Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Too Much Milk

Milk and Bread: staple foods.

Good milk and good bread: these staples become artisanal treats.

Such is the reality we’ve created with our Multi-Farm Winter CSA. Of the six items included each week, milk and bread are some of the most talked about (other items include meat, cheese, eggs, and a rotation of potatoes/kale/sauerkraut). This is in part due to the superb quality of Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen’s Devon milk, and the remarkable baking ability of Scott Codey here at D Acres.

The verbosity dedicated to bread and milk is also due in part to the perpetual problems of having too much, or having too little. Different folks find their fortunes leaning in different directions.

We here at D Acres, however, are offering a dual solution.

The details: March 10th, 11am, D Acres Farm. The topic: Yogurt-Making & Bread-Baking Workshop. In answer to the dilemma of too much milk, Katie Cristiano will be offering hands-on yogurt-making instruction. All participants will leave with a small batch of yogurt, providing a sufficient culture to continue the process at your home. This simple procedure gives milk a second life. Milk-turned-yogurt has a longer shelf life, and expands your range of edible possibilities. Not to mention that it is an empowering and exciting – also, simple – skill that increases your food independence from grocery store aisles. Additional examples of easy & inexpensive alternatives include cottage cheese, yogurt cheese, cream cheese, and kefir.

The second half of this workshop will be focused on bread-baking with natural fermentation. Led by Scott Codey, he will explain the process of working with natural yeast. Participants will witness each stage of the process, and shape their own loaf to take home with them. Homemade bread is a healthy alternative to mass-produced commodities that are filled with chemical additives and extra sugars. With this workshop, you will learn how to create a delicious artisan loaf with the simple ingredients of flour, water, and salt.

Both yogurt-making and bread-baking are homestead skills that are easily learned. Once the basic concepts are understood, all manner of variations are possible. Call ahead to reserve a spot in this workshop! Saturday, March 10th, 11am-2pm. Free to members of our Multi-Farm Winter CSA; $8 charge for the public. Join us in keeping our food real, and real food good.

as published in North Country News

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Currency in Community

Just the other evening an intern - who is also a student - was posing his homework questions to the rest of us over dinner. I ambled into the room at a critical moment:

“Beth, what do you think are the root causes of the world’s problems?”

Money and men were my off-the-cuff response. We all laughed for the joke, or perhaps for the truth it suggested. “Men” being alliterative; my meaning being “humanity” lest anyone feel unfairly slighted. The answer, of course, is not nearly that simplistic. Setting aside the topic of humanity, let’s briefly consider that of money.

Money, a statement of value. Yet money so effectively affects our judgment of value. Twists it, undermines it, and counters a traditional value system rooted in place, landscape, resources, and community.

Rather than judging worth –value - by the time it took to make an object, or the neighbor’s par excellence skill with a particular tool; or the resources you had to pull from your own land for the creation of a good; or the necessity that an object can claim in our daily life…rather than any of these reasonable, tangible, based-in-reality systems of value, we have chosen to use paper currency as a value-determining middle-man. Not only that, but paper currency is now an international value, resulting in total detachment from a community-based scale of value. We have evolved into a system that determines value largely devoid of the people, places, and resource-base from which objects and services originate.

Is this really how we want to continue? With money flowing out of our communities for objects created in exploitation of distant people and resources, subsidized by governmental agreements and sanctioned by international political status quos?

Not me, for one.

Here at D Acres, we are emphasizing a resource-based, skills-based economy, one grounded in place, reflective of our regional identity, and responding to community needs. Resiliency, flexibility, and sustainability are tenets of a local system, rather than power, exploitation, bureaucracy, and unrestricted development. We want an economy grounded in the reality that surrounds us. We want to maintain money – value - within our communities. Wealth based in resources & skills is wealth that is tangible, necessary, and empowering.

And so we are envisioning a new system, one that reflects our identity, our landscape, our resources, and our community needs.

Sounds like grand philosophy, I suppose. What does it mean?

We are initiating a community exchange system that is based on the goods and services that we each offer. It is a mutual credit system that encourages trading of goods and services between individuals Administered online, participants will be each other’s oversight and accountability. While we recognize the challenges, we are also excited about the possibilities.

Join us as we imagine a new way! Community-wide planning begins Saturday, February 25 at 12:00noon, here at D Acres. Come to learn more, contribute your perspective, and be a part of this inspiring community initiative. The future starts now.

as published in North Country News

Thursday, February 2, 2012


It’s February and we have twenty-nine gallons of sauerkraut remaining in the root cellar. Red and green are the dominant colors, but flavors run the gamut: some straight up ‘kraut, some savory with caraway and dill, some hot on the tongue with our own peppers, even some innovative kim chi of our own creation.

And yet spices aside, we’re ultimately talking twenty-nine gallons of fermented cabbage. But really, it tastes, well…awesome. It’s good right out of the bucket, also cooked down in a skillet, or mixed with our winter staples of pork, potatoes, and squash. It shows up for breakfast (please, it’s great with eggs), lunch, and dinner. It’s so good that we’re offering sauerkraut as part of our multi-farm winter CSA, and rationing ourselves the rest at a rate of one gallon per week.

In the words of one farm resident, “I just can’t get enough lacto-bacilli!” Certainly not the average conversation starter, but there you have a sampling of our sentiments for sauerkraut. It’s good and good for you.

A celebration of sauerkraut is also a celebration of seasonality. As I write this, temperatures for the night are descending below zero. Not the habitat for fresh greens and vegetables. Yet thanks to the root cellar – our natural refrigerator dug below ground, with a dirt floor – w have maintained a supply of storage crops: potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips top the list. Fresh cabbage, our closest approximate to fresh greens, lasted in fine form until the end of December. We have successfully stored cabbage until February in prior years, though a portion is lost due to an ungraceful aging curve in this hearty brassica.

This is where the story returns to sauerkraut. Cabbage is given a longer shelf life in the form of sauerkraut. Shredded and mixed with salt, cabbage will produce a brine of its own. Packed in a jar and stored in a cool locale, cabbage will then safely and successfully ferment itself into sauerkraut. Healthy and advantageous bacteria will easily preserve cabbage-turned-sauerkraut for many months. In this manner, our hundreds of cabbage heads (Mammoth Red Rock, Melissa Savoy, Frigga Savoy, Fun Jen to name a handful of varieties) are living their second life sliced, diced, spiced, and tightly packed in five gallon buckets about the cellar.

Thus we are left to enjoy the proverbial fruits of our summer labor. Sauerkraut is a winter delicacy, a food prized in this time when fresh greens are out of season. It is another flavor to treat the palate and add variety to the winter diet. It is a celebration of simple food storage techniques and preservation methods, and a delicious ode to the rich reality of eating with the seasons.

as published in North Country News