Happenings

Though the world is a little crazy – some have more time than they know what to do with and some have less, as they juggle (and worry) more. Yes, it’s true, our upheaval has been a little less but we’re no less worried (sometimes more from the panic and the increase in gun sales) and eeking out a living on your own is no small matter (or always easy, or sane, or as dependable as you may think). Even less so in a world when contact/delivery is suspended and we will not qualify for any assistance. We rely on your patronage (and friendship in many cases), generosity, and community – now more than ever. So, hopefully, we can figure out how to get the goods to you, how to create more avenues for communal activity, and how to take care of ourselves (all of us, no matter the circumstances, in whatever capacity we are able). Now is a great time for your input – what goods are you finding you would prefer to buy local, from us? And is a general meeting place/ market spot attractive for pick up?

So, what is new in this age of uncertainty? We’re pretty busy here, still mostly bread, seedlings, and maple (lovely variation over the boil time). There’s a delicious pink Kimchi calling you…The Spring snow last night paused any inklings we might have had to begin preparing gardens but that work is coming up fast. Many projekts on the house have been put on hold (due to finances and delivery suspensions for the supplies). We’re getting by learning about grafting techniques, medicinal barks and roots, and experimenting with things like bread recipes (maybe bagels!) and seed-starting tweaks. Chickens come early June (and still we have no coop!). We are considering submitting grant requests for natural ash-borer and longhorn beetle solutions for tree health (before the sugar maple becomes a dire victim). And we both kinda can’t wait for my school semester to be over so we can do a Spring fast.

We wish you health, safety, and sanity.

Monday’s Muse

JASMINE
by Jane Hirshfield

Almost the twenty-first century” —
how quickly the thought will grow dated,
even quaint.

Our hopes, our future,
will pass like the hopes and futures of others.

And all our anxieties and terrors,
nights of sleeplessness,
griefs,
will appear then as they truly are —

Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea scent of jasmine.

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Recipe Thursday: Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dried Plums and Almonds

Happy Spring!

It’s not a sunny new Spring day here but it is Spring! Tonite will mark the even but ascendant time of the sun and sky – renewal, birth, cycles of new growth. And like all new babies, the earth needs tending to – nourishment, immune strengthening, and extra care. We’ve been ignoring the signs for a while, as a species and especially culture, and not that we are the world’s parents (that’s a little too anthropocentric for me, besides, it’s mutual, for sure – the plants and air and soil are as much a part of us, as they care for us, as well) but we should step up like we do for every other subjugated entity under existential threat.

With all that said (I can’t help it, it’s Spring – a freshness and attention to care seems key), we will celebrate this weekend with canning more luscious Maple Syrup, taking care of seedlings, decorating with paper flowers and colored eggs, and if it stops raining- a seasonal hike and maybe even some raking out the garden, family time with games/puzzles and maybe even a snuggly movie. We like to have some celebratory foods, too!

This year we’re making a Moroccan Tagine with lamb and prunes (sorry – dried plums, they got an upgrade a few years ago), and homemade flatbreads. Maybe a lemon pound cake. Fresh green Spring salad. I’ve been in love with Morocco since I was young and always dreamed of going there. Early on when we lived in Burlington we were shopping in Montpelier at Rivendell Books (apparently since has merged with Bear Pond) and found the 1st Edition Couscous cookbook from the great Paula Wolfert (I’ve since come to adore, having a few of her cookbooks) – in the late 1960’s/early ’70’s she went all over Morocco to translate homecooking to English speaking cooks and modern (ish) techniques. She doesn’t go very far with the latter which I love – she is a lover of clay pot cooking around the world, too (me too!) and authentic ingredients. Many of our celebrations feature Moroccan dishes. We were very lucky and honored to be invited on a family vacation to Morocco for a month many many moons ago and it was glorious –  the hospitality, the food, the sites – amazing.

Welcome Spring –  let us all hope for care, connection, and growth!

Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds (Serves 6-8)

3 – 3.5 lbs shoulder of lamb (or beef chuck), cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of pulverized saffron
Salt to taste, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (separated into 2-1/4 tsp)
3 Tbsp grated onion
1 lb pitted prunes (Soak if needed for 20 min in cold water but most nowadays are soft)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup toasted almonds

Can also add 4-5 sprigs cilantro (during initial casserole cooking period), 1 cup finely sliced onion (add after tagine has cooked an hour), and 4 Med tart Apples (quartered, cored, and sauteed with 1 Tbsp honey, a pinch of cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp butter until soft and glazed, decorate finished tagine) or substitute apples and prunes for 2 lbs fresh apricots (just heat in sauce at last minute).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, position rack in lower center of oven. Melt butter, mix with oil, saffron, S&P, ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and grated onion. In cast iron or other heavy-bottom pan, brown meat gently to release aroma of spices. Add just enough water to cover, bring to a boil then transfer to tagine or dutch oven, cover and bake for an hour. Drain prunes (if needed to soak), add to meat with 3 Tbsp honey, remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon, uncover and bake until prunes swell and sauce has reduced to 1 cup (add  more water if necessary to make it so).

To serve, arrange on serving dish (it is customary to eat directly from the same platter, using flatbreads or french bread to scoop tagine with the right hand from your own ‘zone’) scattering almonds and sesame seeds on top. Drizzle with remaining Tbsp honey.

Serve with simple and simply dressed (lemon vinaigrette) microgreen salad, maybe with thinly sliced red onion and preserved lemon rind. Enjoy!

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Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

I read somewhere the other day that ‘we need to come up with activities to keep the kids busy right now while they are not in school’ – hmmmm, I have my doubts about this kind of system that doesn’t allow or foster children to be their own little imaginative selves or that we need to somehow always ‘entertain’ them. Granted we are situated in a way that allows our child to be relatively feral.

I’m sure many of you are trying to juggle working from home and parenting full time which is a real struggle (I live that every day, I get it) and for those of you with multiple children, my heart goes out to you. Now is a good time to look at how we interact with each other and make sure we’re extra gentle – with our children, too. It’s hard to be growing and confused and then have your schedule dismantled. We might see a few days ‘down’ to readjust as a good thing – our adult slacking capabilities kick right in – like a mini vacation. But they don’t have that understanding quite yet – doing ‘nothing’ isn’t nearly as interesting to them. And that’s when the crazy can sometimes begin.

If possible, get them outside – where they can get fresh air, vitamin D, and be crazy. Here it’s Mud Season – and though that might not excite some of you – most of them love it. Mud is super sensory and is better than play-doh for making people, houses, monsters, mudgloos decorated with sticks and leaves – or fairy house building for Spring faeries with berries and milkweed fluff. Outdoor ball games, bike riding, a walk in the woods – mud tracking (though our woods still have snow), seeing if anybody is waking up, plant/tree identification. And yes, some of these activities require your attention but is that such a bad thing – with all the crazy, you could probably use a little play and fresh air, too.

Right now our inside play looks like Tinker crates (Kiwi sets – she made a ‘lava lamp’ this week), puzzles, games, baking and cooking, seed starting, and my favorite distraction for my child when I really need to focus – a bath. Give my kid some scissors, string, and cardboard and she remakes the world. A little paint and WOWZA – art everywhere; not such a bad thing. And every now and again, we need to all stop (as a family) whatever we are doing and have a dance party! It just has to happen, pretty much every day.

Stay sane people.

Happenings

(from J) Folks, I hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but things are getting a little weird out there. Here at Rock Bottom it is business as usual. Boiling sap, starting seeds, baking bread and doing our best to take it day by day and remember the good things in life. Due to concerns around the coronavirus and more directly, a frankly great sugaring season, I think we have decided to put off deliveries in hopes that things will settle down a bit on all counts.

Ok, onto sweeter things. I have a lovely batch of first-run maple syrup ready to go. Its a beautifully light and delicate batch, closer in viscosity to a simple syrup but with such utterly glorious flavor, almost floral in character but distinctly maple. This is not your grandfather’s pancake syrup (though it is delicious on them too). This is syrup crying out to sweeten cocktails, coffee, yogurt, pastries, you name it. I am continuing to boil and will do a batch of traditional maple syrup, thick and probably dark (because that’s how I like it).

Along with the syrup we will continue to offer our sourdough boules, crackers, and pizza dough, as well as flatbreads (not sourdough), vegan Kimchi, microgreens and other treats. I will send out another update with official quantity, pricing etc. next week as we are still sorting some of that out.

(from R) I think we should start a little farmstand out by the roadside for drive-by bread and sundries. Though we are across from a great little market that gets better day by day, our goods are a little different and can only add to their community bounty.

With all that said, we are wishing you safety, sanity, and deep thinking. The most important thing we can be doing right now is using our little grey cells to understand and make sensible decisions. Using compassion, generosity, and care – we should be able to get through this better than when we went in. Wishing you all love and growth and sweetness.

 

 

Monday Musings

Here’s a list of Big Great Books for your current state of mind:

The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu. Likely the first novel, written by a woman around 980 BCE in Japan about the courtlife of a man (clearly in contrast with the women) who is not perfect and in fact very flawed by his inheritance and his decisions. The poetry that carries the attendance to nature along is intriguing. Recommended by R – I’m in the midst now, this is my 3rd time getting back into it, it’s stylistically calming.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha – Miguel de Cervantes. You know you’ve always wanted the time to read this Spanish modern marvel written in the early 17thc. It might be the perfect panacea since it is broken into ‘stories’ that carry you along a pilgrimage for purpose and placement in the world. Recommended by J – It’s classicly long on every level but it’s worth the effort.

Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset. Written in the ’20’s but set in the Middle Ages in Norway, this story is for those who love the sweeping adventures of following a single character’s full life (based on ethnographic accounts of the area and written in modern realism). The beauty is that it is a woman’s perspective of a woman’s sense of morality and community. Undset won the Nobel. Recommended by R – Make sure to get the Nunnally translation. When I first read this, I read it as a historical novel but I see that it’s so much more now.

Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon. Outside the box but still a relatively straight forward narrative. Idiosyncratic & postmodern writing about rockets, WWII, free will, sexuality, paranoia. If it clears anything up for you – comic artist Frank Miller did one of the covers, Devo (Whip It) and Laurie Anderson wrote songs inspired by it, and Fred Tomaselli created a monumental art work. Considered one of the 20thc greatest works. Recommended by J – It’s a big crazy novel with 400 main characters and it’s funny without being comical.

Or finally pick up:

J’s Quick Big Book Recommendations:Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, Underworld by Don DeLillo, Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

R’s Quick Big Book Recommendations: Some Sing, Some Cry by Ifa Bayeza/Ntozake Shange, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie, Watership Down by Richard Adams

Not a novel fan (how are we friends? ha!) – Try Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the U.S., William Least Heat-Moon’s Roads to Quoz, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, or Alan Moore’s From Hell, or the Beastie Boys Book

Tuck in and tune in…

book porn

 

 

Recipe Thursday: Patatas a lo Pobre

We succumbed to the romanticism of Spain, for sure, even before we got to spend a month there 10 years ago (a very telling 10 years as we suspected halfway through our trip that we were pregnant – ‘my baby loves this Spanish wine!’, ‘my baby loves morcilla!’) – we read Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons, too. A travelogue about one of the early Genesis members heading off to Andalusia to raise sheep (and buying – maybe sight unseen? something we would likely do – a ramshackle farm with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no road directly to the house) whose cantankerous neighbor makes this meal for him.

Don’t make this a dish of perfection – the charm is in the raw simplicity. Hack the vegetables into chunks (but not so much you chop off a finger – ‘carefully’ hack), whole unpeeled garlic cloves – think camp style cooking (in fact, we have made it camping).

This dish is best served with a big cold cooked ham you can just saw chunks off of, a bowl of olives, some crusty bread, and lovely bottle of Spanish wine – if you really want to push this simple decadence over the edge, get a chunk of Tetilla cheese, too. This is sometimes one of our favorite anniversary meals (as it is pretty pricey to get a nitrate-free ham, we only do it once a year, and it’s worth it) – no dishes, just forks and wine glasses, a cast-iron pan, serving platter. Put on some Flamenco music, hang out by the fire (whether inside or outside – doesn’t matter)!

Patatas a lo Pobre

Serves 4 with Ham, 2 without

1/3 cup Spanish Olive Oil
4 medium Potatoes (about 1.5 pounds), peeled/unpeeled – up to you, cut into 2″ish chunks
1 large Onion, cut into chunks
head of Garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
2 or 3 Red and Green peppers, cut into large thick strips or chunks
Sea Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper

Heat a deep (preferably cast iron/what the old ladies call ‘spider’) frying-pan over medium-high heat until the oil is hot. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion chunks.

Add the garlic cloves. Add the potatoes. Add peppers. Stir gently, add generous pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Let the vegetables cook until the potatoes are tender, about 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in Pan. Alongside other goodies and relax.

Practice your Spanish.

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D for Duendesday!

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

She’s on the lookout for a new bike (the one she has is a bit small, they are so sized for age instead of size, is that a thing or am I just imagining), I think she wants to be a BMX star (damn that Shaun the Sheep) as she loves to set herself up on specific rises to the get the most speed or oomph, and the bumpier the better, she likes to slam on the brakes and let the back of the bike slide in the dirt to an abrupt but dramatic stop. As a parent, I do hope this activity comes with a love of safety wear, too.

She’s also an avid climber. Right now mostly on trees and rope – she fashions herself bungee cord climbers, ties her knots (she’s always been a pro at tying things, when she was really little I gave her a whole skein of bright orange yarn and left her be for a bit, when I returned the entire room was a giant orange spider’s web, she had weaved and tied to every surface she could latch onto). But the rule about climbing is – don’t get up into something you can’t get yourself down from, which mostly works.

It’s also teasingly Mud Season, though we might have another snow waiting in the clouds above for unsuspecting and overly hopeful gardeners, the mud is here so there is she. I frequently worry when she gets ‘too fabulous’ that somehow I have a fashionista or dainty princess (you’d think the above two paragraphs would quell this, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which way they’ll go). She will dress up in the fanciest dress possible – tons of tulle, layers, satin if possible and then go play in the mud. I win. Yay!!! Ha! Though there was no dress this week outside (she is getting more possessive of them, ever since the ‘silly putty debacle’) she did make some lovely mud people. I think they are all Mud-Mama’s (me) and that one guy who couldn’t behave himself and had to go to jail.

Happy Mud Season!

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