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This poem was published 1998 in The Anthology of New England Writers.

Compost

Whenever I bury compost

in my garden

at night

by flashlight,

I imagine a horror story;

my ideas are strange.

Perhaps the blue, cloudy mold

or the shocking salmon-orange

gives rise to this atrocity

of thought.

As I dig in the earth,

crawling with venous worms,

I see a doll-like hand

unearthed by my spade.

I hear the whispered scratch

of neighbors peering over fences,

“I just know she’s burying a body

in that garden of hers”.

My ideas are strange

whenever I bury compost

in my garden

at night

by flashlight

since I buried my placenta:

the blue vein of umbilical cord,

in its maroon worm disguise.

The soil is so fertile now,

safe as a womb;

it’s been plenty long now

to grow a baby under there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                      

 

 

 

 A Tale of Two Farms

  and Two Recipes

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”— but growing your own food leads to eating rich during hard, economic times.

With two farms in our lives- my husband, one of the top sustainable farmers in America and orchard manager at Scott Farm- and I eat at a gourmet gastronomical level by growing much of our own food: chicken, lamb, pork, apples and a myriad of vegetables and herbs.

At our modest homestead a couple miles down a dirt road from Scott Farm, our Sheep’s Nose Farm is comprised of a 200 year old farmhouse with an Old English style barn and vintage 50’s sugar house. The sugarhouse houses a dozen laying chickens, and the barn recently restored through a Vermont Historic Preservation matching grant, houses fifteen sheep, a llama, three geese, six guinea hens, an additional dozen chickens and a twelve foot high cider press. Our four Berkshire pigs live behind the house since the barn was a construction side, and we haven’t moved them back to the barnyard. Neighbors say they miss seeing the pigs in the barnyard which stretches along a winding dirt road used by hikers, joggers, bicyclists and horse back riders. With only three and half acres of our own pasture, we barter with our neighbor to use his pasture by raising a pig for him and his family. His parents owned our farmhouse for over 50 years, and he is happy to see the farm continued to be used agriculturally. Plus, the bacon our pigs give him is the best eating. After our sheep have stubbled the best clover leaving the rest for our neighbor to mow and keep in healthy pasture, we move them to another section of grazing to keep the sheep healthy and happy.

It is very difficult for us to go out to dinner at a restaurant anymore. There are very few places that will satisfy our palate like our own farm raised meat. In particular, our lamb, heirloom Berkshire pork diet allows us to experiment with herbs and wine or spirits nearly every night. For instance, with Hubbardston Nonesuch apples from the orchard and a dash of Calvadoes on pork chops from our own pigs raised on our family farm, a meal becomes a gastronomical celebration of the long hours of pruning and harvesting the apple orchard and the year of love and attention given to our pigs, Snowbank, Lavender, Larkspur and Lavinia. We know we shouldn’t name them, but our pigs are part of the family until they meet with the butcher and become part of our lives again through cooking. As a former vegetarian, this is the hardest part of farming- being present when the butcher comes to our farm each fall, and I wait with them and love them until the last moment of their happy-go-lucky farm lives.

I grow a big garden for herbs, tomatoes, corn, greens, potatoes and other vegetables to eat fresh and to preserve. With the apple trees my husband planted here and the blue, red and black berries, as well as gooseberries added to the currants that were already here, we seem to have almost all our food needs met at our small farm. For milk, butter and cream, I can walk or bicycle to my neighbor’s farm, and listen to stories of calving, coyotes and other predator mishaps.

My mother always said, “Be careful what you wish for”. I had always wanted to get back to my farming roots, after studying Environmental Studies in Santa Barbara, California and living in Quebec, Canada during my youth. I grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania where my father specialized in flowers, but with vegetables, apples, cherries and walnuts sustaining us. But two farms in the family are sometimes more than I can handle. I just wish those tomatoes could can themselves.

Here is a recipe that brings back memories of my mother canning tomatoes for sauce and juice, and for pouring over fried eggplant. My father was big believer in drinking vegetable juices, and the quart jars of juice filled our pantry in the kitchen my mother lovingly painted lavender. When asked for a recipe, my mother always said he didn’t measure. Her mother never measured when she baked pies, Pennsylvania style egg noodles or canned the garden’s treasures. I had to learn by watching her and then practicing.

              Diana’s Homemade Tomato Sauce

The key to this recipe’s delicate flavor is the addition of fresh fennel and lots of garlic. Lots of folks take off the skins of their tomatoes, but I like the skins curled up in the sauce, and giving the sauce extra fiber and vitamins. But certainly, you can remove the tomato skins.

Bring to a boil. Boil on low heat 40 lbs. of fresh picked, cleaned and chopped tomatoes for 2 to 4 hours, until boiled to a thick sauce, stirring often. Depending on the tomato variety, the time will vary. Paste tomatoes will require less cooking because they are bred for dryness and for making thick paste. I use primarily Roma, but I like to add Pink Brandywine, Cuban Black, Italian Carmello, Yellow Boy and different cherry tomatoes. (Walker Farms in Dummerston is my source for heirloom variety tomatoes and each year I try new ones). It makes the timing less known, but using as many ripe tomatoes as possible is the goal for me. While boiling, sauté two bulbs (not cloves, bulbs) of garlic, which have been finely chopped, 5 large carrots finely chopped, 3 bulbs of fennel finely chopped in ¼ cup of olive. Cook until soft. Add to tomatoes in the last hour.

At the last hour, add one bunch of parsley, huge handful of chives and one bunch of basil finely chopped. Salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of dry red wine to taste.

You can also use whatever else you have in the garden such as eggplant, sweet peppers, onions and shallots.

Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

Makes about a dozen 16 oz jars.

Disclaimer: Because I cook the Pennsylvania Dutch way, these are guesstimates of the amounts used. I do not measure when I cook, just like my mother and her mother before her.

There maybe some left over for immediate use for the night’s meal to serve on pasta, pizza dough or fried eggplant. (See recipe below).

Diana’s Mother’s Pennsylvania Dutch Fried Eggplant Recipe

Serves 2 people

Take one large eggplant per two people and slice into rounds. Salt lightly on both sides and set aside one minute, and then dry the eggplant with a towel.

Meanwhile, cover frying pan with cold-pressed olive oil 1/8 inch deep. (Cast iron is the best. I still have my mother’s cast iron pan from 40 year ago, and the iron keeps the heat after you turn the burner off).

Crack three large eggs into a low bowl and whisk lightly with a dash of milk or water.

In another low bowl or plate, place a couple of cups of whole wheat flour mixed with cornmeal if you have it. Mix in a pinch or two of dried or fresh herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, salt and lots of fresh ground pepper.

With a fork, dip each eggplant round in the egg to coat thoroughly, and then quickly dip into flour mix to coat. Place in hot oil frying quickly on both sides to a golden brown. Place on paper bag to drain.

These are best served immediately and still warm. Usually these don’t all get to the table, because I eat the smaller rounds of the eggplant as I cook. Serve with Diana’s Homemade Tomato Sauce (warmed up or catsup dribbled over each round. Wine suggestion: Chianti or Merlot.

Happy eating!

Dreaming of Apples

This poem won the Ralph Nadding Hill Literary Award for 2012, to be published in Vermont Life Magazine.

DREAMING OF APPLES
For Z.

By Diana Lischer-Goodband, copyright 2001

I dream of apples like some people dream of money, love and success.
I just want apples: round, glistening and scented like a mountain morning;
a treasure chest of garnets, rubies and golden globes of perfect fruit:

Hudson’s Golden gem, Black Oxford, Roxbury Russet.

I dream of apples in the winter, when the world is sleeping.
Apples waiting to be pruned before the arrival of the carnival of bee hives,
Their colored boxes alerting our bear-of-a-dog to beware of bees.

I dream of apples in the spring, when apple blossoms shiver,
Shaking their pink confetti over intoxicated bees buzzing,
Careening in frantic circuitry of bee-lines to flowers soft with pollen.

In summer, the fruit grows plump like well-fed children
Playing in the sun, cheeks flushed from the exertion of ripening.
I dream of their fruition, and my desire for apples grows stronger:

Sheepnose, Blue Permain, Hubbardston Nonesuch.

I dream that the fruit will bear me to ecstasy-
To pie, perhaps to dream of more voluptuous fruit,
The sweet-tart crunch of taut apple flesh.

In fall, the trees beckon with perfumed temptation,
Their apples overbearing, overwhelming:

I dream of apples.

Only harvest means anything to me.

Autum Sheep

Zeke in his plum-colored cap – a favorite color….

PLUM GOOD!

By Diana Lischer-Goodband, copyright 2010

Ok, enough people have been begging my husband for his wife’s crabapple plum jam recipe.

My husband, Zeke Goodband, becomes a stranger as he works 7 days a week now to get the apple crop in. Originally collecting scion wood over 30 years ago from old timers in Maine, Zeke has introduced over 60 heirloom varieties to Scott Farm in Dummerston. Local fans of “Zeke’s Eco Apples”call him “the guru of fruits”, “a national treasure” and a modern day Johnny Appleseed, having also introduced these heirloom varieties to Alysson’s Orchard across the river in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Zeke’s Damson plums are paired in this recipe with Dolgo Crab Apples, from Kazakhstan, where the apple originated.

Diana’s Dolgo Crabapple and Damson Plum Jam

The recipe is really great because of Zeke’s fruit.

3 c. quartered, unpeeled Dolgo crabapples

1 1/3 c. water

4 c. sliced Damson plums

2 1/2 c. sugar 

1/2 c. dry red wine

1. Place crabapples and water in large stainless steel pan. Bring to
boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and boil gently 10 minutes or
until fruit is soft. Discard solids. Do not overcook. Press apples
through sieve.

2. Return crabapple mash to pan. Add plums, sugar and wine. Bring to
full boils and boil rapidly, uncoverd until mixture forms a gel (about 20
minutes). Stir frequently. Remove from heat.

3. Ladle into 1/2 pint sterilized jars and process in hot water bath for
5 minutes.

Makes 6 cups.

Stars

Stars
light my way
to sleep
I dare not
go alone
into the night
of hidden worlds,
when quiet
is a whisper
and dawn
comes too quickly.