In the Big Garden

In the Big Garden
The Farmer at work...

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Hard Question, A New Generator and Jugged Tomatoes

Another very cool and grey morning dawns.  Crows sit as still as black rocks in the field behind our house.

As I take Dylan down to wait for the bus after breakfast, he squats suddenly to look at something in the grass.  It is a small finch, still warm and soft. 

"Is it dead?" he asks me.

I stoop to get a better look. "Yes, she probably flew into the side of the house, buddy". 

I take the small carcass delicately by a tail feather and we walk down to toss it off into brush across the road.  Dylan is quiet as we stand and stare out over our pond.  I ask him what he is thinking and he leans his head into my belly. 

"The bird is dead", he says in a small voice.

I look up at the first color in the trees on the hillside to the east, at the heavy apples hanging in our trees by the road.

"Yes" I say.

After a moment he looks at me.  "Why do people die?"

The question takes me momentarily aback.  I have never really thought about that, at least not directly. I do not suscribe much to the precepts of organized religion or the biased answers that they proffer to soothe us.  An incredibly pragmatic and possibly Pagan reply comes to mind and without editing, I share it.

"Well buddy", I say, "I guess people die because it's nature's way of making sure that there is plenty of room for all of us.  Otherwise you'd have to share your bed with Ben Franklin or Grandpa Hank.  And both of them snored."

He considers this solemnly and I impulsively take his little hand and turn him to look at the spot where I have tossed the bird.

"And just because something dies doesn't mean it goes away forever. Where I put that little birdie, after a few months she will be gone...but in the spring, something, a flower or some grass will grow up where she was.  And so in a way, that little birdie will come back again and again and again, every year, forever.  Pretty cool right?"

He smiles for the first time and nods.  The bus appears shortly afterwards to collect him and then when he is gone and the road is silent I stand and think about my answer to him. And I think about how much children can amaze you, about just how crazy it is that a five year old boy can still ask a question that not the greatest scientist or war leader, President or philospher can answer any better than he probably could in the first place. Just some musings for an Autumn morning.

Yesterday, Erin and I pick up our new 5000 watt generator that will be hardwired into the house through a load balancing switch, essentially a computer.  The unit will be able to be easily activated in the case of an outage and capable of supporting all of our basic power needs including my home office.  It is an expensive configuration but we rely on heat and power in the winter more than most people and a failure of the heat for several hours in sub 20 degree weather can mean frozen pipes or much, much worse.  I cannot be worrying during my hectic traveling sprees about Erin, Dylan and of course, our little soon to be Genevieve.  I am leaving nothing to chance. Call it "Man Nesting"- expecting a baby will do that to a compulsive like me.

Erin has another bad night, bad dreams, discomfort and sleeplessness.  This little Peach has got to get a move on...Mommy needs a break.

Dinners are a challenge lately with Erin's indigestion and I have to consider choices carefully.  She is in the mood for burgers last night, so I acquiesce.  We consider our meat very carefully these days.  If you do not yet understand the magnitude of the issue that we face as consumers of beef and other meat, read "Fast Food Nation" and read it NOW.  I won't horrify you here but it is imperative that you understand what is going on and take actions to protect yourself from illness or worse.

We stay with pastured raised and local beef that supplies a specialty provider down the road. For our burgers last night I use my tried and true basic approach- a mix, approximately 60 to 40 of good organic ground beef to ground venison.  I am a hunter of deer and can tell you that venison is one of the healthiest meats you can eat.  More importantly, because it is lean, it imparts a flavor that is distinctive, "beefier" many say than beef.  I hear this often from visiting Italians who have told me that my Bolognese with venison tastes like the authentic sauce of their childhood memory. I form the patties loosly and season with garlic and onion powder, a little salt and pepper.  Once formed, I chill them on parchment paper for about a half hour and then salt the outsides of the patties before grilling or frying, to develop a good crust.  And oh yeah, we ALWAYS have a rich assortment of toppings including but not limited  to avocado, homemade pickle relish, caramelized peppers, sauteed mushroms, Gorgonzola, thick pepper bacon, homemade mango chutney, marinated fresh tomatoes, grilled onions, local Blue Cheese, etc. 

Yeah, our burgers rule, hands down.

After dinner, I make a tray of one of my favorite condiments of late summer.  I call these "Jugged Harvest Tomatoes".  They are awesome in pastas, on bruschetta, in wraps or even in omelletees or salads. You must try them. If you don't have your own tomatoes, head over to the farmers market and buy some to use. There are as many variations as you can imagine- the one below is a basic one, but delicious.

Jugged Harvest Tomatoes:

Pre-heat over to 300 degrees. Wash a few Roma (plum) or your favorite tomatoes.  Slice lenghtwise and squeeze out the loose pulp and seeds  and discard. Place tomatoes on a baking tray.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, finally chopped garlic and sugar and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for an hour and a half to two hours until tomatoes are reduced in size and slightly browned around edges.  Allow to cool.  In a canning jar, pack tomatoes in with sprigs of rosemary or fresh thyme and cover with olive oil and seal.  Store in refridgerator for up to 4 days.

Happy Eating!


  1. That was a beautifully articulated exchange between you and Dylan. And I'm drooling over the burgers and tomatoes, I can almost taste them, almost...

  2. Hey...Thanks! Glad you figured out how to post!

    Check out the book I mention above. It's an old favorite of mine and really puts in perspective the dangers lurking in your ground beef (and other) foods. I like to pull it out and read it every time I want a steak or a burger...oxoxox