Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wistful Thinking

     What could be better that a quick trip to the NY farm for blackberries?   Besides finding blackberries, there would be the familiar farm with so many memories of weekends spent just one step up from camping.  Not having been there in quite some time, it would be a trip into the past.
     Anticipation built during the long ride up the driveway.  The ruts were there, so was the overgrowth of trees and bushes. Uh, oh, a freshly painted house came into view. But, where were those familiar scenes that would envelope the dreamer with memories of long ago?  Gone! Gone was the weedy entanglement of tall grass and weeds and thorn apple bushes that stretched around the outskirts of the house lawn.  In their place was a neatly mowed lawn.  It did look nice, but the familiar feeling was not there.The rock by the front door that was a secure spot for a snake ( that our daughter loved to catch and the snake was probably happy when she left) was covered over by a deck!  The woody spot that our son loved to stoke the fire to heat water for the house was now surrounded by grass.  It should have been encircled with weeds and leaves and fallen twigs.
     Standing and looking around at the contrast between what is and remembering how it used to be created such a rush of thoughts. Were those days that are now gone forever appreciated enough? Back into the mind came the holiday weekends that the kids thought were just the best time for never-ending adventures.  Hikes through the woods, ATC riding, berry picking and the thorn scratches that came with it, and campfire evenings roasting marshmallows in the darkness were all part of the fun.
 NJ farm, capture the memory

     What happens when a journey, to a place that promises to bring back memories, only finds that someone else's improvements have knocked them for a loop?  Maybe the shock of the difference brought about the realization that  most happenings are not forever, and it is important to stop, look around, and make a memory of the good things that surround.  Forever can only be found in memories.

     By the way, Mother Nature, being willful as she is, started and ended her blackberry season this year before the actual season should have begun in the last week in August.  No blackberries.

An easy recipe using summer vegetables.
   4 small zucchini, diced
   2 tsp kosher salt
   2 Tbs olive oil
   1 medium onion, chopped
   1 clove garlic, minced
   4 ears corn, kernels sliced off
   2 plum tomatoes, diced
   ½ cup shredded mozzarella or feta
 1. Place diced zucchini in a colander set over a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt;
toss and let stand 20 minutes.(draws out excess moisture)
 2. Pat zucchini dry.
 3. Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic; saute 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Do not brown.
 4. Add zucchini and corn kernels.  Saute 6 to 7 minutes, until almost tender.
 5. Add diced tomato; saute 2 to 3 minutes until softened and zucchini is
tender.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese if desired.
 Tip: Leftovers are good with scrambled egg and a dash of hot sauce.
 Adapted from Woman's Day

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sounds and Scents - Fall's Coming

Fall Freedom

     No, a calendar is not necessary to determine that fall is on the way. The beginning of fall can be heard and smelled. Believe it.  Sometime at the end of July and beginning of August the sound of a multitude of crickets (maybe not, maybe some other insect) starts with solos and continues until there is a chorus.  The sound is only for those who have to or want to be up at the crack of dawn or maybe on a cloudy, overcast day. The cricket sound seems to blend in the background just as a musical instrument in an orchestra can be heard, but the mind blends it as part of the whole and not just a single instrument. A familiar sound, it marks nature on the move and the realization to take the time to enjoy every last bit of summer before it goes away.
     The start of fall also has its own smells.  The dryness of summer creates a premature browning of some of the grasses. A hot August sun is able to lift these scents into the air and remind us of shortening days to come.  It is not the scent of dying grass and leaves, but the pungent scent that reminds of a change that is occurring.
     Summer's end and turn to fall is much like putting on your favorite glad rags and finding that cozy, secure, and familiar feeling. It's once again the passage of time through the seasons.

An end of summer recipe for today.

               Sweet Onion, Tomato, and Corn Salad with Basil  
1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
2 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup basil leaves
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced Vidalia or sweet onion
1 cup fresh white corn kernels (about 3 ears)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; stir well, and set aside.
Combine basil and remaining ingredients. Drizzle vinegar
mixture over and toss gently.
Adapted from Cooking Light, JUNE 1997

Friday, August 3, 2012

Farm Fragrance - Just Not What You Expect

Sweet, sweet flower vines

     Farm fragrances can be many things - many of which you would assume and then those maybe not expected.  The best fragrance in spring is the wild honeysuckle growing up and over the fence. The casual stroll around the farm during the day would take you near a white unassuming flower whose tangle of vines weave in and out of the fence. 

     Easily ignored in daylight, but at night, under the cover of darkness, when the senses of sight and sound are less likely to be bombarded, a stroll through the darkness brings a waft of air with the smell of a sweet, sweet scent.  It stops one for the moment just to inhale deeply and then the connection is made.  It's the honeysuckle.  There really aren't any words to do it justice.  July brings forth a second blooming of the honeysuckle, and although it is not as profuse as the first blooming, it still creates a magic scent in the nighttime air.   Eventually it will bring down the fence; it shouldn't be allowed to grow there. But the honeysuckle fragrance makes it worth the chance of ruining a fence.
Tempting isn't it?

     Nothing on a farm smells quite like a loft of newly cut and baled hay.  It's earthy and fresh from the growing field.  A fragrance that is almost enough to bring out the child personality to imagine the adventure created by climbing the bales in the nearly dark loft.  If only to be ten again. Climb where you know you probably shouldn't, but simply can't resist. Climb when just delivered because it would be too soon for spiders or their webs to crisscross your a face unexpectedly.  Climb on the hay that seems to feel soft, but leaves prickly welts from the cut ends that stick out of the bales. And of course, there would be the thrill of  potential danger that a slip of a foot or a bale of hay could send the unsuspecting down into a horse stall below. An injury would surely bring sympathy for this transgression, but should everything be OK except for some bumps and bruises - well one could only imagine the result for playing on this forbidden site. Most likely, only an adult could see this through to the possible end and back away from the tempting bales. Darn.

Peaches are in season.  This recipe adapted from could be described as WWC ( well worth the calories) as opposed to NWC ( not worth the calories). WWC once a year. 

   Southern Peach Cobbler
8 fresh peaches, skin removed, sliced thin
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup flour
1/4 cup white sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water
3 Tbs white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

   oven  425
1. Combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon
cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour
into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake  10 minutes.
2. Combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder,
and salt. Blend in butter with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles
coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
3. Drop spoonfuls of topping over cooked peaches. Sprinkle cobbler with the
sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.