Three things: When you’re chewing on life’s gristle/Don’t grumble, give a whistle…

American persimmon/Diospyros virginiana. September 2014.

American persimmon/Diospyros virginiana. September 2014.

Here are some awesome things some friends of mine have been working on. I offer this particular list because a) these are compelling projects that deserve your time and love, and b) when I remember the powerful, hopeful work my friends are doing, it is hard to stay irate about things I can’t fix, like the way we insist on gendering our children’s lives from the time they are very, very small. Ahem.

1) ESSAY | Look at the Horses Did I first meet Cate at an informal lecture way up on the 35th floor of the curious and beautiful Cathedral of Learning? Or was it twenty minutes outside of the city in a quiet and icy barn one January night? I don’t remember the details but I do know we weren’t more than 19, teetering deliciously on the cusp of adulthood. Her essay about the plans we make and the places we come from is exquisite.

2) COLLECTIVE STORYTELLING | The Way They Worked Hilary and I go back even further, to the chalk dust and linoleum tiles and square roots of Ms. Presto’s early, early Monday morning pre-algebra class, seventh grade. She’s the motor behind a new project that collects the stories we remember about the work of our grandparents. What did your grandparents do? How did they feel about it? How did their work inform your own feelings about responsibility or family? Share a memory, with words or a photo or both – on the project’s website or your own website, or use the hashtag #TheWayTheyWorked on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.

3) FREE E-BOOK | Artisans of Peace Overcoming Poverty The work I did in NYC is always at the margins of my writing. I struggle to give it its due. Family life, farm life, and Fourth World’s radical and inclusive approach to fighting poverty – these are my chorus, and I want so badly to write them into some kind of harmony. I’m going to keep trying, but if you want to learn more about what I was doing before the fateful day I first heard my husband’s easy laughter spilling between the tomato stakes, read this book.

What about y’all? Any good reads or powerful projects you’ve come across lately that keep you looking on the bright side?

The same cheerful hurly-burly

raised bed

It is tempting, sometimes, to call this neighborhood less wild than the other places I have called home in the close to ten years since I left New York City. There are stop signs and water mains and dogs accustomed to their leashes, tidy sod lawns, fences every hundred feet or so that say this is mine and that is yours. I do not watch the fireflies flirting in the marsh a hundred feet off my back deck. The goats do not call to me at milking time from their spot under the enormous old oak at the highest point on our old farm. There is no Virginia creeper or bittersweet snaking its way up our front porch.

But there is a small brown rabbit that sits and chews quietly between two of our raised beds most mornings. The cardinals here fill their lungs just as boldly and sing the same cheerful hurly-burly hurly-burly hurly-burly as I make my coffee. Here they call from somewhere in the spiny sanctuary of holly all around. Last year they called from the mulberry at the edge of the marsh, and in Virginia it was the sycamore outside our kitchen window. Neither the plantain nor the clover will be beaten back, for all my mowing. On the nights when I walk the dog, I regularly nearly trip on a toad that must live under the porch, and last week a young garter snake eyed me calmly as I hung the diapers. I keep forgetting to roll up the car windows and the most exquisite spider webs appear on my dashboard overnight. A few months ago a mourning dove made its nest in our gutter. The dragonflies right now are a marvel to me and they touch down everywhere: clothesline, tomato stake, radio antenna on the car. These creatures, I am reminded, don’t discriminate. They find some food, and find a mate, and make themselves at home.

I sat on our back steps with a glass of iced coffee late this morning, eye to eye with an inchworm swaying on its silk escape rope, and I thought how our suburban street has more than a little in common with all the farms I have known. We humans harrow and mow and mulch and build, hoping to coax the land into providing us food or shelter. But we are always just a step ahead of the bindweed, or the bean beetles, or the crows, and that’s only if we’re quick enough and lucky enough. The lawns will always need mowing, and the shingles will always be battered by the wind off the ocean, and some pretty bird will always be eager to make its nest in our gutter.

And of course: the bay. It is four hundred yards from porch to surf. We leash the dog and set off, stopping perhaps to talk with a neighbor about the mosquitoes, or how big the baby is getting, or Ninja Turtles. We walk on. We slip off our sandals and climb the dune and then there it is: broad like the sea, glassy and lazy some days, other times fierce and grey. We right overturned horseshoe crabs. We inspect sea lettuce and graceful red weed and knobbed whelk egg cases in the wrack line. We identify laughing gulls, semipalmated sandpipers, snowy egrets, and at least a half dozen others that we will look up when we get back to the house. Here more than anywhere, I am reminded: we are only scratching the surface. Sure as the plantain and the cardinals, we will be at home here soon enough.

horseshoe crabs

Nothing says, “I miss you!” like garlic breath.

No, I do not think the world needs another tzatziki recipe. But it is, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere, the right time of year to eat it. My friend Wesley and her family recently returned from a trip to Crete, and her ten-year old daughter made tzatziki for us all when we went to dinner at their place in North Carolina last week. When I got home our little raised bed garden in the front yard was a gorgeous jungle, with plenty of sweet little pickling cucumbers ready to go. I remembered I’d shared my own recipe on our farm blog back in our Virginia days. I dug it up, and we made our first batch of the season tonight, and we put it on burgers and on top of roasted eggplant too, and it was so damn good. What the world needs, I thought, is more ten-year olds who know their way around a kitchen. What the world needs is a way for all of us to eat this well and to eat this happy.

Last summer I started migrating a few of my farm blog posts over here. I didn’t get very far with that project, I don’t think – but as I licked the food processor bowl clean tonight, I thought, heck, let’s try again. Let’s show up here a little bit and then figure out how to show up some more. Nothing says, “I miss you!” like garlic breath, right?

chooks in cukes

(I’m reposting this recipe almost exactly as I wrote it for our farm blog in 2011 – I’ve taken out just one or two confusing references, but am otherwise leaving the words as is. They speak to a different time in my life, and as I continue to explore what and who make a place a home, here on this site and in my life, it feels valuable to look back on where I’ve come from, even if I’m just talking about cheesecloth and lactobacilli. The nearly word-for-word repost also explains all the first person plural pronouns.)

Tzatziki is a classic Greek appetizer made from strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and herbs, and similar dishes are made all over the Middle East and Mediterranean.  It manages somehow to be both refreshing and substantial at the same time, which is exactly what I’m after these days.  Heavy braises and long slow roasts make me sweat just thinking of them – but these hot sticky midsummer days are tiring, and a girl needs some fuel!  Enter tzatziki.

Our only caveat is that you need to plan ahead here.  The recipe is straightforward and easy, but you’ll need to strain your yogurt, and salt and drain your cucumbers.  And ideally you stick it in the fridge for a couple hours after you mix it up, to let the flavors blend.  So it’s not something you can whip up at the last minute for a potluck or to accompany a Sunday dinner outside by the grill – although it would be right at home in either of those settings!

cutting cukes

Tzatziki

1 quart yogurt (preferably full fat with no added stabilizers or sweeteners – just cultured milk; or, substitute 2 1/2 cups Greek yogurt and skip the yogurt straining step)
2 large cucumbers (or 3 picklers), peeled, seeded, and chopped (instructions below)
1 tablespoon salt
juice of one lemon
one clove garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint or both
additional salt and pepper to taste

First, strain the yogurt. We use a nylon nut milk/sprouting bag like this, but you could also use coffee filters or cheesecloth.1 If using a nut milk bag, hang it into a large jar (a half gallon or one gallon jar works well) and secure with a rubber band.  If using coffee filters, line a colander or large strainer with two coffee filters and set the colander/strainer inside a large bowl.  Cheesecloth can be used either way. Carefully pour the yogurt in.  Whichever method you use, you want to leave room for the whey to drain out of the yogurt, so be sure the bottom of your bag or filter isn’t touching the liquid as it drains out.  Some whey will drain out immediately, but be patient; the longer you can wait, the creamier your tzatziki will be.  You could probably use the yogurt after 45 minutes or so, but wait about two hours if you can.  Or strain the yogurt the day before you make the tzatziki and store it in the fridge overnight. When we use a quart of Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt, we end up with a little over two cups of thick strained yogurt and a little more than a cup and half of whey. We’ll try straining our own yogurt later this summer, and anticipate the ratio of yogurt to whey will be a bit different.

(Don’t pour that whey down the sink! It’s full of good healthy stuff including lots of Lactobacilli, which are said to be good for gut health and general immune health. It will last for about forever in the fridge. You can add it to a smoothie, use it in place of water or other liquids in baked goods, use it as a starter culture for all kinds of lactofermented fruits and vegetables and beverages, use it in soaked grains like overnight oats … most recently we’ve been using it in a our daily almost-no-knead bread and in a pickle recipe.)

Next, prepare the cucumbers. This process takes about 45 minutes, largely unattended.  We pick our cucumbers quite young and of course never wax them, so we rarely peel or seed them for any recipes.  However, tzatziki really does benefit from cucumbers that have had a lot of the liquid removed.  First, peel the cucumbers.  Then seed them.  You can cut them in half lengthwise and run a spoon along the seeds, scooping them out.  Or quarter them lengthwise and use a small paring knife to cut out the seeds.  Next chop up the cucumbers and place them in a colander, place the colander in a large bowl, and sprinkle the cucumbers with about a tablespoon of salt.  Toss.  The salt will draw water of out of the cucumbers.  Let them drain for about half an hour.  Press to release any remaining water, and then pat them dry with a paper towel.

Now you’re ready to mix it all up! Put the strained yogurt in a large bowl.  In a food processor, blend the cucumbers, the lemon juice, the garlic, the herbs, and a few grinds of black pepper until well blended.  Add the cucumber mixture to the yogurt and stir to mix.  Taste to see if you need additional salt; we don’t find it necessary. Tzatziki tastes best if you put it in the fridge for a couple hours to allow the flavors to meld. But we won’t tell anyone if you dig in right away.

* * *

Serving ideas: Use tzatziki as a dip for vegetables like carrots or cucumbers.  Spread it on crackers or nice bread.  Use it as a spread in a sandwich with other summer vegetables.  Add it to falafel in a pita.  It’s also a great side dish or dipping sauce for meats and fish. (2014 update: So good on top of beef or lamb burgers. Great on bean or grain based patties too, like these little quinoa patties, or fritters like these. Delicious on salmon. Perfect on top of an eggplant roasted until charred and meltingly tender and split in two lengthwise.)

  1. I actually prefer using jelly bags like these now. []

Of late (in our kitchen)

Finally joining in with Heather for her This Week In My Kitchen blog hop. These are, as Heather says, simple everyday photos of what’s happening in our kitchen – a record of what we’ve been cooking and eating, and inspiration for times when we have no idea what to cook. Details are below the photos.

rice

broccoli, i adore you

his idea

granola prep

bread prep

daily bread

cubed sweets

paprika and eggs

always coffee

eggs, hard boiled, plus lemony tahini sauce

blasted broccoli

beans

From top to bottom:

Brown rice, always a staple. This week we had it under a chickpea stew with sausage and pesto (one of the last from the stock of freezer meals my parents made for us when our daughter was born) and alongside salmon and broccoli.

Speaking of broccoli … I love it anyway, but it seems I am especially mad for it postpartum. Both times. I could eat it every day. I’m not kidding when I say I buy eight or ten heads at once at the grocery store.

Next up? Hard boiled eggs fore, raw eggs aft. Oh, and my son, who decided with zero prompting from his mother that he wanted to clean both the kitchen island and the fridge that day. Have at it, sweet child!

I cheated on my normal granola this week with Molly’s Granola No. 5. A splurge, with all that maple syrup, but wonderful. That’s what you see in the Pyrex measuring cup, and don’t think for a second I didn’t scrape the dregs out with my finger to slurp down.

Then there’s my steady baking companion, helping me measure out flour for our nearly no-knead bread. I used to make this loaf several times a week but for no good reason I’ve been on a long hiatus. No longer! I’ll try to write up our recipe soon.

Frittatas are absolutely a go-to dinner for us around here. They’re not exactly the non-supper I referenced in my last post – there is chopping and grating and whisking, and we use both the stovetop and the oven. But I make them so often I can nearly do it with my eyes closed, and we use whatever we have on hand, so it is seriously low stress. This week I made one with cubed sweet potatoes, a mess of onions and garlic, a bit of smoked paprika, and whatever cheese we had in the fridge – supermarket mozzarella and some nice Parmesan, I think.

Coffee, everyday.

Usually we eat our broccoli plain (olive oil, salt, garlic) and pretty much always straight from the roasting pan. But this week I made some lemony tahini sauce, from The Oh She Glows Cookbook but via Shutterbean. Had it on top of broccoli a couple times and also on salmon. Very good.

We “blast” our broccoli à la Molly Stevens, which is to say: we toss it with olive oil and salt and roast it at 450°F for about 15 minutes, then throw two or three minced garlic cloves on top and let it go for another three or four minutes. It gets caramelized at the edges but is still tender and sweet inside. It’s broccoli fries really.

Lastly: my kid planted beans because you are not allowed to be 4 without doing that. They’re looking healthy and I hope we’ll be munching on them in a couple months!

The thing that matters

A few days ago I sat at my computer, skimming recent photos, intending to join up with Heather in the new This Week in My Kitchen blog hop she’s hosting. The blog hop could not be more appealing to the totally-not-creepy-I-promise voyeur in me, the eater in me, and the can-we-sit-on-your-front-porch-in-rocking-chairs-drinking-sweet-tea-and-shelling-peas-? neighbor in me. And here’s what I noticed: we sure do eat a lot of eggs. cooling Farming for a living does something a little funny to a family, I think. You might assume we never buy strawberries from California or grapefruits from Florida and Texas, but that’s not quite the case. For one, we have to eat in the winter, and we are not great at putting up lots of our summer harvest. Also, we have a four-year old who is only just emerging from his beige food stage, and I am telling you, if it is real food and it has a color and he is willing to eat it, I will buy it. And also, frankly, we’re not in the most lucrative line of work. We shop where everyone else shops when there’s no food from the farm to eat. You’ll find plenty of conventional produce in our fridge and on our countertops, particularly in the winter and early spring. (I have a lot more to say about this, I think. Hoping to find the time, and the words, and the pluck, to write it down here someday.) pullets Animal products are trickier – tricky in general, and trickier still now that we don’t have our own land and are living in a beach town. Meat and dairy and eggs produced with respect for the animals and care for the land cost quite a bit more than their vegetable counterparts. And our grocery budget is very tight. But we don’t feel comfortable eating conventionally produced animals products regularly. I’ve said before that our fridge and pantry are an embarrassment of riches, and that was probably nowhere more true than when it came to the meat, dairy, and eggs we ate when we were farming our own land. We kept goats for milk; they were given to us by some neighbors who were thinning their herd, and as ruminants, their feed costs were quite low. When our goats weren’t in milk, we knew where to find other fresh milk. We always had laying hens. Some years they numbered in the hundreds, when we were selling eggs, and we kept the cracked eggs for ourselves. Other years we just kept a homestead flock. Either way, we never worried where our eggs were coming from. Most years we raised 50-75 Cornish Rock chickens for meat. That worked out to about one roast chicken a week, plus some extras for potlucks or for thank yous to farm sitters and neighbors. We always threw the bones from our roast chicken into a big freezer bag, and once we had enough, we’d make bone broth. Sometimes we had venison in the freezer too, also from our land. We kept pigs for two years, and although we couldn’t afford to eat our more expensive cuts, we always had sausage and ribs available, and pork belly for making bacon, and fatback for lard. These things saw us through the year quite well. Sometimes we traded tomatoes for ground beef at market, or we’d till a garden for our livestock farmer neighbors in return for a lamb shoulder. This is how we lived beyond our means.

Here, in our beautiful beach town, we’re learning a new normal when it comes to this stuff. We don’t have our own land, so there’s no way to easily raise our own meat. And this is a resort town, with a huge summer population that turns over weekly and very sleepy winters. So it’s a tough place to be a market farmer selling most of your products retail, and therefore a tough place to find raw milk or grassfed beef. So what does this mean for us? Well, first, as the freezer stock we brought with us dwindles, it means we are eating less meat. It also means we compromise. We buy organic milk at the grocery store, but we don’t know where it comes from or how the cows were treated. We can’t trade for amazing cheeses at market anymore and so we buy from Miss Linda at the deli counter. She and my son are becoming fast friends. We usually buy Dannon yogurt. stacked But eggs. For some reason, I can’t relax about eggs. Why? There are many, many reasons to eat locally produced foods in season – some of those reasons matter quite a lot and others, I am starting to think as the years go by, are perhaps overplayed. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, though, to say that fresh food tastes better. The lettuce you picked at 11:30 to eat in a salad at noon? Those dead ripe, still-warm-from-the-vine Sungolds? Broilers you raised in your backyard whose grain was supplemented with daily kitchen scraps and June bugs they chased down themselves? It’s really no contest. But when it comes to eggs, maybe I’m wrong.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s personal. I have washed I don’t know how many thousands of eggs over the years. There were times I thought my brain might rot from the endless, changeless hours of scrubbing, but sometimes I really found peace in the rhythm. (Either that or I found a bottle of tequila and mixed myself a margarita, after which everything looked cheerier.) wash Here’s what I do know. I know there is not much farm fresh food to be had before May in this part of the country. I know I am only two months into learning how to mother two children and there is no elaborate or inspired cooking going in. I know eggs are fast and healthy and always delicious. (We are big, big fans of not really cooking dinner around here. Scrambled eggs and toast ranks just after popcorn and smoothies and just before a baked potato bar on our Effort Scale.)

The best thing I know? My kid will always crack an egg. I think this matters to me more than whether or not he’ll eat one. We have cooked with our son since he was just a few weeks old. He started in a sling on my hip as I stirred stock or sliced tomatoes, and he perched on my husband’s shoulder a few months later as they flipped pancakes together. When he was steady(ish) on his feet, he graduated to a beautiful homemade learning tower we received from a friend in trade for one of our CSA shares. We taught him more than two years ago how to crack an egg, and how to scramble it too. He has a preferred whisk. He can safely use a sharp knife.

I cannot take credit for much of his awesomeness, but I do think that keeping him right alongside us in the kitchen is one of the better calls we’ve made as parents. They say that when your kid cooks with you, he’ll be more likely to develop a broad palate – that hasn’t been our experience. But, and I say this with a hard-won and bittersweet clarity: that is almost beside the point. My children do not belong to me, and I can no more easily dictate what they will eat now than who they will love later. What I can do is give them skills – how to use that knife, how to know when cupcakes are done, what to do with a few wilted carrots and an onion – and I can also give them my time. It’s the thing, you know. The thing that matters.

I had a baby two months ago. She has rosy cheeks and big eyes. She sleeps a dream, for now. She loves to watch her brother talk, and she loves it when we sing the Mighty Machines theme song (or, oh my gosh, in French!) to her during diaper changes. She gasps when the bay breezes rush over her shoulders. And she nurses the day away. I love her, hard.

I also miss my boy.

But you know, thanks to those damn farm eggs, we’re finding our way back to one another.

baking

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
cupcakes adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Twelfth Edition (1979)

I am not kidding when I say we made these cupcakes a totally immoderate three times last week. Partly it’s that we had a lot of leftover frosting from a cake we’d made the week before, and what were we going to do, give it to the pigs? I don’t think so. Partly it’s that they’re just so good, and we found we didn’t like being out of cupcakes. Mostly, it’s that something really good happened when I tucked my sleeping baby tight against my chest in the sling and invited my son into the kitchen to mix up the second batch. He leaped from the couch with an enormous grin, after a week of furrowed brow and clenched fist. He chose the eggs he wanted to use and watched, rapt, as I showed him how to separate the whites from the yolks. He turned on the mixer, and he measured and added the ingredients as I read him the recipe, and he taste tested the batter every step of the way (because that’s how you get good at this, right?), and he spooned the batter into the muffin tin. Later, when he ate his cupcake from the top down and asked for a second layer of frosting when the first was all gone, I wanted to say, “My beloved child! You have no idea how much I’ve missed you! We spent four years walking through our days hand in hand and now we have to make some space in our togetherness and I believe with all I’ve got that your life is going to be better because your sister is in it but it’s really hard for me right now and YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE FROSTING!” But instead I just handed him the spatula.

The cupcakes were my idea, by the way, and not his. I bake quite a lot but didn’t have a go-to cupcake recipe. I avoided looking for one online altogether, knowing how many I’d find, and instead I stood quite thoughtfully in front of my cookbook shelf, considering. I wanted something simple and classic. I was willing to put in a little effort, but I dismissed any recipes that insisted on cake flour (we don’t usually have it around) or a different number of egg yolks and whites (yes, there are always ways to use leftovers of either, but again with the new baby – I knew I’d just give any leftover egg to the dog). When I pulled my Fannie Farmer off the shelf and read the recipe for Boston Favorite Cake, I knew I’d found what I wanted right away. That Marion Cunningham. She knew a thing or two.

(A note on the frosting: I used a cream cheese frosting because I almost never want anything else, but a basic buttercream would be good too. Or play around – add some almond or lemon extract, or some citrus zest. Mmm. It might be time for a fourth batch of these babies.)

For the cupcakes:
2 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons/85 grams butter, room temperature
1 cup/200 grams sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups/245 grams all-purpose or cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk

For the frosting:
1 8-oz/226 gram package full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick/113 grams butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups/250 grams powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners (recommended) or generously grease and flour the tin. (This recipe makes an awkward 14 cupcakes. You can either find two small oven-safe bowls and put an additional two cupcake liners in those, or you can grease and flour a ramekin and make a very tiny cake with the extra batter.)

Make sure your mixer bowl is very clean. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on fairly high speed until they are quite stiff but not dry. Scrape them gently into a medium bowl and set aside.

Switch to the paddle attachment, but don’t worry about cleaning the bowl. Cream the butter for a few seconds and then add the sugar slowly, beating until the mixture is light. Add the egg yolks and the vanilla and beat until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg yolks and beat until just incorporated. Add about a third of the milk and beat until blended. Repeat twice with the remaining flour mixture, following each time with a bit of the remaining milk. The batter should be smooth at this point, but be careful not to overblend.

Add about a third of your egg whites to the batter and mix on low until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the remaining egg whites by hand with a spatula. You don’t need to be too gentle – you’re not making a soufflé. Fold well enough that the egg whites are thoroughly incorporated but still light and fluffy.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and other pans of your choice (see note above), filling each well about halfway. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly browned on top and spring back when you touch them. (These consistently take 18-19 minutes in my oven, but I confess that since our move I haven’t confirmed my oven temperature with a thermometer, which I really do recommend.) Cool on a wire rack, in or out of the tin (these don’t seem to suffer from being left in the tin to cool).

Meanwhile, make your frosting. Using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time, beating until smooth and thick.

Wait until the cupcakes are cool to frost. Or frost them as you need them. You’ll have more frosting than you need. The cupcakes keep well at room temperature for about a week in an airtight container or zippered plastic bag, and the frosting keeps for about a week in the fridge, or for quite a long time in the freezer.

And that explains March.

honk up kat's sourdough it's a girl winter rosemary mastsTwo months! I did not expect to stay quiet so long. The short version of events is that I spent February very pregnant indeed: exhausted, contemplative, huddled against the chill and snuggled up with my boy in our last weeks as a dyad. For a time it seemed I might be pregnant forever – but instead I had a baby, and that explains March, I think.

I don’t intend to write too much here about about the final weeks of my pregnancy (which were more intense than I expected) or my labor (which was more beautiful than I expected) or our first weeks together as a family of four (delicious, but also something I want to protect). But I’m home with just the baby this weekend, and the day is stretched out before me in a blissful haze of nursing and nuzzling and coffee sipping and probably a misty walk to the bay. I think I’ll have to wait for this sweet fog to dissipate a bit, or at least until some semblance of a nap rhythm emerges, before I return to writing here in earnest (I have so many ideas for this space!) – but I want very much to check in, and also to yoke a few words to these fleeting weeks.

I can’t think of a single thing analagous to bringing a baby into the world, and appropriately, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the last five weeks thinking Enormous Thoughts. Did I really grow AN ACTUAL PERSON inside my belly, again? Does my body really make food for her? Are we qualified to usher these tiny exquisite people through this scary and beautiful world for the next twenty years? 

Much of the time, though, I am just here. I hold my babies close, and I cheer on the melting snow, and I watch gulls soar high above the surf before dropping clams onto the rocks below to crack them open. In the evenings, I crack open one rich and malty porter and I lean against my husband’s shoulder and we start another episode of Breaking Bad (and I look down at the sleeping newborn on my lap and whisper to her: dream of mama milk and big brotherly love instead of a suspicious old RV in the desert outside of Albuquerque).

And I eat. Man, there is nothing like pushing a baby out of your body and then feeding that baby with your body to make food taste otherworldly. Here’s just some of what we’ve been eating:

  • this pulled pork with ancho, cinnamon, and cocoa, which remains one of the best things I have ever eaten
  • these lamb shoulder chops braised in garlicky tomatoes and a bit of white wine
  • this cauliflower roasted with thyme and parmesan
  • bowl upon bowl (upon bowl) of this oatmeal (I like it with yogurt and half an apple, diced)
  • these scones with prunes, caraway, and olive oil
  • these blondies (twice!)
  • an amazing pecan sourdough boule from Kathya, and many bowls of this popcorn on Sunday nights when we watch David Attenborough documentaries as a family (my mind is still completely blown by what I’ve learned about monotremes), and a not insignificant amount of chocolate sent in the sweetest care packages by friends who understand me
  • a freezer full of sturdy stews and casseroles – a true labor of love on the part of my mom and dad, who don’t even eat much meat, but who figured oh so rightly that the sort of dishes that usually grace a church potluck table would also be deeply appealing to a woman who just had a baby and her farmer husband

It’s a delicious, if fairly monochromatic, list. Hearty fare. The right sort of stuff to see us through The Winter That Would Not End. But I’ve been thinking about coaxing spring indoors with these pea shoots, and down at the farm, the greenhouse is filling with seedlings, and the chickens have started laying again, really laying. I’m really excited about fresh food. More importantly, I feel like I’ve made it through, am more or less on the other side of something really hard: leaving our farm, leaving New York, letting go of the pregnancy and birth I had expected, soldiering through a long winter. I don’t know what this spring holds, but I do like these blue skies.

Of late (and still not quite wordless)

needed

needles

mailbox

pup

clothesline

first robin

bike

holly thief

back inside

Last night I was looking through photos from the last week or so. There weren’t a whole lot. Most of them were of my son: digging in the dirt floor of the shed at the farm, or shucking oysters with his dad, or building excavator factories with blocks that are three generations old, or licking an ice cream cone here in the bleak midwinter minutes before his first game of pinball. All were exactly the sort of tiny exquisite moments I hope I’ll remember even a tenth of, but this blog isn’t the place for those images.

It’s okay, I thought. IPhone pictures of my coffee and our food it is then! And truly that would have been fine. We all have to eat, after all. And while there’s not an enormous amount of farm fresh food in our kitchen right now, growing good clean food is how we pay the rent. And these days – the bay winds so cold, and the roads so slick, and me so pregnant – see us in the kitchen quite a lot. Sometimes the boys are making gumbo. Sometimes I’m making something with a bit less chopping but equal amounts of belly warming winter joy (over toasted day-old soda bread, with grated Dubliner and an egg over easy and coarse sea salt). Sometimes I am just peeling a banana and wrestling the lid off a jar of peanut butter. The kitchen is where it’s at, you know? And the dearth of outdoor photos this week is as accurate a marker as any of the season we’re in: it has not been a mild winter, and these late pregnancy hormones make me crave a deep hibernation.

But then! More snow! I confess sighing and grumbling when I looked out the bay window last night and saw the frosted street. But this morning I slept – a little late, while the boys ate breakfast – and then I hoisted myself and this babe we’re so close to meeting from the bed, and the day felt fresh. A little later the boy and I headed out with the dog, and we laughed, a lot, and we ate some snow, and I didn’t slip, and when we got home we saw scores of robins in the holly trees.

Will we meet the baby next week? Next month? Will I ever get to wear sandals again? Will I stop feeling guilty about using Netflix as a babysitter while I ignore the dishes and the laundry and just sit? What will we do for school? How hard will it be for my son to make room in his world for a sibling? How hard will it be for me?

This morning, for a while, I let it all go.