Happy New Year, Long Island! My sincerest hope is that this blog post finds you in good health. Other than Mass and a few local (mainly outdoor) activities, we are keeping it low-key and really focusing on making the most of our stay-at-home life these days.
In addition to the obvious joy first and foremost --Christmas-- we have been enjoying the unusually slow transition out of fall. We decided to take advantage of Amber Waves' winter CSA box extension, and our first couple of December trips were decidedly autumnal. Many of the leaves were still on the trees earlier in the month, and they were simply a joy to behold. We signed up for an outdoor children's class, while was a delight: a handmade rosemary and pine wreath, under the direction of Farmer Kristen. S loved every second of the class!
The farm really took on a fun twist with decorated tractors and a marketplace. I wish we could have caught the tractors at nighttime!
As we moved into mid-December, the warmer weather surprised me; when we got out to Amagansett one day, I saw cherry trees in bloom. Far afield while en route to our brick-and-mortar co-op, I happened to catch a glimpse of a few forsythia blossoms emerging along the side of the road. It got me thinking... could I force Forsythia blooms inside? I never did it this early in the year, but since I forgot to ask the landscaper to trim them back this fall, our lengthy hedge had plenty of odd branches to spare. It wasn't a high priority as we moved into Christmas, but the past few days with temperatures in the fifties and ample free time finally gave me the motivation I needed. I brought a couple dozen branches inside, scored the bottoms with a utility knife for ease in cutting, and then split them up the middle with my shears. The obliging vintage Pyrex container from my mom's days in the lab almost fifty years ago seemed a fitting vase. All in all, it probably took about an hour. Will it work? That remains to be seen...
In other efforts at bringing nature inside our home, this week we will be doing a pinecone experiment I found amongst our collection of materials from East Hampton's Playful Learning (43 Pantigo Road, 631-899-4574). The product of veteran educator Mariah Bruehl's flourishing creative vision, Playful Learning boasts a studio learning center which features in-person enrichment classes for young children, as well as an online printable membership especially geared to homeschoolers. Materials are secular, wholesome, and a good fit developmentally for the junior kindergarten through mid-elementary set. We haven't taken the classes at the East Hampton studio, but we certainly benefitted from the robust offerings made available through the online membership. My favorite units have been the science/nature-themed ones, especially those with a focus on L.I.'s own flora and fauna. I really appreciate how fine motor, phonics and spelling skills are gently incorporated into the lesson units. The materials have certainly complimented our main curricula nicely, bringing about present-tense moments of joyful science exploration. Does all of a pumpkin float? I won't spoil that surprise, but if you'd like to learn more about Playful Learning, you can explore all that they have to offer at www.playfullearning.net
In this spiritually joyful but otherwise dormant season for those of us who live in the Northeast, what little ways do you enjoy bringing some of nature's beauty into your home?
Happy Thanksgiving, Long Island!
Or, as our dear pastor said Thursday during his homily at Thanksgiving Mass:
What I love about blogging (as inconsistent as it may be) is that it is a chance for me to say “thank you”. Thank you to the people who give of themselves in so many ways, and have the courage to start or maintain a business with their God-given gifts and talents, even in this challenging time. Thank you for the places of natural beauty which are there for us to enjoy, learn from, and experience, and the wonderful people God has entrusted to take care of them. And thank you, Lord, for this beautiful family, these friends, this community, who I have the pleasure and honor to walk alongside.
As some of you may have noticed, my blogging has been gradually moving in a direction that better reflects this important chapter of our family life. Homeschooling has been such a blessing, and sharing it in new ways has been tugging at my heart. I am indebted to the praiseworthy women who make up our robust homeschool community, who inspire and encourage.
On a lighter note, I am thankful for the blessing of the person (not me), who has once again rose to —scratch that, exceeded— the occasion, handling all manners of cooking that are more complicated than mac n’ cheese, rice, or salad. See Exhibit A, a beautiful turkey from Koch’s Turkey Farm (certified organic and humane), made available through our friends at Amber Waves Farm. The bird just fit into our oven.
The fixin’s were as Long Island as Long Island gets: almost exclusively local produce from Amber Waves, Foster, and Balsam Farms. Stuffing was made from bread from a distributor to Giunta’s, and for dessert we welcomed a pecan pie from Milk Pail (and some chocolate chip cookies from Tate’s for people who don’t dig pies). Viva la difference…
Exhibit B was the strong, silent type, who also accompanied us back from the farm: the 2019 Wölffer Estate Red Table Blend. You know ‘em for their “Summer in a Bottle”, but this perennial Sagaponack winery also produces an integrated, affordable red whose construction is more Cab Franc-y than it lets on (just 5.7%!). Prettily so, however, perhaps in part to that nod of Petit Verdot that marries it with the predominance of Cab Sauv. Green pepper and East End terroir minerality, indeed. Pair it with: whatever.
Charlie Brown made at least one guest appearance.
What were your Thanksgiving plans? Whether you went big or kept it small, I hope you had heaps of fun, food, health, and happy memories with your loved ones!
You know those crazy cat people? We are slowly becoming the crazy squash people. Instead of cats, we collect squashes. We eat the squash, but we also use them as a centerpiece. Can't wait to roast the two kabocha (the big guys in the picture--- one is deep orange, and other sage green). Isn't it amazing the different colors they come in? They bring such cheer and vitality to our dining room.
The squashes and more are products of beloved Amber Waves Farm (367 Main Street, Amagansett, NY, amberwavesfarm.org) Our delight at renewing our CSA membership has only amplified in the face of the many ups and downs 2020 has brought. A connection with the outdoors, nature, nutrition, and where our food comes from is a huge part of our homeschool life in the fall. U-pick is back for CSA members, with social distancing/asking protocols in place. To say that our family has enjoyed heaps of sungold and cherry tomatoes, lunchbox peppers and purslane (which has a habit of growing all over the place, particularly near the irrigation) over the past few weeks would be an understatement. One of my favorite uses for the tomatoes has been a recipe of East Hampton's own, Ina Garten. You can find it here: www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/summer-garden-pasta-recipe-1925046 Even this turns-food-into-carbon cook could manage making it with minimal disaster. Disclaimer: after I halved the tomatoes, I put the oil mix in the fridge for the 4 hours. I've been told not to leave tomatoes out in the open air once they’re cut into (for safety reasons).
Our personal favorites this season so far include:
- kale, mustard and dandelion greens (K's vote--- I love 'em braised with a little EVOO, apple cider vinegar, chopped garlic, salt, pepper. Tossed at the end with some bacon and cannellini beans, the more bitter greens become a simple and splendid one-dish meal)
-all manner and varieties of squash (J dubs: "Superb!!!" The chef of the house makes some mean delicata squash fries. Can't wait to see what he'll do with the kabocha...)
-Japanese radishes (a rather surprising two cents of S, because as beautiful as the radishes are, they have a fair amount of heat. When roasted into chips, however, their sweetness really comes out and makes them really appealing for snacking.)
As the fall CSA box draws closer to its end, each pickup becomes sweeter. Jane at Amber Waves has been a joyful sight each week. She channels her decades of experience as an educator into an enthusiasm for the farm during her interactions with the youngest CSA members like S.
With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we are looking forward to a highly-regarded Fossil Farms turkey. Amber Waves is making available for advance pick-up. (A full report to follow...)
One of the incredible joys of homeschooling is developing our curriculum around the bounty and richness of our local environment. That came in one of its most fruitful forms (literally and figuratively) this past fall when we became CSA members at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett. To avoid the traffic of summer tourism and take advantage of the beloved vegetables that do so well in the autumn soil, we signed up for the Labor Day-Thanksgiving farm share. (In making a day of the trip, it also provided a chance to enjoy our beloved nearby Montauk off-season).
Amber Waves founders Katie & Amanda are a force of nature and for good as they collaborate with the local community on a range of environmental, educational and humanistic goals. In addition to the obvious function of raising great organic produce and providing local jobs, they donate to the Springs food pantry and provide remarkably affordable educational workshops.
As CSA members, we received a large weekly box of fresh produce (and in a world before coronavirus, U-pick privileges). The boxes are generous, and the vegetables easily covered our family's needs for over a week. It was a truly magical experience making our weekly trip to the farm to pick up our produce, interact with the gracious and welcoming staff, pick a fresh flower bouquet, amble about the grounds, and wave to the passing LIRR train. They do a pretty great job of washing the produce, but certainly you will want to wash it again thoroughly when you get it home.
Being a CSA member at a local farm enables farmers to finance and plan for the season ahead, and this includes hiring. As we all know, real estate is a huge financial burden for local businesses, particularly our farmers and winemakers who need ample land. Signing up for a farm share is a tangible way we can keep our farmers on the Island and keep that fresh, affordable and delicious produce coming. Amber Waves offers a number of different CSA memberships and dates through their website, as well as special grocery pickup options. We are looking forward to participating again this fall and wish Katie, Amanda and their team all the best in the year ahead.
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