January 2011 Archives

Local Food- Lutheran style

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Trinity Lutheran Potluck plate- January 2011

Lutheran's get a bad rap for putting on bland, unhealthy, white food potlucks. So I'm going to take a minute to sing the praises of the foods I enjoyed at church yesterday. And, speaking of singing praises, our choir practiced and sang the Listen to Your Children Praying... The quintessential ELCA message: Send us Love, Grace. We rocked, if I say so myself. We have a world class music director- Wayne and pianist Bonnie. Wow! these people are talented to just saddle up to the piano and bring forth such great music.

Back to the food... take a look at that plate. Four kinds of legumes (black eyed peas, kidney, lima, and butter beans); three veggies from the cruciferous family- brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage; local squash prepared with walnuts and cranberries (I bragged this one up enough that the leftovers were sent home with me! score); farm fresh, free range deviled eggs; apple crisp;carrots and more that simply wouldn't fit on my plate.

I live in a county with no fast food restaurants. You can't go to the grocery store in Clinton and buy a deli dish to bring to the potluck. Every single thing on that table (except the M&M's) was made from whole ingredients in a home kitchen. Made by women who know how to cook. Made by people with food traditions that still draw upon farm and garden and whole ingredients.

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Yes- that's my kid in the front of the line. An advantage of sitting in the first pew... first to be let out into the potluck line.

When Michael Pollen, noted author of the Omnivores Dilemma, spoke to a crowd of 2,500 in Seattle this month he probably wasn't thinking of rural Lutherans. But the food culture that he says is missing in America, is still around in some places. Not perfect, mind you. You can get a corn dog and fries at the gas station on the corner of mainstreet and Hwy 75. So we haven't been entirely passed over.

But maybe this little church, and others like it, have a head start in Pollen's "Omnivores Solution:" Quote..

We need to seek the source of the wisdom about our food through place-based culture, aphorisms, myths, and rules handed down from parent to child. We no longer have a food culture defined by the best use of local resources, artistically shaped over time. We no longer have a "mom" that understands and prepares good food.

Making a sustainable change in the way we eat and diversifying our diet will support a diversified agriculture. Farmers markets do not sell "edible food-like substances," there you will find whole, minimally processed, fresh foods.

It is through farmers markets we discover that food is not a product, food is a relationship. And the relationship is not just with the farmer or the producer of our food, but also a relationship with our community. The farmers market has become the new public square.

And one of the best things to bring to the table is gratitude. Which is why I remind myself and my kids at every meal that "for what we are about to receive, let us be truly grateful."

Curds and Whey

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Fresh paneer cheese-- destined for tonight's dinner

Enough bland food already. Having an Indian curry for dinner tonight-- Mutter Paneer. This morning I made the simplest cheese imaginable-- paneer.

Basically- boil 1 gallon milk, add 1/4 cup white vinegar. Take off the heat and let sit 15 minutes. Pour the curds and whey in a colander lined with cheese cloth. Then put a heavy pan of water on top to press the cheese for a few hours. Voila!

We used the creamy organic milk that was brought to us straight from the dairy farm. I'll cut it into 1 inch cubes, fry it up in butter, and mix it with a tomato curry sauce, green peas, and fresh cilantro and serve it over basmati rice.

Then there is the matter of the remaining whey that come from the cheese making. I thought I'd be tricky and mix it with some powdered drink mix and serve it to the kids as "lemonade" for lunch. That's the flavored whey in the picture. No go. I should have just given it to the dogs. I guess it's good pig food, but I don't have a pig... yet.

It's Saturday night folks. I'll open a bottle of wine from North Dakota, turn on Prairie Home Companion, and snag one of the kids into making dinner with me. We'll make a nice hot curry to counter the already -10 F and dropping temp.

Click here for Mutter Paneer recipe.

Mid-continent, 45th parallel, January

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Dramatic, moonlit prairie, -14 degree F, fresh snow, no wind

I notice that a lot of my recent pictures are dark... it's the season. I actually looked forward to winter this year. I looked forward to the hibernating comfort of being warm against the cold. Of resting while the land is under snow. Well... rest for me. The work of snow removal and feeding animals in subzero temperatures falls entirely on Mike's shoulders. And I think it causes those strong shoulders to ache.

It never topped 0 degrees F yesterday. School was delayed two hours due to da vistlin' driftin' snow. Mike reminded us over dinner that the last entire day of subzero temps was January 15, 2010. We are passing the coldest days of the year. The shortest days of sunlight have come and gone.

It's funny to wake up to 13 degrees above zero and be excited that it's so warm! Walking on a windless 13 degree day makes you warm enough to unzip your parka. It's all perspective and what you get used to. Like the monochromatic world all around us. The senses slow down. You have to search for the subtleties in the landscape, to see the different shades of white in the wind sculpted snow drifts. It's a kind of sensory deprivation.

Local foods-wise, the pantry stores are getting lower and the choices seem to come down to squash, sweet corn, beets. Oh... we've still got the jalapeƱo relish and Italian tomato sauce left. But it's seems ok to limit the palette for a while-- to have some calm monotony in the diet to match the calm monotony of the land. I am going to confess to cooking with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup two nights in a row-- a first in my life.

Oooo!! I just remembered there's a potluck at church on Sunday. Frankly, could there be anything more pleasing than a Lutheran church potluck in January? You can smell the coffee brewing from your pew and you know it will be all you can eat Calico bean hotdish, rice pudding, and hopefully someone will bring the Rueben Meatballs* again. The kids run around like maniacs, the adults have all you can drink coffee, and the comfort food is abundant. Let the good times roll. That will provide a brighter picture for Sunday's blog entry.

There's no point in these ramblings except, it's the season to let the world narrow to the very simplest of comforts. Warmth. Basic food. Good company. Close to home. The dark closes in and just a little candlelight makes it safe to curl up and enjoy the cold stillness.


*At the last church potluck dinner I raved about the Rueben Meatball hotdish. Didn't find out who made it, but the next week I found the handwritten recipe anonymously place in our mailbox. Thank you!

A Blank Canvas

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Winter 2011 - rural Big Stone County-- Our Blank Canvas

It is January. We're rested up from the field/growing season- the frustrations, disappointments, aches, pains, all fade into the background. They rest unseen under layers of snow. All the weeds and worries (well except for the cattle that can walk over their fences on snow drifts) are left behind.

This leads a girls mind to imagining and planning all the great things that a farm can be. The gardens, the bees, the wind turbine, the flour mill, the acres of organic wheat under the sun, the barley (who's growing barely for the local foods market- hey! there's a niche!), the fluffy yellow chicks and more.

Thanks to help from Darrin and Krecia in the local SWCD/NRCS office we're planting a three acre "food forest." Officially, it's known as a wind break- and believe me we have need for a wind break on these wide open prairies. Case in Point: the phone rang at 5:45 this morning (nearly always a harbinger of bad news) that school is delayed two hours because the back roads (read "you guys on the way out there farms") are not plowed out. So we are in need of and grateful to NRCS/SWCD for a refreshed and diverse windbreak that will be planted in this spring. The tree order went in yesterday.

Our new forest will be the stuff of permaculture dreams. We're putting in prairie plums, aronia (aka chokeberry- makes the most amazing wine), choke cherries, hazelnuts, walnuts, silver maple (think syrup), and some black hills spruce.

I decided to add in the spruce because I've observed that evergreens are the mark of civilization- only found on farmsteads or church yards. There are areas of "tree claims" out here- 10 acres parcels that were planted in trees to secure the land under the homestead act. Tree claims didn't include evergreens- as far as I can tell. The places that you see a nice row of pines or spruce are the homesteads and the churches-- or what is left of them. There may be no home or church there now, but the straight pines in a row tell you there was once someone or a group of someones who planted evergreens here. Not for utility or to stake a claim- but for the civilizing and beautiful nature of those trees.

Black Hills Spruce has a lifespan of 350 years.
That's the timeline I'm working on, I told Darrin.

So dream on! While the snow flies and the winds blow and the coffee is warm and the body is relaxed and the to-do list is easy, like "take down the Christmas tree" (well maybe this weekend). It's conference time for the sustainable agriculture community- MOSES, MN Organic Conference, Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society, Sustainable Farming Association. All are hosting their collective "Dream On!" conference for refreshed farmers and farmers to be. Think I'll swing by one of those conference on the way back to my farm on Friday. Hope to see you there.

Good Time as any for a Blizzard

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Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society - Woodstock, MN 1909

We've been snowed in on the farm for about 4 days. You've probably heard that I94 being closed from Alexandria, MN to Jamestown ND. To the west of us I29 is closed running north and south through South Dakota. Well, it's big news out here on the prairie anyway.

As long as the electricity is on, we're fine. We would have been out of luck, however, if the power had gone out, the house caught on fire, or we had a medical emergency.

This is a lot harder on Mike than it is on me and the kids. I offered to help run the tractor to blow out the drive- but he just laughed. He's on the third round of blowing snow. Has to blow out the hay to feed the cattle today. Other cores are more compact--the cows are hanging around the barn, chickens in and close to the coop, wimpy dogs afraid of the blowing snow.

We have enough food, water and board games to keep ourselves entertained. It's the holidays and we don't have to be anywhere for anything. It's a good time to hibernate- and sleep comes easily. Nice. This blizzard has worked out pretty well for us, but I know it's not easy on other folks.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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