blueberries.
5. Pour the egg mixture over the browned crust. Return to the oven and bake until the filling is just firm and does not move when the pan is gently nudged, about 25 minutes. 
6. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. 

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Oh my, June is nearly over. Today we have blue skies, temperature just under 80° and almost no humidity.  A perfect day. Although we’ve had a lot of chilly wet weather earlier in the month is seems to have been fine with our home gardens. The roses are flourishing and shrubs blossoming. Starting with daffodils in April and tulips in May and now the roses, we’ve seen beautiful blooms from every window. I just had to share our bounty!

Daffodil and early tulip

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

May tulips

 

Gertrude Jekyll rose

Climbing roses planted last year.

Roses, late June

Three years ago we planted wild flowers in our meadow. They never bloomed, we thought the seed never germinated, then a couple of weeks ago, the meadow was filled with them!

Wildflowers in the meadow

I often find myself commiserating with my peers about how aging isn’t any fun. Just recently I’ve realized that isn’t true. I have as much fun as I’ve ever had. It’s true that there are some physical limits to the things I can do but whatever I do, I have fun.

We’ve just welcomed our first great-grandson, TJ Russell. Yesterday we saw him for the first time, he was four days old. Holding his warm little body in my arms and then watching his fifteen month old sister Lennin give him kisses made me think what a lucky woman I am.

TJ in Great-Grampy's arms

TJ in Great-Grampy’s arms

Monday our 17 year-old grandson Hunton left for six weeks in Europe, his sister Cecelia, 15, will join him in a few weeks. Another granddaughter Leah and her husband William are in the UK for three weeks. Travel is one of my passions, that our grandchildren can travel and be introduced to different lands and cultures fills me with joy.

We are fortunate to have eight wonderful grandchildren. Not all are traveling but they are all an ongoing source of delight. Old age for me has great rewards. Children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Today on Facebook I read something that I could identify with. “You don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun.”

It’s true, as long as we have family and friends, theater and movies to enjoy, good food to delight our palate, travels to plan and undertake and books to read, I’ll go on having fun.

A few weeks ago when I went to Pennsylvania we stayed in the town of Intercourse. It is a name that often causes snickers or raised eyebrows. It seems incongruous for a town that is in the heart of  Amish country. Apparently in the 1700s the town was called Cross Key after a tavern by that name, or perhaps because two main roads intersected there or maybe because intercourse was a term used in those days to signify social interaction and support in the community. There seems to be some haziness about the origin of the name. For some reason, the name was changed to Intercourse in 1814. Some time in the 1900s there was an attempt to change the name back to Cross Key, but people in the village didn’t want it changed.

The countryside around the town is farmland with rolling green hills and neat farms every few miles. The farmhouses are large but dwarfed by the bigger barns and silos. The remarkable thing is that many don’t have electricity. I saw farmers plowing their fields with teams of five or six horses and clothes hanging to dry from long clothes lines.

Farms with buggy and car on the same road.

Farms with buggy and car on the same road.

In the village the enclosed black, horse drawn buggies are seen everywhere. They drive the busy highways seemingly undaunted by the cars and trucks speeding along. Scary! The Amish are Christians and believe in living very simply. They are a sect of Anabaptists who came from Germany to avoid discrimination following the Reformation. They eshue modern technology like electricity, tractors and cars although there are some who do use some things like tractors. The Amish dress is simple, the men we saw wore belt-less pants with suspenders and had untrimmed beards. The women were wearing white bonnets and calf length dresses. We saw men, women and children riding kick bikes, sort of like a bicycle without a seat and propelled by kicking.

Village parking lot

Village parking lot

Buggy in Town

Buggy in Town

 

The town itself is comprised of shops selling quilts and food items and rustic furnishings. It is self-described as “quaint”. Friday and Saturday there were hordes of people wandering in and out of the shops. The parking lots were full.

Sunday morning we awoke to a silent town. Every shop and restaurant closed, parking lots empty and the only people we sighted were Amish families, in black suits and dresses, walking to church.

Kick Bike

Kick Bike

 

 

The birds that feed outside our dining room window keep us entertained. Three years ago, for the first time, a Baltimore Oriole arrived in May chirping outside our window.  We were thrilled and immediately set out orange slices and grape jelly. He stayed with us for a few weeks and then disappeared. Since then, one or two come every May. I prepare in anticipation by putting out the orange and jelly the first of May. Last year one arrived with his mate on May 9th. The male glistening black and intensely orange colored, his mate, less bright. Last Saturday, April 29th I put the orange and grape jelly out, not expecting to see the birds for another week or so.  Sunday morning, the 30th, there he was!

Two Baltimore Orioles. I wasn't fast enough to capture the three together.

Two Baltimore Orioles. I wasn’t fast enough to capture the three together.

Yesterday we were excited when three males appeared together. We have counted twenty-four different birds on our feeders but none are so brilliantly colored as the orioles.

Another delight last week as I walked through the orchard was seeing the cherry trees in bloom. I don’t remember ever seeing them so heavily blossomed. The apple trees are nearly at full bloom too. It is a glorious time in the orchard.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

 

It’s that time a year again when everything feels fresh and new. Every day the leaves are bigger on the trees, daffodils sprinkle our vista and to our surprise and delight, there are peach blossoms. We were certain the freeze in March did them in. The orchard opens today and we’re looking forward to seeing all of our old friends again.

Last week I took Amtrak to Pennsylvania to visit a friend. We spent a lovely, warm sunny day at Longwood Gardens wandering along paths that wind through 1077 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in the Brandywine Creek Valley region of Pennsylvania. We saw spectacular displays of spring flowers in huge beds, lingered by the Italian Water Garden and spent a couple of hours in the conservatory. Longwood Gardens is the largest botanical garden in the US and the  conservatory is a huge, ornate greenhouse covering 4.5 acres. It houses thousands of plants in many different habitats.

Pink and White spring flowers

Pink and White spring flowers

Italian Water Garden

Italian Water Garden

Silver Garden in the Conservatory

Silver Garden in the Conservatory

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

We have our own little botanical garden next to our greenhouse here at the orchard. It holds plants of all the different fruits that we grow in the orchard. There are fruit trees and the shrubby fruits like blueberries and currants. Growing close to the ground there are strawberry plants. We want to show how each fruit is grown and in what season.

Thanksgiving

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The Sunday after Thanksgiving is Russell Orchard’s traditional closing date for the year. The apples are all harvested and the cider pressed. It’s a time for reflection and looking ahead. The orchard family will scatter now for the winter. The Russells have some time for a well earned rest before they begin planning for next season at the orchard. I’ll go to the Dominican Republic for a few weeks in the sun and then perhaps travel a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a talk I heard recently.The topic was gratitude. The speaker believed that when we feel gratitude, it enriches us. It is a personal feeling but it also affects those around us. It gives us a chance to think beyond ourselves. It was a good reminder that we have responsibility for the way we think and feel about the things in our lives and in the world. I joined my son Matt’s family for Thanksgiving. I had been asked to give the grace at dinner. As I thought of what I wanted to say, that talk on gratitude prompted my grace.

“We live in uncertain times. We are barraged daily with famine, war, and fear. Thanksgiving is a time for us to remember how much we have to be grateful for. Despite all the turmoil in the last year, we are still the most fortunate people in the world to live in the United States.

We gather today with the beauty of the sea outside our windows, wrapped in the warmth of this home, to share our thanks for the many blessings that are part of our lives. To be here together with our family and friends, is the greatest joy imaginable.”

Reading the newspaper and watching TV news, I feel frustrated that there’s not really anything I can do to “fix” any of the injustices and inequalities I see in this country. In small ways I do whatever I can but it’s important that I remember all the things that make me grateful. Family, friends, good health and not least, I live in America. I want to remember this as 2016 ends and 2017 begins.

 

The annual Polish Picnic occurred in Ipswich a few weeks ago. My friend Ann Fessenden told me that she’d bought some galumpkis at the picnic. “What are galumpkis?” I asked.

It turns out they’re Polish stuffed cabbage. I’ve actually made them a few times but not in many years and I just called them “stuffed cabbage”. They sounded good but as I recall, quite a bit of work. Ann had found a recipe called Lazy Man’s Stuffed Cabbage that tasted as good but was much easier to make.

I made the recipe. It was a big hit, a nice Autumn dish. It made a large amount, enough for a crowd or lots of leftovers. I made a couple of changes, the recipe called for tomato soup to be poured over the top before baking, that didn’t sound so appealing to me. Instead, I used crushed tomatoes and added a few things.

Ingredients

  • Medium size head of cabbage
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ lbs cooked bacon coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • ½ cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cooked white rice (1/3 – ½ cup uncooked)
  • 1 egg

     

    Sauce

  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 375 degrees.
  2. Cook rice and set aside to cool.
  3. Coarsely shred the cabbage it thick long pieces and set aside.
  4. Chop the bacon coarsely and saute until crisp. Remove from pan.
  5. Dice the onion and green pepper and saute in the bacon fat. Discard remainder of the fat.
  6. In a large bowl, add meat, bread crumbs, onion, peppers, bacon, rice, egg and salt and pepper.
  7. In a 9X13-inch pan, place a layer of the shredded cabbage so that the bottom of the pan is completely covered.
  8. Add the meat mixture on top of the cabbage and press into the shape of the pan.
  9. Add another layer of cabbage to cover the meat mixture.

Mix tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper together and pour over the casserole. Cover with aluinum foil and bake for two hours until the cabbage has softened and the flavors well blended.

I was a child during WWII and can remember listening to President Roosevelt’s reassuring radio broadcasts. Perhaps that’s why I’ve had a long fascination with the Roosevelt administration and the family. I’ve read many books about the Roosevelts and the War by historians but I recently read three books written by employees.

The first was White House Diary by Henrietta Nesbitt, the housekeeper who came to the White House from Hyde Park. She had been a long time friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I enjoyed reading Mrs. Nesbitt’s descriptions of menus, endless teas and luncheons and receptions. It was nothing to have thirty for lunch followed by teas in the afternoon with several thousand attending and then a dinner with another thirty in the evening. There were always house guests in the White House and Mrs. Nesbitt had very definite views about the kings and queens, prime ministers and political men (always men) who visited.

It’s been fun to read about Winston Churchill shuffling around in a one piece jump suit, downing copious amounts of whiskey and talking strategy with the President or Queen Elizabeth’s (the present queens mother) maid asking for hot water bottles to be placed in the queens bed despite Washington temperatures in the 90s and no air-conditioning.

Mrs. Nesbitt’s menus tend toward celery curls and stuffed olives or soup served with saltines. Gelatin salads appeared often and chicken salad seems to be the standard lunch fair for large group. It was the Depression and Mrs. Roosevelt wanted to have what the people of the country were eating.

I liked the White House eggnog recipe. It was served on New Year’s Eve. Twelve eggs beaten with one pound of sugar. Three quarts heavy cream, one half pint rum, a quart of bourbon, brandy and nutmeg to taste. I imagine it wouldn’t take much of that to put one under the table.

Crown Princess Martha, in exile from Norway, came for a long stay after Norway fell to the Nazis. She brought a recipe that became a favorite of President Roosevelt and “earned a place of honor” in Mrs. Nesbitt’s files.

Pig’s Feet in Sour Sauce

Pick out four nice, clean, white pigs’ feet, simmer in salted water until nearly done. Add one-half cup vinegar, two large bay leaves, one medium onion cut in quarters, eight peppercorns, six cloves and cook until tender. Chill overnight, skim fat off the top and bring the sauce to a boil thickening with arrowroot, add perhaps a dash of vinegar and some sugar, and serve with mashed potatoes.

This is one I don’t think I’ll try.

A book by William Rigdon, Sailor in the White House: My 11 Years of Service to Three Presidents was an interesting account of traveling with FDR, HST and Eisenhower.

Alonzo Fields wrote My 21 Years in the White House. He was chief butler and started under President Hoover. He describes the Hoovers always dressing for dinner, even if it was only the two of them. They had seven course meals, formally served, with the butlers standing unobtrusively by while they ate. It was a surprise to him when the Roosevelts moved in, had simple meals and dismissed the servants while they ate.

The three books together entertained me enormously. A bit of history to ponder. I can’t help wondering what White House life is like these days.

Surprises

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A week of surprises and now I’m trying to come back to earth.  Monday last week I arrived home to find my sister Beth in my kitchen, “Surprise!”. Beth lives in Michigan and was last here in May, I hadn’t expected to see her again until next year. She said she had come to take me to lunch on my birthday.

Thursday we went to the Wenham Tea House for lunch and then shopping. I was expecting to go to dinner with Beth and Max at The Market in Annisquam in the evening. We arrived home to find the driveway filled with cars. Surprise, a party! Our neighbors Tom and Mariann had opened their home to the celebration. I was stunned, especially when I saw the people who were there to fete me. Cousins from South Carolina, Michigan and Ohio. Friends from Michigan and Rhode Island, family from Connecticut and New Hampshire all mingling with Massachusetts family and friends from many parts of my life. It was an amazing evening.

There was more, family and friends who couldn’t make it to the party had sent video clips and our Haitian friend in the Dominican Republic sent a greeting with a birthday cake photo. I received online greetings from friends in England, France and Germany. Such riches!

I guess it is a sign of how oblivious I can be to what’s going on around me to realize how many people were so able to keep the whole thing from me. My daughter Laura seems to have orchestrated the event with the help of her brothers and Beth. I am still enjoying the afterglow of that wonderful evening.

Some final words on Food Waste. Yesterday’s New York Times Opinion Page features a debate about how to reduce food waste in the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/09/21/keeping-food-on-the-plate-and-out-of-landfills/ease-hunger-with-a-better-food-rescue-system.  I’ve copied the section that suggests things that we, as consumers can do.

1. Curb overbuying. A packed fridge may be comforting, but rarely do we eat everything in it. Using meal plans, shopping lists, and a little restraint can go a long way.

2. Store smartly. Proper storage can maintain food quality and freshness. Use airtight containers for most foods.

3. Use it up. Eat up everything in your fridge regularly. Frittatas, stir-fries, and soups make great catchall recipes. Or just Google a list of what you have for meal ideas. Designating a special day for this can help — Fridge Fridays, perhaps?

4. Freeze. Almost anything can be frozen and kept fresh: bread (best sliced), milk (shake when thawed), eggs (raw but scrambled), and cheese (shredded for cooking). Don’t forget to freeze leftovers, even if just for a few days.

5. Understand expiration dates. “Use by,” “best by,” “enjoy by” — these are generally not expiration dates but suggestions as to when the product is at its freshest. Most food is often safe to eat days, weeks, even months after those dates.

One thing that has helped me cut down food waste is shopping more frequently. I try to buy only what I know I’ll use in a few days.

We’ve always composted vegetable peels and other food preparation scraps but it’s gotten easier in the past two years. Ipswich and Hamilton both have curbside composting making it easy to save anything no longer edible. Bones, moldy cheese, slimy vegetables, fruit and vegetable peels, all go into the compost as well as tissues and dryer lint and even kitty litter.

Food Waste II

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I am in an Irish pub eating cottage pie, one of my favorites. I’ve eaten less than a third and I’m stuffed. “I wish the portions weren’t always so big,” I say to the waitperson. “They didn’t used to be,” she replies. “It’s because of the American tourists.”

Sometime in the late 1960s I went out to lunch with an elderly neighbor. I was amused when she ate half of her meal and then pulled a plastic bag out of her purse and tucked away the rest of her lunch for another day. In those days, portions were reasonable and few people couldn’t finish a meal.

Today we’re offered a 12-16-ounce steak, twice as much as most people should be eating usually preceded by a big basket of bread with butter or olive oil. Fat 8-ounce burgers are served on a huge roll with a side of fries. Fish and chips a local favorite comes as a plate heaped with deep fried fish, fries and onion rings, it can come to over 2000 calories, as many as most people should consume in a day. And then, if we can’t finish the meal, we’re offered a take-away box. Although some restaurants are changing to recycle-able waxed boxes for take out, it is still too often packaged in styrofoam, not a recyclable material.

Portion comparison 1950 and today

Portion comparison 1950 and today

A few weeks ago my order of Chicken Marsala arrived in a large bowl full of linguine with four large slices of chicken breast on top, all glazed with a rich sauce. I brought the extra home, it made a meal for two and I ended up putting some of the pasta in the compost bin. It was still too much. I always come home with leftovers and I like leftovers but I’d much prefer to finish my dinner. I was taught to clean my plate. I don’t remember a restaurant meal in the past ten years when that’s been possible. No, a correction, there are two places we go that offer half portions. I know that many people order one entree to share but if we are out for a nice dinner, we like to make our own choices.

Portion Distortion

Portion Distortion

 I sometimes order from the appetizer menu but even that seems to be up-sized. Not long ago an appetizer of potato skins with cheese and bacon was six huge baked potato halves with most of the potato still in the skin. Another time when I asked if I could be served small portions, I was offered the children’s menu. I sometimes ask the waitperson to tell their managers that it would be nice if half portions were offered. Once I was told that I should go to a competitor, an answer I don’t imagine a manager would appreciate.

If I had the energy I’d try to start a movement encouraging every person who finds portions too big to tell the manager. I’ll continue with my own campaign.

The Department of Agriculture found that in 1970 25% of American food expenditure was for food eaten away from home. A Bloomberg report in April 2015 reported that spending on food away from home had now surpassed food consumed at home. Dining out has become more common, perhaps because there are more two-income families, more women working and the increase in fast food restaurants. That doesn’t explain why portions have grown.

Food Waste

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I’m on my soapbox here.

I’ve read a number of articles recently that discuss food production, consumption and waste. It doesn’t seem to be high on the radar of many people. Water and energy use are major issues but few consider the amounts of both needed to produce food and how they are also wasted.

  • One third of the planet’s food is wasted, enough to feed two billion people.
  • In the United States, six billion pounds of fruit and vegetables are wasted every year. They are either not harvested or unsold because they don’t look perfect.
  • Globally 46% of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.
  • In California’s Salinas Valley thousands of tons of fresh greens are trashed because they don’t have sufficient shelf life to ship.
  • The United States wastes thirty to forty percent of the food produced while one in seven people has food insecurity.*

In small pockets of the world a few people are trying to actively use food that would be wasted. I’ve read about chefs who are raising awareness by creating dishes using vegetables that are misshapen or blemished. Others are donating extra food to community kitchens where food is prepared for the homeless. At a resort in Las Vegas edible food scraps are sent to a pig farm where they’re fed to the animals.

  • In North America and Europe research has indicated that 620 to 660 pounds of food per person is wasted every year. A third of that is wasted by consumers. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia the waste is less that half of that. Most of the waste there do to a lack of technology. Inadequate refrigeration or ability to process food efficiently.

Supermarkets throw away huge amounts of food that has passed the “sell-by” date. Restaurants have to discard tons of partially eaten meals. In Britain, the Sustainable Restaurant Association surveyed London restaurants and found that about a pound of food per customer per meal was wasted. Two-thirds in preparation and another third by the customer.

Not too long ago I was astonished watching a friend going through the refrigerator and throwing out anything that was out of date. Sour cream, three days past the date, unopened; cream cheese, unopened; a barely used half-gallon of milk, all tossed in the bin. Those dates don’t indicate that food is no longer edible. Most foods are safely used long past the dates. Throw them out only if the odor is off or there is visible spoilage.

*Too Good to Waste, National Geographic, March 2016

When I leave the office every day, I make a detour through the veggie room picking up some corn or tomatoes or berries. Whatever looks good. Thursday I found purslane bundles in the refrigerated case. I’d never heard of it. A brief research told me that it is a weed often used as a vegetable. After trying it in potato salad, I’m a new fan. It also made a great addition to a tossed green salad with its crunchy, sort of spicy flavor.

“Common in our yards but little known in the North American kitchen, purslane is both delicious and exceptionally nutritious. is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season. Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. ” Mother Earth News, April/May 2005, by Frances Robinson. Purslane is also good for you. It tops the list of plants high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid.. Purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus.

What’s not to like!

Potato Salad with Purslane

Ingredients

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 pound purslane
1 large cucumber—peeled, halved the long way, seeded and cut into half-moons
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, (more or less depending on tastes)
1/2 cup chopped mint

Vinaigrette of choice*

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large shallow bowl.

  2. Season with salt and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Allow to cool. Layer the onions over the potatoes, followed by the purslane, cucumber, tomato, red pepper flakes and mint. Just before serving, pour a bit more dressing over the salad and toss well.

    *My Favorite Vinaigrette

    1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon sherry vinegar*
    1-1/2 teaspoons coarse Dijon mustard
    1/3 cup grapeseed oil**
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    Salt and pepper

    Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.

    * Or raspberry vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
    ** I like grapeseed oil for salad dressings and cooking It is light and nearly tasteless with a high smoking point when sauteing with it.

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Emily’s Garden was the name of a writing retreat I attended last weekend in the historic village of Essex, New York on Lake Champlain. This lovely garden was designed with the poet Emily Dickinson’s garden in mind.

The retreat was held at the home of author and university teacher Kate Moses. I joined Kate, her colleague Elizabeth Cohen and five aspiring writers. They taught us a lot about writing but the food was what made the weekend memorable. Kate made everything from scratch with local ingredients, many flavored with herbs from her garden. We were greeted with a menu for the weekend. This was just the first meal.

Welcome Meet and Greet Cocktails and Appetizers
Cucumber & Elderflower gin and tonics, wine, beer
Cherry pico-de-gallo
Fresh local cheeses with crostini
Elizabeth’s hummus & homemade pita chips
Spiced olives
Prosciutto crisps

Local cheeses with fresh figs

Local cheeses with fresh figs and cherries

Dinner
Panade (Provencale gratin of bread, tomatoes, rainbow chard)
Watermelon salad with nectarines, radishes, mint, fetaLocal greens
Tuna Confit with white beans
Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Plum Sorbet
Fresh fruit tart

There was home cured salmon for lunch with chevre and sorrel pesto; homemade Greek yogurt and granola for breakfast; Lemon-Lime Shortbread and zucchini bread for snacks and much more. Besides the plum sorbet, there was silky smooth intensely dark chocolate ice cream and  buttermilk cinnamon ice cream, perfect for someone like me whose favorite food is ice cream.
A real standout was the pound cake, is was so rich and flavorful that the tiniest slice was enough to send everyone into silent awe while eating it.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

Heat

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The heat this summer has been reminding me of my childhood. There was no air conditioning in those days and Michigan could be brutally hot in July. I remember lying in front of my bedroom window at night, trying to get the smallest puff of a breeze.

The sound of those summers was hearing the drone of the announcer giving the play-by-play of the Detroit Tiger’s baseball team while Grandpa sat in his shirt sleeves with his ear next to the radio. He was seldom without a suit jacket but it was a concession to the temperature. Never short sleeves though.

During World War II my father worked at AC Sparkplugs as a tool and die maker. The factories were sweltering. As soon as he got home we would climb into the 1934 Ford and drive a mile to Picnic Lake, a small weed surrounded pond with a tiny sandy beach area. We didn’t have a shower (or bathtub for that matter), it was where he could wash off the factory grime and sweat. Once the war was over he left the shop and worked as a carpenter. I don’t remember him every going swimming again.

One of our occasional summer treats was homemade ice cream. My brother Charles and I would go with Daddy to buy a big chunk of ice. When we got home he put it in a burlap bag and beat on it with the flat side of an ax. When It was crushed enough, Mamma would bring out the tall gallon-sized can that she’d filled with a mixture of eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream and milk.

The container fit into the bottom of a bigger wooden barrel-type container. The can held a paddle that attached to a heavy metal gear with a crank on the side. This fit over the top of the barrel. When that was all in place, Charlie and I started scooping ice into the space around the can. A layer of ice and then a layer of rock salt and then another layer of ice. Near the top we had to be careful with the salt. It was important that it not get into the container and spoil the ice cream.

In the beginning Daddy let us turn the crank but when the cream started to freeze, it was too hard for us. He had to take over. When it was too stiff to turn any longer. He took the can out of the icy water and into the kitchen. We hovered near Mamma’s elbows, each with a spoon, while she pulled the ice cream covered paddle out of the center. Those first few bites were the best. The sweet, creamy, vanilla flavor along with the slightly icy consistency was my favorite food.

After graduation from high school, I worked as a service representative for Bell Telephone in Detroit. My desk was in a huge room with sixty other women. If the temperature reached 90 degrees we were sent home. Supervisors stayed to take calls. When the thermometer reached the high eighties we’d keep our fingers crossed that it would reach 90.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

5 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 quart heavy cream
Milk

Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, add cream and pour into a one gallon freezer can. Add milk to withing three inches of the top.

Place in freezing tub. Layer ice and salt while turning the crank constantly. Stop when it’s too stiff to turn.

Summer 1953, not so hot this day.

Summer 1953, not so hot this day.

 

It is fun to travel and fun to come home. We arrived late Tuesday night after missing a connection and hanging out for five hours in the Toronto airport before getting another flight.

Here are a few of the photos (out of hundreds). We traveled south from Dublin sort of following the coast. We were as far south as Cobh in Co. Cork, west to the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry, up through Galway, Mayo and Donegal before turning east into Northern Ireland. We stayed in Derry and then in Bangor, east of Belfast, before returning to Dublin and then home. The entire country was green, green, green.

We visited castles and ruins and a couple of museums but mostly enjoyed the beauty of the countryside and the friendliness of the people.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

These rock lined fields are typical of this part of the country. We were told that long ago each field had a separate name. Note the road, it is narrow with little room for vehicles to pass. I was driving and didn’t want to meet a tour bus on one of these curves.

A stone house on the Dingle Peninsula

A stone house on the Dingle Peninsula

We would like to have gone into this building and asked about how a roof made of stone is constructed and works in the wind and rain of the area but it was closed.

Father Dyer's Folk Village in Glencolumbkille, Co. Donegal

Fisherman’s cottage in Father McDyer’s Folk Village in Glencolumbkille, Co. Donegal. It is one room with an open fire at one end with a hole in the roof for smoke to escape.

The Folk Village Museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. It was started by a priest, Father McDyer. At the time of Father McDyer’s arrival in 1951 the parish of Glencolmcille was suffering from a long-standing cycle of unemployment and emigration. Over the next three decades Father McDyer worked to help break this cycle, lobbying for amenities, organising community projects and supporting the development of local industries, many of which, like the Folk Village, are still successful today. (quoted from website) It shows a glimpse into daily life in past centuries. It was a hard life.

We had never seen this kind of thatching before. The ceiling of the houses are bog wood (wood dug from under the peat bogs, left there eons ago when there were forests). Thatch is laid over that and secured with ropes made from twisting together local materials.

Open fireplace in one room cottage.

                                  Open fireplace in one room cottage.

 

 

 

Map of Ireland made of stone from each county.

                         Map of Ireland made of stone from each county.

This map is striking and the women in the visitor’s center were excited about it. It had just been dedicated two days before we were there. Each county provided the stone for their representation. Note the Gaelic county names.

 

 

A hedge school. When the English ruled the country it was forbidden to speak or teach Gaelic. It would be taught in these little hidden spaces.

A hedge school. When the English ruled the country it was forbidden to speak or teach Gaelic. It would be taught in these little hidden spaces.

 

 

 

Several areas along the west coast are Gaelic speaking. The road signs are in Gaelic and English. We were surprised to find that people living there speak Gaelic, or Irish as some call it, in their every day lives.

A field with drying peat. We kept seeing fields with mounds. It took us some time to realize that after the peat is cut, the brick sized pieces are made into little pyramids and left to dry.

A field with drying peat. We kept seeing fields with mounds. It took us some time to realize that after the peat is cut, the brick sized pieces are made into little pyramids and left to dry.

 

We’ll be heading home in a few days. I have so much to say about our Irish adventure but need to organize my thoughts. I’ve mentioned the weather. I’ll mention it again because our photos can’t do justice to the beauty of the country. So often we see the sun shining across spectacular landscapes but can’t stop to get a photo. The sun and rain change within minutes. We can be driving in a heavy rain and ahead of us the sun is shining. It seems like the most striking photos are under gray skies.

Today we drove along the Causeway Route from Carrickfergus to Bushmills.The road winds along the coast with great views of cliffs and mountains ahead. I was driving and happy to be hugging the left side of the road. In many places the right lane had only a stone wall between it and a drop into water. It looked like it would be an unpleasant roll down a rock cliff.

The road we took is also a bicycle route. It didn’t look like much fun to be cycling in the rain with gale force winds one area. It was also scary to be driving on a narrow, curving road with a cliff on one side and drop off on the other and turn a curve to discover a number of cyclists. Slow to a crawl and wait for a place where there’s a little visibility of oncoming traffic.

Easier to go through than around.

Easier to go through than around.

Farms and the sea

                               Farms and the sea

Cliffs along Causeway Coast Highway.

                                Cliffs along Causeway Coast Highway.

 

Travel is always interesting and often educational. By chance we’ve ended up in a place where a special event is occurring. Today we are in the Northern Ireland town of Carrickfergus. July 1 is the centennial of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It was the Great War, WWI, and 20,000 British soldiers lost their lives in the first day of the battle. It continued for months with far more casualties.

There have been many memorials on TV today from different places in the UK. Here in Northern Ireland this is a big occasion. A major coast highway, A2, was closed for a parade that would start at 7PM. This was followed by a laying of wreaths at a memorial site and then an outdoor concert next to the castle.

Weather here is amazing. The sun shines, ten minutes later there’s a downpour and then the sun is out again. Watching people queue for the concert we see everyone wearing rain gear and carrying umbrellas although the sky is blue and the sun shines.

Parade in Carrickfergus

Parade in Carrickfergus

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Ireland is so green! So many shades of green. Understandable since there is a mix of sun and rain every day since we’ve been here. The south was notable for narrow roads lined with hedgerows right to the edge of the road making it difficult to see what was behind them. Hillsides are divided into different fields by rock walls.

Approaching Galway is an area called The Burren. It is a vast area of limestone pavements where only some alpine plants grow. It’s been said that the area “yields neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him in, nor soil enough to bury him.”

We’ve traveled north though Gaelic speaking country with wide vistas and no hedgerows or stone divided pastures. There are mountains and lakes (loughs) and spectacular scenery.

There is much to say and many photos to share but the computer I’m using is a problem. I’ll have to recreate the trip with photos when we get home next week. Incredible scenery, friendly people, ancient history. A great trip.

Dingle

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The Dingle Peninsula is reputed to have some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery.  We are in a Dingle hotel overlooking the harbor but we can’t attest to that. We’re in the midst of what, in Ipswich, we’d call a Nor’easter. Gale force winds, upside down rain and no visibility. No matter, the people are friendly, the food good and we aren’t on any schedule.

View of the Dingle Harbor today.

View of the Dingle Harbor today. Even the water is hidden, no sign of the mountains behind.

We are wending our way north along the coast and will end up in Belfast. I’m sure we’ll see some beautiful country.

Earlier in the week we toured the Jameson’s Distillery in Midleton. We had been given plastic raincoats in case it rained during the tour. It didn’t but the rain gear came in handy today when we ventured out for lunch. Umbrellas were useless in the wind. Across from the restaurant we watched disappointed travelers disembark from tour buses. There were probably fifteen or twenty buses. The Dingle Peninsula was to have been one of the highlights of the tour.

Our accommodations have varied from a posh hotel to pleasant B&Bs and an old seaside hotel that had seen better days. The town of Tramore reminded us of Salisbury beach with lots of rides and arcades. The TV in our room made us think of our first TV given to us by Max’s parents in 1956 when they moved California and gave us theirs. It had a 15-inch screen and was black and white. This one had color.

TV at O'Shea's Hotel

          TV at O’Shea’s Hotel, Tramore, Ireland

Watching a Euro 2016 football game on it was a challenge. We could follow the white dot (the ball) and see figures in different colors running around. The details weren’t so clear.

While we were out for lunch we bought a basket of local strawberries in honor of today’s Strawberry Festival at home.

I wrote last week about the joy of anticipation and planning a trip. Twenty-five years ago I spent two years planning a six month round-the-world trip. I read travel guides and essays, wrote away for brochures and information, telephoned airlines and travel agents and spent hours on the research. I took a class on solo travel and went to lectures by travelers. I joined Hostelling International and Servas, an international hosting organization. To join Servas required a lengthy application with an essay about myself and an interview with a member.

I carried cash to change into foreign currency and joined American Express where I could write personal checks at any of their offices worldwide to obtain more funds. I left a list of cities where friends and family could send mail to me through General Delivery.

At the airport of each country I bought a Lonely Planet Guide Book. It gave all the information needed for that part of the trip. They were heavy so I had to abandon each one as I left the country to move on.

Early this May I started planning a month long trip to Ireland. I booked our flight, car rental and first three nights accommodation online after a few hours of research. We’ll use the road atlas of Ireland but mostly we will be depending on the internet. We’ll get cash in euros or pounds (Northern Ireland) from ATMs. Google Maps will get us from one place to another, We’ll send and receive emails to keep in touch and check the Boston Globe website to keep up with what’s happening in the world. (But, I will not read anything about Donald Trump or the election coverage).

Technology has changed so much of our world but I wonder if it has taken away some of the sense of adventure from travel.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” Anonymous

The planning and anticipation of travel is a pleasant and important part of a trip. This summer we will be spending a few weeks in Ireland. I’ve spent hours on the internet, have several books including the AA Ireland Road Atlas showing the tiniest villages and roads. I’ve an old DK Ireland Guide book from a trip thirteen years ago and a new DK Backroads of Ireland. I have Rick Steves’ latest book on Northern Ireland and three maps (probably not needed with the atlas). I will take along Ireland: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. It has excerpts from works by 15 Irish writers.

My daughter teases me about my traveling library. She says my books take up most of my bag. This has changed a bit. I can now carry books on my Kindle but not the guide books. They definitely need to be paper.

Ireland seems to have gained a reputation as a foodie country with several cooking school offering classes to visitors. I’m looking forward to checking that out. On my visit in 2000 I was amazed to twice be served a plate of food bearing three kinds of potatoes. There were mashed, boiled and fries in addition to meat and the ubiquitous cabbage.

On previous visits the pubs were wonderful places to hear music and meet local people but thick cigarette smoke made it less fun than it might have been. It seemed like everyone smoked, there were always teenagers sitting in the corners of the pubs puffing away. A few months after my last visit, smoking in workplaces was banned (March 2004) making Ireland the first country in the world to institute an outright ban on smoking in workplaces, this included all pubs. I was amazed that it could actually happen there.

A friend who has a B&B in Ireland gave me this recipe.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter

1 egg, unbeaten

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 cup raisins

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Sift together all dry ingredients except for baking soda. Cut in the butter. (Go through with fingers.) Add raisins. Add milk, egg, and baking soda. Mix, not completely, just until moist. Knead for a few minutes- not too much. Place in a casserole dish. Brush with egg yolk. Bake for one hour at 375ºF.

Friday night we went to the Hart House for dinner. I was craving comfort food, something they do well. We were seated at a table for two in the far end of the tavern section. The room was nearly full and busy but in our corner we were able to chat and enjoy the meal.

In the opposite corner a couple who were probably in their early forties were sitting. There was nothing in particular about them that caught my attention. They seemed relaxed and comfortable. I had a brief thought that they were out for an evening without the children, or perhaps they weren’t married and it was a date. The only thing that I noticed was that after they finished their meal they didn’t leave. They ordered a second glass of wine and continued talking. They left just as our check was brought to the table.

We gave our credit card to the waitress. When she returned she told us that the couple who had just left had paid for our (not inexpensive) meal. She didn’t know who they were and they’d asked her to wait until they had gone before telling us.

We were stunned! Why? I tried to imagine what had caused that couple to chose us. Were we especially animated? Was it our age? Did they somehow know who we are? Were they friends of one of our children? I don’t imagine we will ever know but such an unexpected gesture made us feel happy and grateful as well as puzzled. It was a lovely gift. If that nice couple should read this…thank you.

Last weekend was a highlight of the year for us. We were once again blown away by Miranda Russell’s annual show. One song was to have been sung by three generations. Miranda’s mom Daisy Nell and her daughter Cecelia had planned a trio with Cecelia also accompanying on the cello. Unfortunately Daisy developed laryngitis and couldn’t sing. There was a quick rearrangement and Miranda’s son Hunton was pressed into making his stage debut singing one of the parts.

It was a thrill to see our grandchildren performing but there were more reasons for thinking the weekend was special. My sister Beth visited from Michigan for the show and our great-granddaughter Lennin came for an afternoon visit (accompanied by mom Jessalyn and dad Alex).

Las week our grandson David graduated from college and although we weren’t able to get to Baltimore for the event, we did have a chance to see and toast him on Monday.  In the past five days I’ve seen all five of my children, and five of my eight grandchildren. It’s a good life!

For the past two years we’ve had brief visits by Baltimore Orioles, they’ve come and stayed a few days and then disappeared. This year we got their favorite treats, orange halves and grape jelly out the first of April. There was no activity until two weeks ago when a flash of orange caught our eye. We now seem to have two pair coming to dine as well as a grosbeak who appears to like grape jelly better than the sunflower seed we put out.

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Loss

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One of the difficult things about getting older is the number of friends and family that we begin to lose. Last week our dear cousin Marlene died after a brief illness. She was a stunningly beautiful blonde of a certain age (as the French say) who was a talented artist, fabulous cook, devoted wife and so much more. Her genealogy research had expanded to include over a thousand family members and she had recently completed all the documentation necessary to prove that she was descended from John Alden. She had just been accepted as a member of the Mayflower Society.

Marlene and her husband, my cousin, lived in Jackson Michigan but her heart belonged in New England where her ancestors had lived. They made yearly pilgrimages to Massachusetts researching family and enjoying Crane Beach, Rockport, Exeter, New Hampshire and Cape Cod.

Marlene was happiest when entertaining with beautiful china and flower arrangements and sparkling crystal. When we visited even breakfast was served in style. She was known as an excellent cook but it was her pies that made her famous in her part of the world. She thought nothing of baking five or ten pies for a party so that each guest would have their favorite.

Marlene is one of a growing number of friends and family who have gone from our lives in the past few years. It is inevitable but sad and brings up my own feelings about mortality. I’m determined to live each day to the fullest. I think sometimes of my friend of the 1970s, Charlotte Martin, who was in her eighties. She said that she was so grateful for her young friends since all her contemporaries were gone. I’m fortunate that I not only have young friends but also grandchildren.

A couple of Marlene’s recipes:

Marlene’s Chocolate Trifle

1 package of Fudge Brownie Mix (or your own brownie recipe)

¼ cup of praline or coffee liqueur

1 can of chocolate pudding (or your own recipe)

8 Heath Bars

1 cup heavy cream

1. Bake brownies in a 9×13-inch pan. When done prick the top with a fork at one-inch intervals and pour the liqueur over the top. Set aside to cool completely.

2. When the brownies are cool, crumble and put half into a trifle bowl.

3. Spread ½ the chocolate pudding on top.

4. Break the candy bars (pounding them with a rolling pin works well) and put half of them over the pudding.

5. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Spread ½ over the candy layer.

6. Repeat layers ending with whipped cream.

Chill at least 8 hours. It can also be frozen.

Marlene’s recipe calls for mixes but I always make my own. I add nuts along with the candy bars, she crushes peppermint candy to garnish the top. Any way, it is rich and delicious.

Marlene’s Oriental Salad

½ head Napa cabbage

½ head Bok Choy

Some romaine

2 packages Ramen noodles (Do not use the seasoning packets)

8 ounces slivered almonds

1 ounce sesame seeds

1 stick butter

1 bunch of green onions, chopped fine

1. Lightly brown almonds in a frying pan.

2. Melt butter in another pan and brown crumbled noodles. Remove from heat and add almonds and seeds. Set aside to cool.

Prepare greens and onions. Just before serving, toss all together with the cooled dressing.

Dressing:

¾ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup vinegar

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

In sauce pan combine all ingredients. Boil one minute then cool.

I recently spent a a couple of days in Washington DC. It is one of my favorite cities and a nearly equal distance away from Boston and Beckley, West Virginia where my best friend Theresa lives. We try to get together at least once a year. We both came by train, eight hour trips. The ride along the coast of Connecticut is one of the nicest parts of the trip where the tracks go along the water for some distance.

We spent a day in the National Achives researching families. Theresa’s mother came from Croatia and my great-grandparents from Scotland. Several years ago I went to the Archives and found census records and other documentation that I photo copied. This time we discovered that most of what we were looking for is already available from home on our own computers. Familysearch.org is free and has lots of documents that can be downloaded. Ancestry.com allows free searches but a membership allows access to nearly all the material available on line.

My big discovery was the Last Will and Testament of my fifth great-grandfather, Elijah Look. My family is from Michigan so I was always interested in the fact that my ancestors had once lived on Martha’s Vineyard. His grandfather, Thomas, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1646. It is hard for me to imagine what his life would have been like. I haven’t been able to find records that might tell when the family migrated to the US.

One of the newer museums in DC, opened in 2004, is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It covers native populations of both North and South America and has fascinating exhibits of the many cultures. The exterior of the building is striking from every direction. It is close to the Capitol and the Botanical Garden.

Spectacular exterior of the American Indian Museum

                                  Spectacular exterior of the American Indian Museum

 Night time view!

                  Night time view!

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe in the museum is interesting and original. It features indigenous food from the Western Hemisphere. Five different stations reflect food from each region. Northwest Coastal has Cedar-plank Roasted salmon with side dishes that use ingredients from the area. Great Plains features Smoked Bison Loin with Huckleberry Reduction and Wild Rice and Watercress Salad. Northern Woodlands serves Maple Brined Turkey and Roasted Sunchoke, Quince and Wild Onion Dressing. South America, and Meso America are the other areas. I had a taco made with chicken simmered with plantains and a salad of jicama and chayote. All good and new to me. Theresa opted for turkey with wild mushroom roasted yellow beets.

In the Botanical Garden. It's still too early for many blooms.

                                                                                                                                          In the Botanical Garden. It’s still too early for many blooms.

 

 

From my desk window I can see clumps of yellow and white daffodils, our magnolia tree in bloom and the guys, finally here from Jamaica, pruning the raspberry bushes. I think spring is finally here. It is nice to look over the orchard and see what is there today compared with what we started with thirty-seven years ago. Nine hundred sixty-year old apple trees and a few pears have been replaced by thousands of apple trees, peaches, apricots, cherries and five kinds of berries.

In 1979 there was no bakery, no winery, no vegetables and one small sales room. We sold pre-bagged apples, some jams and preserves and a little candy. Everything was displayed on four or five two tiered stands painted bright green. Our cash “register” was a drawer in a little table. One of the first priorities was renewing the orchard. We planted hundreds of tiny new apple trees only to see them being eaten by deer. A deer proof fence had to be built around the orchard. There were barns to be built and new refrigeration equipment added. The projects seemed never ending.

So much joy and so much angst has gone into making the orchard what it is today. One of our greatest joys is watching the orchard continue to grow and change under Doug and Miranda’s stewardship.

The photo below shows the barn before the large addition that now holds the cold room, ice cream and a loading dock. The barns aren’t built yet.

The gas pump still stands but nothing else remains the same.

The gas pump still stands but nothing else remains the same.

The barn in 1979

The barn in 1979

Apples on display, 1979

Apples on display, 1979

The photo below shows the area were the greenhouse now sits. It is being prepared for planting. With a few exceptions, all the old apple trees have been replaced.

In the beginning.

In the beginning.

Spring ?

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The calendar says it is April, the lilacs are beginning to leaf out, the apple buds are swelling and our daffodils are in bloom. There are other signs of spring; Down River Ice Cream is has reopened, Periwinkle in Essex is open again and we’re getting flyers and emails telling us what shows are coming to the Gloucester Stage Company this summer. So why did I wake up this morning to winter?
It reminds me of April 1, 1997 when I wakened to find the snow on my street was three feet deep. I needed to be at the hospital to relieve the night nurse. it was impossible to walk so I skied to the bus stop only to find no buses were running. Maybe I should be happy that there are only a couple of inches today.

The orchard will be opening on the first of May. Devan has been busy in the greenhouse getting the tomatoes in and preparing to plant for early crops. Bosie and the guys will arrive in a couple of weeks to begin work in the orchard. Vanessa and Courtney are helping to get the store in order for opening an Jason is taking inventory of the winery and planning what will be needed for this year. All these activities mean spring at Russell Orchards.

Not especially a spring activity but I’ve been making granola. It’s my variation of a recipe I found online. Everyone who has eaten any has raved about it so I pass it on here.

Yummy Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups nuts and/or seeds (I’ve used walnuts, pecans, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds usually two or three different kinds)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup vegetable or olive oil (I use grape seed oil)
½ cup maple syrup (honey can be used but I like maple best)
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional mix-ins: dried cranberries, raisins, finely chopped apricots or chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large, rimmed baking sheet* with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts and/or seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir to blend.
2. Mix the oil, maple syrup (or honey) and vanilla together. Pour over oats, mix well, until every oat and nut is lightly coated. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan and spread it in an even layer. Bake about 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut flakes and return to the oven until golden, another 15 minutes or so. Watch carefully that it doesn’t start to burn. The granola will crisp up as it cools.
3. Let the granola cool completely, Stir in the dried fruit and/or chocolate chips if using them. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks. It can also be frozen.

*I use a half-sheet pan, 18″x13″. A smaller pan would need longer baking time or two smaller pans might need less baking times. Watch closely.

Christmas in DR was pretty low key. The shops catering to Europeans had twinkling lights and some holiday displays but the local shops looked pretty much the same as usual. The town park had a straw nativity, strange for us to see it with the surf in the background.

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Snowman on a street corner.

Snowman on a street corner.

A family from Slovenia neighbors were staying next door to us with a teenage girl and an adorable five year old boy. The only Christmas music we heard was from their house. The little boy sang Jingle Bells as he jumped in the pool. Christmas Eve they had visitors for a festive dinner.

We celebrated with dinner at a local restaurant and watched an old movie with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope spending Christmas in an old English castle. It must have been from the 70s, they were not young men. Jokes and music, fun to watch.

Yesterday there was a huge influx of people arriving in town to spend this week leading up to New Year’s. The beach hotels are filling, at one end of town there seem to older French people, at the other end there are many families with young children, also primarily French.

One of two or three trees we've seen.

One of two or three trees we’ve seen.

“Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.” (Wikipedia)

A bento box in the Dominican Republic? Yes indeed, it was my first meal after arriving last week in DR. I’ve eaten picnics from bento boxes in Japan but it was a surprise in this part of the world. A new restaurant, Caffé Leopard has opened close to our house. The special for the day was an Italian Bento Box. It sounded intriguing, it turned out to be attractive to look at and tasty. I hadn’t thought to bring my camera so a description is the best I can do.

Four red and black lacquered dishes filled a square box, also red and black. The first dish held a small portion of Eggplant Parmesan, beautifully seasoned and delicious. The next dish contained thin slices of roast beef with a mirepoix garnish. A slice of a pasta loaf was in the third dish. The pasta had been layered with a light creamy cheese sauce and garnished with fresh peas. The final dish held small tomatoes, cut in half and dressed lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A tiny square dish was in the center of the others and held freshly grated cheese. It was a memorable meal, delicious and pleasing to the eye.

Photo Memories

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It’s raining this morning, only a few oak leaves cling to the trees and it is pretty dismal outside. I’m cheering myself up by putting photos in my 2015 album. Twenty-four years ago I started making a photo album for every year. Since then, I’ve gone back through boxes of old photos to make albums of the previous years. It is a wonderful way to retrieve the past.

Very few of the old pictures were dated. I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, reconstructing photo albums by year has been an interesting exercise in puzzle solving. Was that photo of the children taken in Montreal or Halifax? Was it 1969 or 1971? Did we camp that year at Mt Blue State Park on Webb Lake or was it Lily Bay State Park on Moosehead Lake? And does it matter? Only to me I suspect.

My family teases me, why have I lined book shelves with photo albums they wonder. In addition to yearly albums, I have others from each of my trips. I tell them that when I get really old, I will spend my days reviewing my life. They wonder why, in this era of digital photography I bother having prints made to tuck into a book. They take up space, they sit unopened from month to month but it gives me satisfaction to see them waiting, holding my life between their covers.

In fact, my albums get frequent use. It means I can date events accurately, I just have to check a couple of albums to find whether my nephew married in 1999 or 2000, I can find the year that I took Crystal and Leah to Michigan or which year Jason’s family lived in Florida. I suppose these facts aren’t really important but they keep me oriented and sometimes solve family arguments.

When I flip through an album, I see pictures from events long forgotten, a party with colleagues taken the Christmas of 1996 takes me back to that day, I remember conversations and even some of the food. I see pictures from the year my brother and his family visited, I thought they never visited came to Massachusetts. There are photos of a trip I took with Sherry in 1986, she’s been gone many years now. Family gatherings, camping trips, holidays, people and events, these books hold the history of my life and my family. I treasure them.

1956 Camping in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, my first camping trip.

1956 Camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, my first camping trip.

1960 Mom and Dad in front of Dad's milk truck.

1960 Mom and Dad in front of Dad’s milk truck.

1964 The kitchen stove in the first house we owned.

1964 The kitchen stove in the first house we bought.

1979 The orchard sign when we bought the farm.

1979 The orchard sign when we bought the farm.

1992 Alex's farm truck.

1992 Alex’s farm truck.

More Apples

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A few weeks ago my sister visited from Michigan. Our usual breakfast is cereal but I thought I’d like to do something a bit nicer for one morning. I made a German Apple Pancake, a family favorite that I had put in the Grammy’s Kitchen cookbook. Unfortunately, I forgot to add the flour. We had something like an apple omelet, edible but not what I’d planned.

Last week I tried again, this time combining parts of the original recipe with another from the book, Apple Puff Oven Flapjack. This one was a success.

This has been a bumper apple season so for anyone with a surplus, I’m sending along my adapted recipe.

Puffy Apple Pancake

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Ingredients
3 tablespoons of butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tart apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Method
1. Make the batter in a blender, or in mixing bowl with whisk. Beat together the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Reserve brown sugar for topping. Let stand while preparing apples.
2. Peel apples and slice thinly.
3. Melt the butter in a 9 or 10 inch oven proof skillet. (A well seasoned iron skillet is perfect) Place the apple slices in the butter.
4. Return to the oven until the apples sizzle. Don’t brown them.
5. Pour the batter over the apples and sprinkle with brown sugar.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately dusted with powdered sugar.

A melon baller is the perfect tool for coring apples.

A melon baller is the perfect tool for coring apples.

Going into the oven.

Going into the oven.

Let's eat!

Let’s eat!

Halloween

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Halloween is now second only to Christmas for the amount of money spent on candy, decorations and costumes in the US and Canada. The custom appears to have come to North America with the Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 20th century. In the past two decades it has spread to Europe and Australia, much to the dismay of many people there who oppose the embracing of American pop culture.

The origin of Halloween goes back to ancient Ireland and Scotland. The pagan Celts held the Festival of Samhain at the end of October. It signified the end of the harvest season and a time to take stock of supplies for the winter months. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day. Huge bonfires would be lit and people started wearing ugly masks to confuse the the spirits and keep the dead from identifying them. Over the years the festival came to have a sinister significance with ghost, witches, goblins and demons of all kinds believed to be wandering about. Turnips were hollowed out and a light placed in them to act as lanterns.

There are many variations of a Celtic myth where an unsavory character named Stingy Jack made a deal with the Devil so that he would never go to hell. When Jack died, God would not let such a scoundrel into heaven and the Devil would not allow him into hell. The Devil gave him an ember of coal and sent him away. Jack placed it in a carved out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since, Jack o’ the lantern.

The carving of jack-o-lanterns has become a major part of the holiday and a symbol of the season. A cousin who lives in Frankfort, Michigan sent photos of the pumpkin carving competition in his town.

Frankfort takes its jack-o-lanterns seriously!

Frankfort takes its jack-o-lanterns seriously!

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Frankfort Pumpkins 007

One of the great pleasures of living in Ipswich is the wealth of community activities and the enthusiastic participation of its people. I grew up in a small town but lived for some time in cities. Although there is so much available in a city, theater, music, museums, etc. Small towns have a kind of energy that is special.

The Fourth of July Parade, Old Ipswich Days, Strawberry Festivals, Concerts at the Castle, Tuesday Nights Downtown, the Chowderfest and Ipswich Illuminated are just some of the events that bring neighbors and friends together..

I went to Ipswich Illuminated last night. It was truly a community event with crowds of people walking along the river and across the Hall-Haskell Visitor Center’s green on paths lit by paper bag lanterns. The river was aglow with bonfires fed constantly by a fleet of nearly invisible kayakers. Individuals could light a “Wish Candle” and have it set afloat to move with the current and tide. It was magical to see the hundreds of little lights floating in the water around the bonfires.

Live music, art, poetry, food and people having fun. Children and adults danced and laughed and enjoyed the night. Best of all for me was running into old friends and acquaintances that I seldom see.

Orv Giddings and his band playing on the Riverwalk in front of the wonderful murals depicting the history of Ipswich

Orv Giddings and his band playing on the Riverwalk in front of the wonderful murals depicting the history of Ipswich

Bonfires and floating wishes in the river.

Bonfires and floating wishes in the river.

Paper lanterns at Sawmill Point.

Paper lanterns at Sawmill Point.

At Sawmill Point the music of Ben Staples and Friends had everyone tapping their toes.

At Sawmill Point the music of Ben Staples and Friends had everyone tapping their toes.

A photograph has the power to evoke memories in a way that few other things do.

Last week we found a photo taken in December 1979 in front of the orchard barn. It was the year we bought the farm. The sign on the doors say Goodale Orchards. It wasn’t until another ten years that we officially changed the name to Russell Orchards.

It is a December day, I’m certain because there is a wreath a door. Max is standing in front with an old tractor and a pick-up truck. Studying the picture, I’m transported back to those early years. It was an exciting and scary time for us. In June we had left behind our comfortable suburban life in Andover and moved with children and animals to Ipswich. Our farming lives began.

That December the store was open every day. All of the apples were bagged for sale. The store itself was the ell that we now call the wine tasting room. There was no heat, each day I shivered while I bagged a couple dozen five and ten pound bags of apples and arranged them on the shelves along with jugs of cider. I left a basket with $25. in change on the counter. Business was too sparse to actually spend the day in the store, customers came in, helped themselves and left their payment in the basket. Periodically I’d come from the house to retrieve it.

Barn

The back of the barn. The cider mill was added here in 1982.

The back of the barn. The cider mill was added here in 1982.

The gas pump still stands but nothing else remains the same.

The gas pump still stands but nothing else remains the same.

October Colors

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These are busy weeks at the orchard. I could use that as an excuse for such a long time between postings but it’s really that I haven’t been inspired to write.

I have had time to read three volumes of the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante. When I opened the first one, My Brilliant Friend, I was initially put off by three pages listing all the people in the book and their relationship to others. The Italian names seemed like they were nearly the same. Gino and Nino and Alfonso and Antonio just to name a few. Adding to the confusion, the two main characters have their real names and then the names given to them by each other. Confusing? You bet. I decided just to read and forget the complex families and who belonged to which family. I was soon deeply engrossed in the story and got people sorted out.

I would be deep in the fourth and final book, The Story of the Lost Child if I wasn’t so far down on the library waiting list.

It has been a disappointing few weeks for visitors coming to New England for our glorious fall colors. My cousins from Florida drove through upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and all the way north along the Maine coast and saw only a few trees turning yellow. We’re finally getting some lovely colors here in Eastern Massachusetts.DSCN1145

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Apples, Apples

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After being away for a couple of weeks I walked through the orchard Tuesday morning. The lovely fragrance of ripe apples greeted me. The apples hang heavily from the trees with colors ranging from the yellow/green Gingergolds to the bright red Empires and every shading in between. This morning the heat wave has broken and it feels like apple picking weather. Tomorrow the orchards will be open for pick-your-own and the fall season is officially underway.

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In the late 1960s crisp cool nights and sunny September days meant it was time to take the children apple picking. The seven of us would pile into the station wagon and head to New Hampshire where we would wander through a forest of large apple trees picking fruit from as high as we could reach. The younger children would be lifted up by Daddy so they could pick. A gallon of cider accompanied us home along with two huge bags of apples.

It didn’t seem hard to get rid of so many apples. Apple pies, apple crisp, apple sauce and apple butter kept the kitchen busy for days. The children’s lunch bags were livened with apples as well as applesauce cookies and bars. We had no idea in those days that we would ever own an orchard. Today our trees are mostly dwarf or semi-dwarf so children can easily pick their apples without an assist from Daddy. I love to see families enjoying a day in the orchard, it makes me a bit nostalgic.

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More dessert

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One of the best food discoveries from our trip to Stockholm was the dessert, Pannacotta. It is apparently an Italian dessert that is quite common but I’d never eaten it. It was so smooth and light and delicious that I kept trying it in different restaurants.

Once home I was determined to replicate it. I found many recipes online. They all stressed how simple it is to make and how versatile it is. Although a simple vanilla flavor it can be served with any kind of fruit or chocolate or other sauces.

Some recipes called for boiling the cream, others said to just bring the cream to a simmer. I’ve always thought that cream shouldn’t be boiled so used the simmer method. My first two attempts fell short.

My first effort was a disappointment. The flavor was perfect but a thin layer had formed on the top disrupting the smoothness that should have been perfect. I tried again using another recipe, this time it didn’t set well enough to unmold although the flavor was again great.

Undaunted, I tried again combining two recipes to achieve success. I softened the gelatin in milk, heated it just enough to melt the gelatin and then removed from the heat and added the other ingredients. The whole process didn’t take more than five minutes. I did have some trouble unmolding the ramekins. I set the base in warm water and ran a thin knife around the edge but it was difficult. Several recipes suggested oiling the molds with a thin coat of oil or butter. I’ll try that next time.

Pannacotta

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
½ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place milk in a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin on top to soften. Once softened, heat milk until just under a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir until the gelatin is fully melted. Add cream, sugar and vanilla and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Allow the mixture to reach room temperature, pour into ramekins or small sauce dishes or wine glasses and refrigerate until set, 4 hours or longer.

Makes 6 servings.

Pannacotta with raspberry sauce.

Pannacotta with raspberry sauce.

Pannacotta unmolded from ramekin.

Once upon a time, say from the time I was born until my children left home, dessert was a necessary part of every dinner. It could be simple, cookies or some fresh fruit but more often it was pie or cake or some other confection and if it was buried in whipped cream, so much the better. Pineapple Upside Down Cake, warm, moist, spicy gingerbread, strawberry shortcake, all served with whipped cream. Fruit tarts and pies were served with ice cream or if I didn’t have time to bake, a chocolate pudding served warm with vanilla ice cream melting in the center was a favorite.

These days dessert is something we rarely eat. Occasionally Sunday evening is a time for a little ice cream while we watch Masterpiece Theater but pies and cakes and elaborate desserts are only for birthdays or the occasional company meal.

In Sweden we surprised ourselves by frequently ordering dessert. One of the best and the most simple was a Berry Meringue dessert. It consisted of a meringue smothered in lightly sweetened whipped cream, drizzled with a sauce of pureed strawberries and garnished with the fresh fruit.

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Strawberry season is over but we have an abundance of raspberries. I love them but the seeds are a problem for my teeth. I’ve been puréeing them to make a simple sauce. It is easy to make and is great over ice cream or a slice of white cake. I also use it to make a nice summery drink. A spoonful of the purée, vodka and soda stirred with ice in a tall glass.

Raspberry Sauce

Mash fresh or frozen raspberries with sugar to taste. Once the juices have been released purée the fruit in a food processor or with a hand blended. Put the puréed berries into a sieve and use the back of a spoon to push the fruit through leaving the seeds in the sieve.

A pint of berries will make almost a cup of sauce. It will keep several days in the refrigerator and freezes well.

Iceland

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All good things must end and so our adventures in Sweden and Iceland are now just memories. The final part of the trip took us to Iceland where we were awed by the magnificence and grandeur of the landscape. It is vast and rugged and wild and beautiful. I had thought that I’d feel about Iceland much like I feel about Alaska, I’m glad I’ve been there but have no desire to go back. Instead I would eagerly return to Iceland.

I was surprised to learn that the entire population is only 320,000 in an area as large as all of the British Isles combined. Two-thirds of the people live in the greater Reykjavik area. That leaves the remaining residents scattered throughout the country, almost all along the coast. The interior is covered with glaciers and mountains and rock.
Geothermal heating provides most of the heat for homes and industry. Even many of the sidewalks in Reykjavik are heated in the winter to be kept ice free. The country is very young and still changing with glaciers melting and volcanic activity ongoing.
The Icelandic language seems very difficult to me but fortunately nearly everyone there speaks English. The language was brought by the Norwegian and Celtic settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. Iceland was so isolated that it has had little outside influences to change it. Other Norwegian and Celtic countries languages have been modified over the years by the influence of other European countries.

Moss covered lava fields cover vast areas. Outside of farming areas along the coast, there is little vegetation.

We took two day long tours. Along the way We passed through the town of Selfoss. With a population of 6500 it is the largest “city” outside of the Reykjavik area. That’s only half the population of Ipswich. Wow. It is in an area of rich farmland making it the major shopping area.

One of our tours took us to the popular sites of Gullfoss, Geyser and Thingvellir National Park. All spectacular sights. Geyser is an area of many acres filled with bubbling, boiling springs and geysers. The waterfall Gullfoss is maybe the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland. It has a boardwalk and stairs leading down to viewpoints and a restaurant but has not been otherwise commercialized.

Gullfoss, wider, higher and more powerful than Niagara Falls.

Gullfoss, wider, higher and more powerful than Niagara Falls.

We only stopped in Thingvellir National Park for a brief visit but I was captivated by the landscape. Great cliffs, valley’s, a lake, rivers and huge cracks in the earth. It would have been worth a whole day’s visit. Game of Thrones fans might be interested to know that some scenes were filmed there and in other parts of the country.

A crack or fissure in the earth.

A crack or fissure in the earth.

The second tour took us along the south coast. Along the highway on one side was rich green farmland dotted with sheep and horses, on the other side tall cliffs with snow topped mountains in the background. We visited a glacier, two other waterfalls and a black sand beach with an unusual columnar basalt wall at the back.

Black beach with a cave and cliff of vertical rock formations caused by lava flowing and cooling.

Black beach with a cave and cliff of vertical rock formations caused by lava flowing and cooling.

Our final stop was the Skógar Folk Museum. The most interesting feature of the open air museum were the sod covered houses. The houses are of wood but only the fronts are visible. The rest was encased in sod with a few windows peeking through.

Skógar Folk Museum. One of the sod covered houses.

Skógar Folk Museum. One of the sod covered houses.

In addition to reindeer herding, my Swedish friend, Sonja, arranged a unique trip for us. Sixteen women from six countries were introduced to the Sami culture in several ways. We crossed the Arctic Circle on the first day of our trip. We would not stay in hotels or eat meals in restaurants.

Our first night was spent in a small hostel. We drove forty minutes over dirt roads to dinner at the home of Sonja’s cousin Valborg. She had prepared sliced fresh salmon that she had marinated, cheese, three kinds of homemade traditional breads and vegetable soup. The vegetables were grown in her garden and preserved in a cold cellar over the winter. Turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions along with seasonings. Dessert was an assortment of rich pastries that she had baked.

Valborg's home overlooking a lake.

Valborg’s home overlooking a lake.

Dinner at Valborg's home. Tables in the living room and dining room for sixteen.

Dinner at Valborg’s home. Tables in the living room and dining room for sixteen.

Valborg is widowed but still lives alone on the farm where she’s always lived. Although she no longer keeps animals, she still maintains a large garden. Buses from the city, 150 kilometers away come once a week, It takes careful planning to make a shopping excursion. Valborg’s house is painted a dark red which seems to be typical. We saw similar houses every place we went. When we returned to our hostel at midnight, it was still daylight.

Our accommodation for two nights was in the small village of Pelkam, one of the tiny, wide spread villages that dot the vast forests of the north. It was once a thriving Sami community now only three families remain. The last children born in Pelkam were born in the early 1980s. We slept in bunk beds in a small hostel, once a school house. In this remote area children sometimes lived days away from a school. They lived at the school and went home only for Christmas and summer. The Sami women prepared our meals in the hostel kitchen. Breakfasts of oatmeal, sliced ham and cheese and an assortment of breads. Lunch and dinners were meat, reindeer, pork or salmon with vegetables. They must have vast freezers, the village is 70 kilometers from the nearest town with shops or a food market.

The dirt roads and vast forests of Laponia

The dirt roads and vast forest of Laponia

There are very few signs of habitation in this part of the country. Henrik, a Sami reindeer owner led us on a forest walk and explained the needs of the herd. Reindeer live on a kind of lichen that grows on trees in virgin forest. Trees should be at least one hundred years old to support deer herds adequately. The livelihood of the Sami people is being threatened from two directions. There are plans for a huge wind farm in the grazing area and there is widespread deforestation, probably for paper production. The old trees are being replaced with fast growing pines imported from Canada but they don’t provide the right conditions to support the reindeer.

The lichen that feeds the reindeer. It hangs from old trees.

The lichen that feeds the reindeer. It hangs from old trees.

Reindeer herding isn’t the usual sort of topic for Grammy but this was an experience I have to share. I have a friend who is one of the Sami people, the indigenous people of Lapland. Lapland is an area above the Arctic Circle encompassing northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Originally nomadic, the Sami now own and maintain herds of reindeer that range over millions of acres of dense forest. Each spring the reindeer are rounded up so the owners can identify and “notch” the new calves.

My friend arranged for a group of women who are part of an international friendship organization to spend a week visiting the Sami people and learning about the culture. We spent an evening at one of the “round-ups”. It was an amazing experience.

Picture Grammy in the center of several hundred reindeer swirling around while the Sami men lasso the calves to “notch” their ears. We’ve driven 30 or 40 kilometers through the wilderness, over dirt tracks, to a place where there are many cars and trucks along the road. We find a group of people gathered around a camp fire. There are long birch logs covered with deer skins for benches. Reindeer meat is cooking on a round sheet of metal, a grill of sorts. There are many men and women who will be involved in the round-up.

We’ve been invited for supper and to watch the marking of the new calves by the owners. We eat reindeer meat, it’s been lightly smoked, sliced very thin and cooked over the fire. We have salad and potato salad and potato soup, everything is delicious.

After a wait the deer are finally corralled into a small enclosure. The herd has been brought from miles away into a larger enclosure a few nights before and now into a smaller one. Once contained, the men go in with long poles that have a sort of lasso on the end. This herd is owned by a group of five families. Each family has their own reindeer and will claim the calves belonging to their deer. When they identify a calf that belongs to them, they lasso it by the back legs and cut notches in the ears. Every owner has his/her distinctive. patented mark.

The reindeer are totally non-aggressive.  Soon there were small children in the midst of the herd and also fifteen awestruck European and Australian women, and one American. I watched while a calf’s ears were being notched and a four year old girl petted it.

One of the Sami women stirring reindeer meat on the grill.

One of the Sami women stirring reindeer meat on the grill.

The men looking for their own calves.

The men looking for their own calves.

Four year old petting the calf while her uncle and dad hold it and mom snaps a photo.

Four year old petting the calf while her uncle and dad hold it an mom snaps a photo.

This is also the time of year when it is daylight all night. We left late, 11:30PM, the claiming of the calves would go on for hours longer.

Herring

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It’s hard work being a tourist. So many things to see and do, decisions to make and advice to follow but we’re managing.
We are in love with Stockholm, it is a beautiful city with many parks and museums with water every place we turn.
The meals that we’ve eaten have been wonderful, it’s hard to believe that we aren’t seeing any obese people. Everyone seems to be relatively trim and fit. All the walking and cycling must help. I don’t think we see more than one or two really overweight people a day.
Herring is a traditional Swedish food. Here, as elsewhere we’ve visited in Europe, a “starter” seems to be the custom to begin a meal. Much more prevalent than at home I think. Last night we tried a herring starter. It consisted of herring prepared four ways, tiny dishes with a couple of bites of herring in each dish. Pickled, fried Baltic herring, salted, and in a mustard sauce. They were accompanied by tiny warm boiled potatoes, a bit of cream cheese and a bit of a strong cheddar type cheese. All were delicious and just the right amount for two.

We'd eaten some before I thought to take a photo. Too good to wait.

We’d eaten some before I thought to take a photo. Too good to wait.

Stockholm at Midsummer sounded like a fun place to be. A number of years ago I had spent Midsummer’s Eve in Vilnius, the main city of Lithuania. It was a lively place. Shops and museums stayed open all night with concerts and festivities going on throughout. I had imagined this was a custom in the Baltic countries. A celebration of light.
In Stockholm it is decidedly different. Friday though Sunday many shops are closed, including the market where we buy food. We were told that everyone goes out of town for the holiday. Apparently to vacation homes or to visit family.
Plenty of tourists remain in the city however and all the interesting sites are open and busy.
The city of Stockholm is comprised of fourteen islands with Lake Mälaren on one side flowing into the Baltic Sea. We are renting an apartment on the fifth floor of an old building in the Södermalm section of the city. From our window we can see the harbor with ferries criss-crossing to other sections of the city.
Even without Midsummer celebrations, there is a lot happening. There are over 100 museums, enough to keep visitors busy for months. Daylight lingers late into the night, it never gets completely dark. Last night we looked out to see a balloon drifting past a tower just a couple of blocks from the apartment.

The Baltic Sea from our window.

The Baltic Sea from our window.


Balloon drifting past at 13:30PM

Balloon drifting past at 13:30PM

Babies

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We have sweet additions to our barnyard. Daisy a miniature donkey and her baby, Gingergold arrived the end of last week and settled in quickly. Baby Ginger is pretty cute, she wanders away from Mama for a few minutes and then runs back to her. Earlier in the summer our geese presented us with a bunch of little goslings. Watching the babies being shepherded along reminded me of the children’s book, Make Way For Ducklings.

Daisy and Ginger

Daisy and Ginger

Ginger

Ginger

In a few short weeks the orchard has been transformed. From rabbits standing on snow drifts nibbling treetops to trees loaded with tiny apples. Unfortunately full bloom occurred while we were visiting my sister in Michigan so we missed it this year.
The orchard in bloom is a stunning sight. One day there are little fat green buds tipped with white, a few days later there’s an explosion of pink and white blossoms. One would think that after the hard winter the bloom would be later than usual but it was right on schedule in mid-March.
We’ve been gorging on fresh asparagus. It is a treat to be once again eating vegetables a few hours from the garden. Usually I peel the lower ends of the asparagus and quickly cook them in a shallow pan with a little water but occasionally I like to make Asparagus with Butter Sauce and Parmesan Cheese.
This is a recipe that I first had at an Easter dinner eleven years ago. Lorraine Weinberg, a friend from Andover, had prepared it. She shared the recipe with me before she moved to New York City and we lost touch. I don’t think she’d mind my passing it on.


Asparagus with Butter Sauce and Parmesan Cheese

1 pound of asparagus

Peel the tough outer skin from the ends and steam, covered, for 2 to 5 minutes until bright green and just tender. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Pat the stalks dry and line them in a shallow layer in a baking dish.

Butter Sauce

¼ cup butter
1 clove minced garlic
1 finely chopped shallot
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice with zest from the lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the Asparagus Butter over the asparagus.
Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Broil 1 minute until lightly browned
Serve immediately

Last year we were surprised by the arrival of a Baltimore Oriole on May 11th. It was the first one we’d ever seen in our yard. I quickly put out an orange and hoped he’d stay. Only a week with us and then he disappeared.

Last year's oriole

Last year’s oriole

I prepared early this year, putting out an orange slice and grape jelly on May 1. The day before yesterday we were thrilled to see two Baltimore Orioles pecking at the goodies. Max filled the hummingbird feeder last week and kept lamenting that the hummingbirds didn’t seem to be back. Yesterday when I got home from work a hummingbird was perched on the feeder sucking up the nectar. Now if only some bluebirds would notice our bluebird houses.

I’ve never been particularly interested in birds but we have a hanging feeder just outside our window. I must admit that sitting at the breakfast table watching the finches and nuthatches and titmouse and woodpeckers that compete for the four perches on the feeder is a lovely way to start the morning.

Yesterday was Kim the Fishman’s (check my blog from October 2014) day to deliver fish. It was haddock. Last week I had made a recipe with fish coated in a spicy sauce. It overpowered the delicate flavor of the fish. Last night’s dish was a success. I had some crushed cornflakes in the pantry. Mixed with Panko bread crumbs, melted butter, some fresh dill and minced parsley it made a great topping for the haddock.

Corn Flake Encrusted Fish Fillets

2 fish fillets, (haddock, cod or other firm white fish)
1/4 cup crushed cornflakes
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (unseasoned)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Salt and pepper the fillets. Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish along with the wine. Stir all the other ingredients together until well moistened and mixed. Pat this mixture on the top of the fillets.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the fish flakes and the topping is browned. The length of baking time depends on the thickness of the fillets.

Our year at the orchard begins this Friday when we open for our 36th season. Courtney and Vanessa have stocked the shelves, Sarah’s getting the kitchen organized and Tina has filled the wine rack. Devan has greens ready in the green house and is getting the garden planted now that the ground is warmer. Snowy white aprons are waiting for the bakers, the floors are gleaming with new surface and wood has been split for the fireplace.
Our Jamaican workers arrived last week. We’re always happy when they return. They are like family after all these years. They came a bit later this year, there wasn’t much they could do with the ground still deep in snow April first when they usually arrive.
We were relieved, once the record breaking snow depth had melted, that the trees survived without major damage. At times snow had almost completely buried the them. This was the first time we ever had rabbits nibbling on the tender tips of tree tops.
While the family here was struggling with the snow, Max and I were basking in the Caribbean sunshine but I spent a lot of time thinking about the orchard and our early days here.
In 1979 there was no bakery, no small fruit and no winery. There was one big barn, no other buildings and no ponds. We opened at the end of August selling apples, pears and cider. We were total novices at farming or running a business. We are good examples of people on a fast learning curve. It was a fun and at times, stressful, venture but when we open Friday we’ll once again be happy that our vision came true.

The back of the barn, 1979. Today the cider mill is here.

The back of the barn, 1979. Today the cider mill is here.

1979.  Today this photo would show the equipment barn, the animal barn and the pond.

1979. Today this photo would show the equipment barn, the animal barn and the pond.