Thursday, March 29, 2012

Give Something, Get Something

If one were to read the history of my wardrobe, it would be a tale of hand-me-downs and lost-and-found items. It is a habit that is cheap and available. Practicality as a fashion statement is sprung from a preference for manual labor and a penchant for frugality. The abundance of glossy media advertisements provoking over-consumptive cultural patterns does not endear their relentless message to me either. There is a surfeit of clothes in the world, the product of social addictions to new items, a credit card economy, and vanity in personal appearance. In response, the dress code modeled by myself and the crew here at D Acres trends to simplicity, (repetition), and functionality.

Granted, we may represent an acute reaction to general social malaise compounded by a rampant cultural compulsion to shop. I – we – stand by it nevertheless. And this coming weekend, we offer you an opportunity to “shop” in a neighborhood way. March 31st and April 1st D Acres will be holding its annual Clothing Swap 10am-4pm.

This is an opportunity to both give something and get something. Have used clothing items that you, your family, or your friends will make use of no longer? Bring it here! Please don’t throw out apparel, please don’t stuff another landfill with useable goods – fill the tables at The D Acres Garage Mall and offer it to the public. By the same token, if you’re in need (or yes, in want) of some new items, swing on by! Someone else may have dropped off the very piece for which you are searching. There is no charge to drop off nor to pick-up; anything leftover at the end of the weekend will be brought to the Plymouth Community Closet Thrift Store.

So what’s the advantage to the D Acres Mall, open one weekend per year? Well, this clothing swap event provides the opportunity to extend the life of clothing items that would otherwise be trashed, recycled, or shipped overseas. It provides consumers with the option of items they need without fostering an economic dependency on sweatshop labor and distant resource extraction. And it’s free!

We are attempting to redirect the wealth of objects we each possess to benefit our community and replace the dominant social pattern of buying new and trashing barely used. Too, we are criticizing allegiances to brands, decrying the cultural need for new, and disparaging our cultural compulsion for consumption. And we’d like you to join us.

We’re offering a simple and practical start – come by the farm for the annual clothing swap March 31st -April 1st, 10am-4pm. Begin by redefining your understanding of need, want, consumption, and satisfaction. How, really, do you want to occupy your time, your mind, and your money?

as published in North Country News

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bread & Yogurt: A Tutorial for Beginners and Aficionados

In response to the success of our joint Bread Baking and Yogurt Making workshop last week, Scott and I have developed the following step-by-step instructions for preparing these staple foods. Not only will the newfound skills allow for greater culinary sovereignty and gustatory delight, but they provide the opportunity to share the knowledge and nutrition with family, friends, and neighbors. Enjoy!


D Acres’ Bread Recipe

This bread baking recipe is adapted from “Tartine Bread” which is a fantastic book. Here is a link to the book:​1-9780811870412-0

For this recipe, you will need the following tools – a digital scale, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, a dough spatula, and a bench knife. For baking it would also be good to have a dutch oven or another oven-proof pot with a tight fitting lid.

Making this kind of bread requires three basic steps – first, you need to create a starter. Second, you manage the yeast and bacteria in the starter and third, you create the dough, shape it and bake it into a loaf of bread.

Making the Starter

Making the starter beings with making the culture. The culture is created when flour and water are combined and the wild yeast and bacteria that is present in the flour and the air begins to ferment. In order to make the starter, mix together 100 grams of white bread flour and 100 grams of whole wheat bread flour. Then combine the flour mixture with 200 grams of warm water and mix together with your hand until you have a thick, lump free batter. Then cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a cool, dark place until bubbles form around the sides and on the surface, about 2-3 days. A dark crust may form over the top. Once bubbles form, it is time for the first feeding.

To feed the starter, discard about 80 percent of it and replace with equal amounts of water (40%) and a 50/50 white/wheat flour mixture (40%). Mix it together, using your hands, until themixture is the consistency of a thick, lump-free batter. Repeat every 24 hours at roughly the same time of day for 2 or 3 days. Once it ferments predictably (rises and falls throughout the day after feedings), it's time to make the leaven.

Making the Leaven

When preparing to make the dough, it is best to use weight measurements. The night before you plan to make the dough, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the matured starter. Feed it with 200 grams of the wheat-white flour mixture and 200 grams of water. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a cool place for 8 -12 hours. By morning, the leaven will be aerated by the wild yeast activity and the volume will have increased by 20 percent.

Making the Dough

Gather the following ingredients for mixing the dough:




Water (around 80 degrees)

700 grams plus 50 grams



200 grams


Total Flour

1,000 grams


White Flour

900 grams


Whole Wheat Flour

100 grams



20 grams


It is best to think about bread baking in terms of weights and percentages. The flour, no matter what quantity is used, is the constant 100 percent against which all other ingredients are weighted and considered.

When you have gathering the ingredients together, pour 200 grams of the leaven into a large mixing bowl and add 700 grams lukewarm water - about 80 degrees. (The water should feel cool to the touch because our body temperature is 98.6 degrees.) Stir with your hand to disperse the leaven.

(Save your leftover leaven; it is now the beginning of a new starter. To keep it alive to make future loaves, do one feeding of flour and water and keep the starter in your refrigerator until you are ready to bake again.)

After you have dispersed the leaven, add 1,000 grams of flour – 900 grams of white flour and 100 grams of wheat flour – to the mixture. Mix the dough with your hands until no bits of dry flour remain. Let rest in a cool place for 35 – 40 minutes. Then add 20 grams of salt and remaining 50 grams warm water and incorporate them into the dough. Work the salt and the water into the dough with your fingers to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a clean plastic container or a glass bowl. Cover it with kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. The dough will now begin its first rise or bulk fermentation where it develops its flavor and strength. The rise is temperature sensitive; as a rule, warmer dough ferments faster. Ideally, the temperature should be around 80 degrees to accomplish the bulk fermentation in 3 to 4 hours. If your room temperature is cooler, you can put your dough in your oven next to a pot of boiling water. This will raise the ambient temperature of your oven.

Instead of kneading, you can strengthen the dough through a series of "folds" in the container during bulk fermentation. You should fold the dough every 30 minutes for the first two and a half hours. To do a fold, dip your hand in water to prevent sticking. Grab the underside of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it forward over itself. Rotate the container one-quarter turn, and repeat. Do this 2 or 3 times for each fold. After the 3 hours, the dough should feel aerated and softer, and you will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. If not, continue the bulk fermentation for 30 minutes to 1 hour more.

When the bulk fermentation is complete, pull the dough out of the container using a dough spatula onto an un-floured surface. Lightly dust the dough with flour and cut it into 2 pieces using the bench knife. You want to incorporate as little flour as possible into the dough. Using your hands and the bench knife as needed, work the dough into a round shape. Tension will build as the dough slightly anchors to your table surface as you rotate it. By the end, the dough should have a taut, smooth surface.

After this first shaping, let both rounds rest on the work surface for 20-30 minutes. During this period, the dough will relax into the shape of the thick pancake.

Dust tops of rounds with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest on the work surface for 20 to 30 minutes.

Slip the dough scraper under each to lift it, being careful to maintain the round shape. Flip rounds floured side down. The final shaping involves a series of folds. Each fold builds tension inside the loaf so that it holds its form and will rise significantly during baking. It’s a bit difficult to explain how to do this but I’ve found a video of it being done by the author of Tartine Bread. The baker does it quite fast so you’ll have to watch it several times but here is the link:​v=cIIjV6s-0cA

In a small bowl, make a 50/50 mixture of rice flour and whole-wheat flour. Line two medium baskets or bowls with clean kitchen towels and generously dust them with the flour mixture. Using the bench knife, transfer each round to a basket, smooth side down, with seam centered and facing up. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 2-4 hours before baking.*

Baking the Bread

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake the bread, place a dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. The oven rack should be in the lowest position.

While the oven is pre-heating, gather the tools you will need for baking – heavy oven mitts, rice four or corn meal and a razor blade to score the top of each loaf before baking.

Dust the surface of one of the loaves in the basket with rice flour. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, put on the oven mitts and carefully remove the pot or dutch-oven and place it on top of the stove and remove the lid. Use caution when handling the pot – it is 500 degrees and you can easily burn your hands.

Carefully inverting the bowl or basket, turn the loaf into the heated pot. Score the top twice using a razor blade. Cover the pot with the lid. Return it to oven, and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove lid (a cloud of steam will be released). The loaf should have risen significantly but the color should be pale and shiny. Continue to bake the loaf until it reaches a golden brown color – about 20 -25 minutes.

Transfer loaf to a wire rack or lean the loaf on its side so that air can circulate around the bottom. The loaf should feel light and sound hollow when tapped. Let it cool.

To bake the second loaf, raise the oven temperature to back to 500 degrees, return the dutch oven or pot to the oven and reheat it with the lid on for 10 minutes and repeat the baking process.

*The entire process from start to finish takes 8-10 hours. For many of you, setting aside this amount of time for bread baking will be a challenge. So here is a suggested schedule that might makes things easier. Mix the leaven on Friday morning before you go to work. When you get home from work, you can do the bulk fermentation and shaping and be finished by around 9:30 or 10 PM. You can then delay the final rise by placing the dough, in the baskets or bowls, in the refrigerator overnight – for 8 to 12 hours. The cool environment slows, but does not stop, the fermentation. After 8 to 12 hours, the bread develops more complex flavors and gives you, in my view, a better final product. First thing on Saturday morning, heat your oven to 500 degrees and do the baking then. That way, you will have fresh baked bread on Saturday morning and it won’t cut too much into your day.

Like anything else, it takes a little while to get the hang of this. If you have any questions or run into any trouble, please feel free to give me a call at 786-2366.

Good luck!




1. Obtain a starter culture. This can be yogurt from a previous batch or good quality, plain yogurt (preferably local and grass-fed) bought from the store.

2. Pour milk into a pot and heat GENTLY on low flame to 180ºF.

Monitor with a candy thermometer and stir often to avoid scalding or boiling. This may take 20-40 minutes depending on the quantity of milk, so remember to check back frequently!

3. At 180ºF, remove from heat and let cool to 110ºF.

4. Here's the ratio of starter culture to milk:

For every ONE QUART of milk, stir in ONE TABLESPOON of yogurt starter.

Adding more starter will counterintuitively result in a runny yogurt, so less is more in this case. To obtain a thicker, tangier yogurt, you can add only ½ tablespoon instead of 1.

5. After incorporating the starter, pour the milk back into a jar, cap, wrap with a towel to insulate, and place in a warm spot for 8-10 hours. Ideally and if possible, store the jar in an enclosed space (e.g., a cooler, hot box, or an oven with the pilot light turned on) to give the lactobacilli in the starter a consistently warm, insulated environment to proliferate.

6. After 8-10 hours, check on your yogurt. If the consistency, flavor, or texture is less than ideal, don't worry! There are many factors that take time to fine tune and adjust according to your preferences and the environment in which you're making the yogurt. The process is one of trial and error-you can follow the directions meticulously yet still obtain an undesirable outcome. The two most important elements to a successful yogurt are an active starter culture and temperature; consider these two factors when troubleshooting.

The yogurt is still edible even if did not amount to what you were expecting. Use it in soups, cereal, or chilled as a smoothie-it still contains the pro-biotic content of yogurt, but the microorganisms of the yogurt were outcompeted by those pre-existing in the milk, creating a thin consistency (this is why LESS starter is best!)

7. Refrigerate the yogurt and enjoy! It will keep for 1-2 weeks. If you're satisfied with the finished product, be sure to save a few tablespoons as starter for your next batch!


Contrary to popular belief, soured milk can be used to create a multitude of traditional dairy products. To make cottage cheese:

1. Leave soured milk at room temperature with a loosely fitted cap for

1-3 days, or until the solids, or curds (think Little Miss Muffet!) separates from the liquid, or whey.

2. After 1-3 days, strain the milk through cheesecloth (you can affix it with a rubber band or string around a pot) or a fine sieve for 8-10 hours, until most of the whey has been filtered.

3. Scoop out the curds and add honey, salt or dried herbs for flavor.

The whey is very rich in protein and can be used in cooking, lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits, soaking grains and nuts, or drinking plain for a nutritious boost of enzymes, vitamins, and pro-biotics.


For more information, including a variety of recipes and the benefits of raw milk, visit​rawmilkoverview.html​faq/faq-dairy

or pick up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.


Clare Eckert & Chris Woods

157 Fairgrounds Rd, Plymouth


Pretty Good Farm

Bill Kenney

63 Easton Valley Rd, Easton


Walker Farm

Chester Walker Jr.

2760 Smith River Rd, Bristol


Brookford Farm

250 West Road

Canterbury, NH 03224


Battles Farm ​ ​

Ed Erickson

328 Center Rd

Bradford, NH 03221

(603) 938-5668

Berway Farm and Creamery

Shirley Tullar

560 River Road

Lyme, NH 03768

(603) 353-9025/(802) 249-6107

Boggy Meadow Farm

Stan Richmond

13 Boggy Meadow Ln

Walpole, NH 03608

(603) 756-3300 f-(603) 756-9645

Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen

Bruce or Christine Balch

1322 NH Rt 10

Orford, NH 03777

(603) 353-9252/(603) 353-9066

Mack Hill Farm

Lisa Richards

35 Mack Hill Rd

Marlow, NH 03456

(603) 446-6261

Many Summers Farm

Heather Gallagher

112 Paget Rd.

Cornish, NH 03745

(603) 675-2200


On the River Farm

Kathy Barrett

91 River Rd

Lyme, NH 03768

(603) 795-2491

Robie Farm

Lee, Betty Sue and Mark Robie

25 Route 10

Piermont, NH 03779

(603) 272-4872

Stonewall Farm

Lindsay Taflas

242 Chesterfield Rd

Keene, NH 03431

(603) 357-7278

For additional farms supplying milk (including goat & sheep) throughout NH, visit​html#nh or

Best of luck! Any questions and/or troubleshooting inquiries are welcome; email or call 786-2366.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Planning for Spring

Sprouts are beginning to emerge. Early in February, kale, arugula, chard, and a variety of lettuces first pushed their way through the soil. Seeded into flats on shelves in the basement, their tiny leaves reach for the lights hanging just above. Subsequent plantings of greens have since begun to show themselves. Leeks as well, also peppers and basil. A host of brassicas are the most recent additions to the list of successful seedings: cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, raab, and kohlrabi.

While the seeding process will continue each week, building momentum for the anticipated arrival of spring and bare ground, these early sprouts will continue to garner our attention as weekly duties now involve checking and re-hanging lights. Fluorescents are hung close to the seedlings to prevent them from being spindly and leggy, slowly being raised as the plants develop. Watering duties are once again a part of our weekly work schedule as well – a sure sign that spring must be on its way.

Just as exciting is the ordering and arrival of seeds (we order through Fedco, a cooperative based in Clinton, Maine). This imbues another level of excitement and urgency to our spring work. There are greenhouses to plant, and gardens to plan!

While the ground is still snow-covered, the greenhouses have thawed and the soil workable – the rich smell of fresh dirt greets the senses upon entering. An essential means of season extension, early spring plantings of greens in our greenhouses are our only chance of fresh food by mid-April. Without greenhouses, we’d be waiting for bare ground to transplant into…this could be April, this could be May…

So as we prepare for spring, and gradually stock our shelves with flats of seedlings yearning for sunshine and the richness of a garden bed, we are engaged in an annual process of guesswork. As garden maps are drawn, and irrigation discussed, we are looking out on snow but imagining fresh soil and rich compost. We are guessing - part conservative, part aggressive - when the last snow will fall, when the ice will melt, when the final frost will hit. Guesses fueled by anticipation, and based in experience and observation.

For spring is just the beginning, the first leg of a sprinter’s marathon. Winter is a time to rest and restore ourselves. Spring, however, can be defined by the change of pace, the awakening of the natural world, the lengthening of to-do lists, the building of momentum. We are perched on the cusp; the world is about to turn from coldness and hues of gray and white, to lushness, warmth, and verdant abundance. In many ways the scale of our summer is determined by the quantity of work we can accomplish in the spring. So we must push ourselves hard, and plan for potentialities. A successful garden begins with spring efforts.

as published in North Country News

Photographs Of Italy

Mario teaching me to make ravioli plin. Finnochio de Verde in near Murrazzano in Piemonte.
Bottle feeding the week and half old kids.
View from my room window at Podere il Casale in Pienza, Siena, Toscana.
Making salame with Mario and the local butcher.
Olive trees.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Glimpses of Italia: Part One

I’m not quite sure how to start, but I have these images that continue to float through my mind as I think through my experience in Italy.
I can still feel my swollen fingers after a day’s work in the hard-pack, clay soil that makes up the entirety of the Italian landscape. I can still feel the excitement of seeing “spinacio” and “ravenello” seeds show their first new leaves. And the nervousness in anticipation of a newborn goat kid, listening to the wails of the mama as she pushed, and making sure the “capretti” safely took their first breath of fresh Tuscan air. But there is so much more.
When I first arrived, I wasn’t sure I actually liked Italy or Italians. At the train station in Torino, there were a lot of high heels, furry-collared coats, and wafts of cologne and perfume.
It’s a little difficult to write now about what I was experiencing so deeply in the moment. When someone asks me “How was your trip?” of course I respond, “It was great! It was one of the best things I’ve done for my self in a long time.” How could I say otherwise? I really did have a wonderful time, and I wouldn’t have chosen another place to spend 2 months out of my New England winter. Italy. Italia. It was actually a hard choice to make—I felt it was too luxurious of a trip to make. Even to make the 13-hour flight, when there are times I often don’t leave the farm for maybe 2 weeks at a time. The first weekend I was back in town, I had to take a trip to southern NH for a meeting. It made me think about how big our country is (in comparison to Italy), and how small the state of NH is. It took me 2 hours by car to get down to the Monadnock region. When I was in Italy, I had no other choice but to travel by train or bus. Many people traveled by train—it was easy. Even the smallest of towns had a station; perhaps the train did not run as frequently, but there was always the option. On my drive back up long I-89, I thought of how nice it would be to be on a train so I could read or write and reflect on the meeting I had just attended, or catch up on sleep, or simply stare out the window at the landscape. I wouldn’t have to drive. Certainly, Italians have lots of cars, and they have major highways, and they have to drive lots of places too. But public transportation is simply more accessible.
It has been interesting to ponder the smallness of a country in light of how huge the United States is. While many cultural aspects are the same as one travels through Italy, as I moved from region to region (Piemonte, Toscana, Liguria), there were slight local distinctions that made each town and city its own. When I was in little Murazzano in Piemonte, one of the other farm workers was originally from Tuscany, and Mario the owner of the farm and a magnificent cheese maker was originally from southern Italy. They spoke of differences in Italian dialect, but the main difference was always the cuisine. You eat fish on Christmas in the south, but you eat Panettone (a sweet, eggy cake) everywhere. You eat biscotti dipped in a kind port wine in Tuscany, and anchioves soaked in olive oil everywhere (but maybe more lemon in Liguria and more rosemary in Tuscany).
This is just a start as I reflect on my time away.
I’m glad to back at D Acres of New Hampshire. We have a lot of work to get done here and I’m more refreshed to be part of making it happen.
with warmth,