20 January 2013

One Mile South

The chickens rise with the sun
but do not venture into the uniform white –
there is no more earth to scratch.

The farmer’s breath is taken with the violent
gust wrapping its arms around her, into her.
Matted hair and flushed cheeks
her face weeps without sadness.
Or for the brilliance of the day:
the muted voice of the land
the afterthought of a tree on the horizon,
weeping, too, against the north wind.

As darkness befalls the hill
snow-cover lightens the early dusk.
Nebulae wink from a perfect crest
above the barn
to halt even the most self-absorbed.
A moment too long in the cold
just to look on beyond the boots
and the frozen muck, up to the Greater.
Biting, writhing frigidity
       (there aren’t enough words to describe)
eats through layers
of wool and other fiber
to find its way up her belly and down her neck.
The farmer must smash the goat’s ice bucket
with a hammer just to be lashed
by the shrieking water beneath.

Every day twice a day
she breaks the ice but the hole
gets smaller.

Written 4 January 2013

27 November 2012

My neighbors' turkeys

Have I told you about my neighbors? 

Nora and Theo, two young, new farmers, live a mile south of me and raise meat animals.  It's almost like we planned to create our own Dudley young farming commune.  Who wants to join us?  Twenty miles south of here in Phoenixville, Connecticut, Arvind and Margherita are making wine, so we just need someone on the bread and the beer and someone on fruits and vegetables.

Aurélien and I didn't actually know Nora and Theo when we found our farm.  But thanks to FarmFresh.org, I found their website and decided to send them an email.  'Maybe we'll become farming friends!' I thought.  That email was the right thing to do.  We've already started trading equipment: 'Use my ladder while I borrow your pickup truck to carry my new-to-me 400-gallon milk tank from Connecticut back to Dudley.  Oh, I got your pickup stuck in my field?  Um.  Can I make you dinner...?  Arvind can you come help me get this damned tank out of my field?'  Yeah... so maybe my neighbors have been more helpful to me than I have been to them, especially when it comes to encouragement. 

Nora is thrilled that she is pretty much through with her first year of farming.  Everything is new, she explains, so everything is exhausting.  After Thanksgiving, she confessed, she's not doing anything.  For a while.  Nora tells me that my first year will be the hardest so everything is only going to get easier as routines are established.  Arvind, along with offering my Dad and me the use of his tractor, reminds me that I can not and should not try do everything - fix everything there is to fix on the farm - in the first year.  Which is what I was trying to do before I burnt out. 

So while I feel utterly useless and in too deep, it has been a great reassurance to know that a few people are here keeping me from drowning.  I had the pleasure of lending Nora and Theo a hand just before and during the holiday as they needed a farmsitter to be able to spend Thanksgiving away from the farm.  Meanwhile, I decided to break my toe a week before my farmsitting commitment because I like to make things especially hard for myself and others, obviously.  Thankfully, my mom jumped on the opportunity to help me help Nora and Theo and I was very impressed by her fearlessness in the face of farm menagerie.  If you don't already know, none of this would even be possible in the present it weren't for my parents.  

These things came spewing out through my keyboard when all I wanted was to tell you that Nora and Theo got written up in the National Young Farmers' Coalition Blog and I'm very proud of them.  It's snowing in Dudley and it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

05 November 2012

Pasteurized alternatives

My friend recently posed a question that I'd like to share here:

Hi darlin',

I am going to a baby shower this weekend and wanted to make this bread pudding
(I made it a few years ago and it is so good!). But- my very quick research on google tells me that Comte and Emmenthaler cheeses are unpasteurized. Now, while I don't think something bad will happen if my pregnant friend has a bit of unpasteurized cheese, I'd rather not make something she won't eat or force her to eat something she doesn't want! My question to you, my favorite cheese mongeress: Is there a pasteurized substitute for this type of cheese? (or will I find if I head to Whole Foods or somewhere with good cheese that pasteurized versions of these cheeses exist?) I suppose I could omit the cheese, too, but that's no fun, either!



Hi Jamie,

Thank you for your question!  I've been thinking about this common dilemma.  When you're looking to substitute one cheese for another, it's always a safe bet to stick to the region or style of cheese that you want to mimic.  Comté and Emmenthal are alpine cheeses made in France and Switzerland respectively.  While you're not ever going to get these cheeses in a pasteurized option due to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (a cheese recipe protection), you may be able to find pasteurized alpine-style cheeses.  A Jarlsberg, found in most grocery stores, could take the place of Emmenthal, while Pleasant Ridge Reserve made by Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin could substitute the Comté.

Meanwhile, since we are in Massachusetts, I would recommend you look closer to home for your Swiss substitutes.  Robinson Farm in Hardwick (http://www.robinsonfarm.org/cheese.html) has a selection of alpine-style cheeses and I think you can't go wrong if you try their Prescott, Robinson Family Swiss, or Barndance.  Ray Robinson has managed to get his cheeses in many stores now, including Russo's in Watertown and a number of shops in Cambridge.  But if all else fails, I'd recommend going to a cheese shop with a good selection and asking the mongers behind the counter what they have that's pasteurized and alpine style.  They will find you a solution.  And always remember to ask for a taste to see if you like it!

I hope this helps,


thank you! Feel free to put this on your blog, too! :)