"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

May 29, 2012

The Perfect Peach: a Cautionary Tale

There once was a beautiful, plump and perfect peach with just the right amount of blush and not too hard and not too soft. Its skin had an unmatched smoothness and it was the only peach I could reach on our only tree that has bore fruit for the past several years since we've lived here, but never this early in the season (late May: unheard of for Kentucky peaches). Last year we picked too late and two limbs broke from the weight of them. Another year our neighbor was able to pick them while we spent our last summer in New Hampshire: he canned them and said they were picked at just the right time. Every year, I thank Miss Lillian for planting the tree so many years ago.

As I admired the fruit my brief thought was "Oh, the worms haven't found them yet!" I held the large peach and admired it before taking my first bite, savoring it as slowly as I could while the nectar ran down my chin and onto my hands. Never was anything more delicious or infused with everything natural: the warmth of an early Kentucky spring and summer, the country air, the good earth––and no pesticides! There were so many more peaches hanging above me but I needed my children, and a good step-ladder, to get to them. And so, the day after I plucked that first fruit from the tree, we picked all that we could reach: about a bushel.

The next day, as my intention was to turn them all into jam and cobbler and whatever we could muster before they spoiled, they all appeared with odd and different-sized bruises on them. I thought my sons had been too rough with the peaches while picking and so I blamed them, at first. But I soon realized as I cut into each peach that most had small worms in their pits. These tiny, damaging devils must have gotten in at another point in the peach's life cycle, burrowing and waiting for the right, ripe moment to attack from within. They, too, knew when the peaches were at their best expression of perfection as those nasty worms were eating the tree-ripened peaches from the inside out! Parts of the peaches remained acceptable to eat, in small chunks and sides, so I carefully cut those out and used them in a delicious batch of sangria.

But I was truly crest-fallen. How could this be? We're not orchardists by any stretch and yes, I appreciate organic produce. However, I can assure you, I will find any means possible to have a worm-free peach crop next year, even if it means being non-organic in the process. We have no idea what we ingest from the produce at the grocery store so better to have some understanding and control of what I put on my own garden, when necessary. I am hoping that there will be a semi-organic, not too chemical-driven solution––like the diatomaceous earth I just sprinkled on my broccoli and cabbage plants to rid them of the little green and damaging cabbage worms that can plague the brassicas.

It would seem that there is a parasite or foe for every living thing and worms are especially insidious to a species. It would also seem that rot seeks perfection. But the lesson here is that nothing is ever perfect and trying to attain it or even flirt with it––or even to deny it––gives perfection power. "When we make plans, God laughs." Isn't that how the expression goes?

Yet the memory of that one truly perfect and luscious peach, picked by my own hand and selfishly savored on one hot day in May will stay with me forever.

While I will patiently wait for the "Baby Gold" peaches to arrive later in August from Pennsylvania for our canning fest, I will eat and cook or bake with the larger and earlier southern varieties––including the ones ready now at nearby Haney's Appledale Farm. They might not be from our tree, or even organic, but they will do.

You come back when you're ready!


May 28, 2012

Valley View Farm Sangría !

This will be my shortest blog post ever. Go make this stuff. It takes ten minutes and then you percolate it all day in your fridge. In a gallon pitcher. Strain over crushed ice, add lemon slices or fruit of your choice (fruit skewers would be festive but we were thirsty), serve with something suitably Spanish or Mexican. This was our daughter's last night of a quite wonderful visit. I've been spoiled. I am blessed. I can be cranky but then I can be revived, too. This is one of life's greatest revivers. 

So this evening our sangria glasses were raised high and then sipped and slurped along with our delicious taco meal and homemade guacamole. Just remember: it's not fruit punch although it certainly tastes smooth and sweet going down. But it's red wine and fruit and it's all good.

Valley View Farm Sangría
[this recipe makes just over a half gallon of delicious liquid that will keep a few days if it makes it that far]

• 2 bottles red wine (I used Bully Hill® and Cupcake® red varieties)
• 2 sliced lemons
• 2 sliced limes
• 2 sliced oranges
• 1 pint berries (we used blackberries on hand: ok, so they aren't local...yet)
• 2 cups macerated peaches (from our own tree! early this year...)
• 4 Tbsp sugar
• 4 shots of Cointreau® (or other orange liquor)
• 1/4 cup of orange juice
Ale-8® or other ginger ale of your choice (or seltzer water, if desired)

Slice citrus fruits and put in bottom of pitcher. Add berries and peaches. Add sugar and stir well. Add Cointreau, orange juice and wine. Stir, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least eight hours.

Pour chilled mixture into tall glasses over crushed ice (about 2/3rds up the glass). Top with Ale-8 (or seltzer) and a lemon slice or other fruit morsel.

And speaking of fruit, you can mix it up. Add grapes or chunks of apple. Use different berries or cherries, fresh plums or nectarines. Pineapple works, too. Make it your own. Just use red wine like the Spaniards do.

Then drink. Enjoy. Ah, FRESCA! Ah, summer!

You come back when you're ready!


May 22, 2012

It's Official: We're a Farm Family

We bought our first land on our ridge almost five years ago and have added to, and around, it in the past four years since we have lived here (our New Hampshire house sold in September 2008, remarkably the week of the big financial crash, after we had moved to Kentucky in January of that year). We'll never be Kentucky natives but we have assimilated to the point where our neighbors, and many other local friends, seem to accept us, at least, and sometimes even like us, and, well, it just really feels like home despite how very much we are our own people from a different part of the world.

Taking a break from first haying to visit with neighbors new and old.

In the spring, when the weather is temperate, the flora magnificent and birdsong glorious––and it's not too hot––it is the easiest time of year to feel at home here. The real test is always at the holidays: the past few have been a bit melancholy and filled with longing for Christmases past. But I really do feel I've moved beyond that now, too, and having met some other "transplants" to the region also helps that immeasurably. An old friend––a pro at moving a lot––once told me that it takes about five years to feel at home in a new place. I'm beginning to think she's right.

When you move at midlife, as we did, far away from our familiar, from our own family home places (which we thought we'd grow old in––one of them, at least––but sold), and from people who knew us, well, these things take time. But moving here will prove to perhaps be one of the best decisions we will have made in our marriage.

Yours truly and my often unsung husband Temple on the tractor.

I haven't blogged in a while because we've been busy on the farm and because our daughter Adriana (or, Addie for short) has been visiting on a long stretch between seasonal resort jobs back in Vermont. It's been a pleasure to have her here and some more female energy around the place (heifer cows and laying hens just don't count) and we're proud of what she's accomplished on her own in four years: she deserves this rural respite. She's taken over the care and feeding of the chickens while she's been here and is just a generally great presence (who tolerates her ornery kinfolk, especially her perimenopausal mother, sometimes cranky father and very rambunctious brothers). Being altogether again for the longest stretch in five years has been galvanizing for our family: a needed dose of togetherness in a weary world.

Henry and Eli have been a huge help with haying again this year and they can drive the tractors and operate equipment like seasoned pros. We couldn't be on this farm without them and they are happy to help out: Henry, especially, has a real knack for staying with a task. At 14.5 he is taller than all of us and almost as tall as his father. Both are learning the value of responsibility on a farm and that they are a valuable part of helping to raise and tend to the pastured beef cattle on our farm. Most of the time we seem to have happy cows and happy boys.

In the past few months, in no particular order, we finished our first haying, the boys had their last week of school before a nice long summer break, we put up quarts of strawberries for the freezer, put in a garden and lots of flower pots, helped birth some cows, ran the farm (thank you, Henry!) while my husband and youngest son were in Colorado for over a week, got some paid writing assignments, and I have applied for (yet another potential) job off-ridge that would be a wonderful opportunity for the coming academic year, at least, and return me to my vocational roots. In short, I've been doing just about everything except blogging. I do have a significant "back blog" so I'll be posting more here and there in the weeks ahead to catch up with things around the farm.

In the meantime, you come back when you're ready!


A few weeks ago I called our county road agent about getting
some tractor and cattle signs placed at each end of our small county lane
(where our farm now straddles quite nicely). People don't often drive down it
but as we have cattle in the road on any given day, and tractors,
well, it seemed a good idea. I hate to add to any unnecessary sign pollution
but hey, they were free. And kudos to Pulaski County: they put them up the very day!