Friday, June 26, 2009

All's Well on the Farm

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Greetings from PEI!

Snapshot at sunset from our lane of the home across the road.
Hi Malcolm and Karen!

Boys out of school at the swimmin' hole - our pond on Dunn Creek

Pumping out the old well. We'll have the old hand pump working soon (I hope!)

This old well still puts out hundreds of gallons of spring water per hour...

...and the water is cold enough to chill beer to the perfect temperature!

Teenager emailing friends in SB. Army surplus field blouse makes good farm wear!

Wishing you well - wherever you may be! I'll be posting more soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coming Home From Away

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Lupines along the shore in Sturgeon

Susan Weeding the GIANT rhubarb outside our barn

The boys and their bikes.

Well summer is here. And father's day was a sweet success. The boys gave me their cards and a fine present I'll be using to grill over the pit this summer.

We've had some ups and downs but that's nothing. Folks, when you leave your every day behind and plant yourself somewhere different you have a chance to see the world with new eyes.

Islanders occupy a particular place in the world and their pride of place makes it clear that if you're from "away" you can never truly be an "islander". But you can be a good neighbor, a friend, an asset to the community and someone that the folks on the road will wave to on the way past. That's good enough for me.

As I drove my tractor through the field the other day, a neighbor waved and beeped his horn on the way by. I took it as a simple note of approval like a friendly wave in town. I was out in the field working my farm and that made this passing islander glad enough to beep his greetings.

We aren't skilled farmers or traditional islanders. But I always hope we're seen as people who love and appreciate this community. We aren't here by birth - we're here by fate. And I think that because we've come here to work a heritage farm in this province people in the neighborhood are willing to give us a chance. That's all I could ever ask.

A friend who moved to Santa Barbara once noted that my children were lucky. Because they were second generation born in Santa Barbara, they would always have the honor of calling themselves Barbarenos - a distinction that goes back to Spanish California. You see we too have a particular pride of place.

My sons are 13th generation Americans. Our ancestors were among the first Europeans to plow fields in colonial Massachusetts and New hampshire. My mother's family walked west to the Kansas prairie behind covered wagons. So what are we doing removing ourselves to Eastern Canada?

We 're no longer English. We're not Spanish. We're not Canadians. But we are free people who have chosen to cast our lot here in the Maritimes. Why? Well, fate is hard to define. But whispers from the past offer a suggestion. Many of the folkways described by my father's father still live here. And my mother's mother actually foretold this place in an incredibly detailed free-hand embroidery of our farm which she gave to my mother as a wedding present in April,1943 - 57 years before we came to the island. So it could be lots of things that brought us here. Or it could just be that we've finally come home from away.

I observed the other day that Hollywood has put an obscene premium on wealth and beauty. But God must love plain people because he surely made an awful lot of us. On PEI, I feel comfortable with God's people. Sure, I'm proud to be a Californian. And I'll gladly trade on the magic of the name. But what makes this place special is that I'm free to be who I am.

When I fall on my face people will laugh. My pride will be hurt a little. But if I'm willing to swallow a bit of my California pride, some smiling islander will offer a hand up and have a laugh with me.

I'm the child of a benign and sunny coast come to a place that strips shiny exteriors to a weather beaten finish. I can only hope that when my shiny paint fades my outsides will harden up. And I hope that my outlook will remain as sunny and warm as the people I know who make this island their particular place of pride and hope.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Friday Podcast From the Farm

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Hey there...

Big news for me is that my family is in the air, flying overnight on Air Canada from Los Angeles to Toronto - then to Ottowa and then on to Charlottetown, PEI!

I'll be picking them up Saturday afternoon here! I'm so excited I even re-finished the wood floor in the kitchen!

I also bought BB's for the boys BB rifles and I hung a new screen door for Susan...kind of a lame 20th anniversary present maybe? (I wonder which anniversary PVC vinyl goes with?)

It rained all day today, so I was glad I got the potatoes planted, and our WOOFER, (worker on organic farms) Carole, planted the sweet peas by hand yesterday. Carole also vacumed the upstairs, made the boys beds, cleaned one of the bathrooms and did laundry! Thank goodness for good friends who understand our particular form of madness. I made us dinner and she retired to her little borrowed cabin on the shore across the road.

Then I went wild with the floor cleaning and refinishing.

Now here is a real PEI story. My Wi-Fi went out last night. I was sending audio files back to Santa Barbara when it died. So this morning I called local tech support. I politely asked for help since I had a producer in Santa Barbara and another one in New York City hoping to take delivery on some audio tracks...could they please help?

The owner of my ISP came to the farm this afternoon to solve the problem. Now, Wayne Phalen only has one arm, but he's fearless and able enough to get the job done. Next thing I know, Donny is setting up the ladder so Wayne can climb up to the second storey roof top. Wayne decides that maybe the antenna isn't quite up to snuff and the trees, which have leafed out since the installation a month ago, are blocking reception. So, he unscrews the antena mount, re-attaches it to the roof, checks the signal and deems it OK for now. Wayne says that he'll call Gordon and get him out here as soon as possible to install a better antenna.

Did I mention that Wayne was standing on my second storey roof, relocating my antenna in a driving rain storm - with one hand? I was fuckin' impressed boys.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Friday Podcast From The Farm!

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Cherry blossoms in the sky!

Asparagus Pickles

Twilight at 10 PM...when the mosquitos come out!

When the sun goes down it's time to make asparagus pickles!

Our fresh asparagus is so good you can eat it raw. And since it's never touched by anything but rain water you can eat it right out of the garden. Lot's of people like it grilled on the BBQ with seafood or chicken and a simple oil/herb dressing before you grill is simple to do.

Steaming is good too and I like a honey mustard vinaigrette on top. Try this with chilled asparagus for a lovely summer side dish.

Don't over cook it! Steam or grill for about 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks.

I've been having a hard time keeping up with mine and some of the stalks got a bit ahead of me. Still nice and tender and good to eat, but not as attractive as they should be in the market. So I made some hot and spicy asparagus pickles. I like to make pickles because it's something I can do with a simple hot water bath canner.

I make my brine with salt, vinegar and water and then I add the flavors I want with the asparagus. This time I used a southwestern style mix of garlic, red pepper flakes, chives , fresh oregano sprigs and cilantro seeds.

If you live near a farmer's market you can probably find asparagus now. Buy enough to eat fresh and about 4 or 5 pounds to pickle. Then serve your pickles as a summer treat along with olives or fresh tomato slices or cut up in a mediteranian style salad.

Drop me a comment if you'd like the recipe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

From the Farm

Some days, like yesterday, everything goes wrong. The washer had a leak. The car wouldn't start. It was about 60 degrees and REALLY WINDY and showery! I muddled about. I went to Montague and bought groceries. I grumped and growled and went to bed.

Clouds on Dunn Creek

Lilacs and Apples coming into blossom.

Today was perfect. I picked a few pounds of asparagus. I harrowed a field. I worked in the greenhouse and composted some asparagus beds. I weeded, I walked a hay field, I visited my neighbor and had a belt of fine single malt scotch.

Now I'm writing in the shop studio and I'm being dive bombed by these huge dumb clumsy brown beetles.

The frogs are peeping. A coyote is barking in the back field and at 10:00 PM there's still light in the sky from a long northern sunset.

Life is good again!