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Archive for the ‘Farms’ Category

Stopping to smell the roses, I guess. I get to ride through some lovely landscapes between work and home.

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This weekend was the annual tent sale at Webs. I think they have a very clever racket going on, which is that they offer huge discounts and have big events all the time, and every time I panic just a little that it’s my only chance to get yarn on the cheap, and I end up spending more money than I planned. Ok, it’s not exactly a “racket,” it’s more of a standard “sale,” but I blame them anyway.

The cool think about this particular tent sale is that local fiber farmers are invited in to set up booths and sell their products directly to customers. I talked to Diane Roeder of Sojourner Design in Northampton, who said that it’s always a good sale day and a good opportunity for her. Obviously it’s a good advertising move for Webs too, but if it’s good for the farmers that’s cool by me. So! Want to see what I got?

Here is some beautiful sock yarn from Diane’s sheep. She dyed it, too. I’ve never made socks, but I’m really excited about the thought, and I suspect that this yarn will offer inspiration as I struggle through the heel.

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More yarn after the jump…

  

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There’s this idea floating around that the next president should turn the White House lawn into an edible garden. This is the sort of idea that, at first blush, seems a tiny bit ridiculous. Totally impossible, and also kind of pointless. But I read that, during World War Two, when victory gardens produced 40% of the food consumed in the United States, the Roosevelts had a victory garden too. During the first world war, President Wilson had sheep nibbling away at the White House lawns to free the groundskeepers up for the war effort and to conserve resources. Sure, these were symbolic gestures, but I agree that these types of statements actually mean something. It was definitely a statement when Reagan took the solar panels off the roof of the White House. Maybe it’s time for a positive symbolic gesture about food? There’s information about this at ondayone.org and kitchengardeners.org.

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Well, I think this is the end of sugaring season for me. There might be a few sugar shacks that’ll be open for another week or so, but I’ve gone to one every weekend for six weeks straight, and that’s a lot of pancakes for one girl to eat, and I don’t think anyone is boiling anymore anyway. The final sugarhouse we hit up this year was Gould’s, which is right on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne. It’s really popular and probably the best-known sugarhouse in the region.

The wait was over an hour, and our morale fell with our blood sugar while we waited. The waiting area is a kind of kitschy little gift shop, and the parking lot was full of Connecticut and New York plates, so the whole thing had a touristy feel to it. Sort of like a very tiny Yankee Candle. They weren’t boiling anymore, since it’s so late in the season, so maybe I would have had a different feeling if we could have gone in and checked out their evaporator.

But the restaurant itself is a really pleasant place to be, once you make it in there- big windows with a nice view, lovely handhewn beams, and the sweetest little old lady ever (Mrs. Gould herself, I think). Unfortunately for us, by the time we actually made it to the restaurant we were all so hungry that we gobbled down our meal in 10 seconds and we’d been there for so long that we were ready to bolt. The pancakes that I got, though, were probably the best sugarhouse pancakes I’ve had all year. Fluffy and delicious.

My feeling was that they have carved out a niche that works really well for them, they draw a lot of people from all over the region, and they’re definitely taking advantage of their wonderful location. Great! But for me, I think I’ll stick to places that are a little more off the beaten path. People from Connecticut can take a much-needed break from needlessly tailgating their way up 91, tighten the skis affixed to the roofs of their SUVs, and eat some delicious pancakes there. I’ll be elsewhere.

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The Farmstead at Mine Brook in Charlemont, which produces Goat Rising goat cheeses and Jersey Maid cow’s milk cheeses, is really onto something with their ricotta. I tend to think of ricotta as being basically the most bland cheese in the whole world, and usually I don’t even know why I add it to things. Just to increase the fat content of whatever I’m making, I guess. But their ricotta is delicious and has a flavor all its own. I’d eat it on a cracker. Would you do that with Sorrento? No, because that would be disappointing and a little bit gross. Those of us who live in Western Mass now have yet another reason to rub our bellies smugly and be thankful for our local farmers who are producing such lovely, special products.

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Ok, it’s been back in the stores for a week or two now, but I would just like to express my enthusiasm for Sidehill Farm and the return of their yogurt from the winter hiatus. Sidehill Farm is right here in Ashfield, and they’re producing the only local yogurt that’s currently widely available in the valley, from happy, healthy cows. This is an excellent example of how, in the face of the seemingly insurmountable financial challenges faced by dairy farmers in the northeast, innovative and progressive farmers can survive by carving out a niche for themselves. So I love them for that, but also because their yogurt is really delicious. Mild and smooth, mmmm. As a celebratory gesture, I treated myself to a tub of the whole-milk maple flavored yogurt. Uh, festive!

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Sugaring season is coming to a close. This is sad news, because I won’t be able to spend my Sunday mornings inhaling sugar steam and eagerly snapping dweeby pictures of evaporators and old taps. The end of sugaring season is also something to celebrate, because it means that spring is really and truly afoot. That’s basically the whole point, and the whole rub, of eating seasonally- something is always ending, which is sad, but it always means that something else is on its way. And when that something is summer, it’s hard to be too broken up about it.

So! This was the last weekend that the Red Bucket in Worthington was open for breakfast, and the place had been recommended to me by someone who knows what’s what when it comes to sugar, so I went. Turns out Worthington is actually really far away from Northampton.

When you walk in, there’s a little store and they’re boiling the sap right there, so you can check out their evaporator, which was kind of neat and also kind of like being in a steamy little cave because of all the condensation on the walls.

The restaurant is in the next room over and  has a whole wall of windows so it’s bright and cheery in there. My roommate opined that it was the most charming sugarhouse we had visited yet. I don’t know if I’d go quite *that* far, but maybe I’m just being non-committal.

The food was, you know, normal. Nothing to write home (or a whole blog post) about. My dining companions both got pancakes with a variety of nuts and chocolate chips and butterscotch chips and a bunch of other stuff in them, and they both looked pleased and slightly ill when the meal was over. I opted for the more conservative blueberry-walnut-chocolate chip pancakes, because I know how to practice some freaking restraint, jeez.

It was served on plastic-ware, which I think is pretty unappetizing, but I get that these places don’t always have the capital to invest in an industrial washer. In the end, I’d say it was worth the trip, and I’ll look forward to hitting it up again when the next sugar season rolls around.

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