Tag Archives: memories

Three Horse Hitch

Sharing my photo and the story that I wrote to go with it, in honor of the beautiful wedding procession today!

Three horse hitch, 1998

I took this photo for my photography class in the fall of my senior year. Back then, I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at the farm, as I had since I was a small child. I did everything- put pumpkins in rows, waited on customers, stocked the big pile of sweet corn. By senior year I spent all day in the kitchen baking apple and pumpkin pies.

As I cut wheat designs in the crust, I’d gaze out the upstairs kitchen window to keep an eye out for our beautiful dapple gray Percherons coming back with the hayride. I’d sprint down the stairs, grab the cash drawer and tell my grandmother whether the next buzzer was to rotate the pies or take them out. I would help load the wagon, quickly making change for families. Rides were $2 a person back then so the math was easy. Then I’d get a few minutes to visit with Bob, Bill and Vinny, and of course my Dad, before heading back in to wash my hands and keep baking, with a quick eye roll at my mom’s “pumpkin lady” vest and jewelry as she waited on customers in the stifling greenhouse with a big smile.

As it got later in the day I would be able to slow down baking and could even go on the hayride. Sometimes I would just relax and enjoy the ride, and sometimes I would get to drive. I learned to drive the horses when I was in fifth grade, but they knew the route well and could probably have done just fine without me holding the reins.

When the customers finally left we could close up the store while my dad cleaned up the horses, and then have a little fun running around on top of the hay maze (though you’re not supposed to do that). We would go to a fair or a movie, knowing that I’d be back in the kitchen at 8:00 the next morning. In late October we would get ready for the Haunted Hayride and work until late at night. We had more fun in the woods than the people did on the rides.

It was hard work, and I didn’t appreciate then that I could pick and eat as many apples as I wanted, and I didn’t like the bees around when we made cider, and I sometimes wished I could do nothing on weekends like some of my friends. Looking back now, I’m happy I had all those experiences. Like parenthood, the days are long but the years were short. We do our best now to give our boys similar experiences.

When you go visit your local family farm this year, remember you are visiting that family’s home. They pour their hearts and souls, blood, sweat and tears into welcoming your family and giving them a good time. Enjoy yourselves on a hayride, picking apples, loading a wagon with pumpkins and grab a pie while you’re there. And for heaven’s sake, don’t complain about the price of pumpkins.

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Filed under Adventures, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture

It’s Officially Thanksgiving…

… last night I burned my finger taking pies out of my oven and this morning the smoke alarm went off.  Not due to my cooking… some smoke got in the house from the wood stove, and the bad thing about good insulation in a new home is that the smoke stays in the house and sets off the alarm.

For the last two years, Thanksgiving has been incredibly low key for my family.  Up until then, we were always working at the farm.  We would bake pies all night long, and customers would start to line up before 6 a.m. to get them.  Apple and pumpkin were the favorites, of course, followed closely by Fruits of the Forest, which is a mixture of apples, strawberries, rhubarb, red raspberries and blackberries.  I remember as a child staying up late with my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, running in and out of the warm kitchen at the farm market and camping out in my grandmother’s office.  We’d help box pies, label the the boxes, wash trays, take out the trash.  One of the most fun parts was jumping in the cardboard dumpster to help make room for more.  We’d get to skip school on Tuesday and Wednesday, since they were the busiest days.  There are so many funny memories of those late nights baking, from falling asleep and burning a load of pies to our “Employee of the Year” nomination accompanied by a goofy picture.  In high school, I couldn’t miss school because of basketball try-outs, but I’d always end up at the stand afterwards, helping customers and then baking into the night.  In college, I’d again skip classes so I could bake all night, take a quick nap and then get up early to work on the cash register.  We’d spend endless hours counting pies and playing the guessing game that we’d baked enough of each kind, but not so much that there would be too many left.  When I started teaching, I’d rush out of school at 2:00 to head to the stand to relieve people who had been working all day, and then I’d stay and bake until 10 or 12 before heading home to get some sleep before going back to school.  It was stressful, and there was more than one customer that lacked the holiday spirit, but like most things in life, I remember the good parts.  The Thanksgiving rush, in my mind, is the perfect example of a farm family working together to make it.  Everyone, all generations, help out, doing whatever needs to be done.  From small children (although we’re all grown up now) to my grandmother and everyone in between, all had a role to play.  But, by the time Thursday came around, we were so exhasted and nobody wanted to eat pie.

Last year we decided to close and skip the Thanksgiving madness.  We’re still open from May to October, and lots of customers buy pies to freeze for Thanksgiving.  As we all grow up and work off the farm, it’s hard for everyone to find the time to help out, and my grandmother can only do so much.  Last year was the first year I actually got to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving, and I know a lot of my family feels the same way.  Instead of running around like crazy this week, I got to coach my school’s powderpuff football team.  Although we didn’t win the game, I was impressed by all the hard work that the girls did to get to that point, and I was extremely proud of the way that the girls represented their town.  It feels strange to not be rushing around, but it feels good to only have to bake three pies instead of thousands.  Last year we attended Ed’s family’s party at his aunt and uncle’s home in Rhode Island for the first time, and this year we’ll be eating dinner with my family.  It’s a new tradition and a new chapter in my life. 

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Gravy and Twice-Baked Butternut Squash

It’s no secret that I love to have apples with pork.  Every time I make pork chops, cutlets, or a roast, I always make fresh applesauce to go along with it, or I serve some of my home canned applesauce in a pinch.  But when I heard someone on TV making apple cider gravy, the wheels started to turn. 

Apple cider is a part of my heritage.  Actually, it’s funny that growing up I didn’t like apple cider that much.  We’d have it all the time in the fall and I’d get sick of it.  The same was true of maple syrup: when we were making it in March, I didn’t like it.  Now, I really enjoy both cider and syrup, and when I have them, it reminds me of my childhood.  My brothers and I were very little when we started helping my dad make apple cider (and tap trees, too).  I remember how loud the machines were.  We’d take big bins of apples and were always proud to say there were no “drops” (apples that fell off the tree onto the ground) in our cider.  First, the apples would be pressed to remove the juice, then my dad would take the pumice (the skins, seeds, and other pulp leftover) and either dump it in the woods or give it to my uncle to feed his cows.  It was our job to help bottle the cider.  We’d put a clean, new bottle under the spout and fill it, then remove it, put the cap on, and put it in a big wooden bin.  By the end of the day, we were all sticky with cider, bees were everywhere, and we’d help to hose off all the bottles.  When they dried, my dad would drive the forklift down the hill to the farm market and we’d stock the shelves of the cooler with the fresh cider.  Back then, our cider was always unpasteurized.  However, about 10 years ago, there were a few scares when people got E. coli from unpasteurized cider, but not from our farm.  Since we didn’t use apples that fell on the ground, they weren’t exposed to the animal waste on the ground that carries E. coli.  None the less, our customers got scared of unpasteurized cider, and we bought a big machine to pasteurize it.  While pasteurized cider will keep longer, it just doesn’t taste the same to me and to many other folks who are used to the traditional raw cider.  Now, it’s been years since I helped make cider, but every time I drink it I think of noisy machines, being sticky, and bees.

Garlic Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced into slivers
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make tiny cuts all over the pork tenderloin and push the garlic slivers into them.  Rub the oil onto the tenderloin and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until cooked through.  Cover with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.  Top with the apple cider gravy.

Apple Cider Gravy

  • 2 Tbsp butter or roast drippings
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then mix in the flour.  Stir in the cider and chicken stock and simmer until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Twice-Baked Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Split a butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down on a baking sheet for 1 hour at 350°F.  Scoop out the pulp, combine with bread crumbs, cheese, and season to taste.  Put the filling back in the shell and bake for 20 minutes until the filling is lightly browned.

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Filed under Food, Local Agriculture, Recipes, Sustainable Living, What's for Supper?

Mom’s Strawberry Picking Memories

My mom just sent me this picture along with the memory below.  My mom grew up on a dairy farm, and at 19 married my dad and moved to his farm.  They’ve been married 30 years.

“Picking these luscious Jersey Belles brought back fond (?) memories of when we used to go out to pick at about 5 am, before you were born, when I was still working at Wire Journal.  We loved the Jersey Belles, because with their huge size, the quart baskets filled up that much faster.  It was a competition between Dad, your aunts and uncle, and everyone in the family – – including Grandma Rose— to see who could pick the most quarts.  I think Auntie Di may have held the record!  Then, I’d scrub my nails to get rid of that tell-tale red stain and head off to my job in publishing . . .  Then, when you were born, we picked strawberries with you, and then with your brothers.  Come on down and let’s pick some together . . .”

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