Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a warm and restful holiday.
It’s been four weeks since our last CSA pickup and farm stand, and the silence around the Tin House is deafening. We were very happy to take a break, but we’ll be just as happy to welcome everyone back this weekend. When asked where Dan and I get our energy, my answer often boils down to three simple things—good food, beautiful surroundings, and the support of our community. At the risk of sounding sappy, we feel a little lost without y’all.
But we’re trying to stay productive in the meantime. Last week I embarked upon a major purge around the Tin House. We’ve amassed an unwieldy collection of tools and hardware over the years—items donated from carpenters, electricians, and other craftsmen far more skilled at their trades than we. It’s hard to say no when the tools are from someone’s dearly departed dad, or from one of our own dads, but there are only so many wire crimpers a person can use. While Dan usually plays Oscar Madison to my Felix Unger, this week he’s been helping me sort and purge. At the moment, one corner of the Tin House looks like a bomb went off, but it can’t stay that way for long—the farm stand reopens this Saturday.
We’ve also been taking advantage of the mild weather to wrap up a big task we didn’t finish last fall—garlic mulching. In recent years, our plant-mulch routine has morphed from something fairly straightforward—plant in October and mulch in the subsequent weeks—to a complicated dance with the weather. Ideally, garlic planted in the fall doesn’t sprout until the following spring, but climate change being what it is, it’s become common for garlic to sprout in the fall, just weeks after planting. A little sprout is okay, but too much aerial growth is vulnerable to winter damage. So in recent years, we’ve pushed the planting back to November. The problem here is that November is when our heavy soil slips back into winter dormancy, becoming so cold and wet that it’s barely workable. Garlic is a tough crop that can thrive in a range of conditions, but only if you can get your seed in the ground. Most of the 2023 crop was bound for a field that catches little late-season sun, and as luck would have it, it rained very hard just two days before planting, but after we’d put out the call for volunteers. Rather than turn the volunteers away, we planted as much as we could before the muddy conditions got the better of us; our crew chipped away at the remaining beds in the days that followed. We returned in early December to mulch, completing about half the job before running out of leaves. And then the holidays were upon us, and there was that week-long cold snap when the temperature hovered around 15°, and…well…that’s why we didn’t finish job until this week. But with the temperatures back above freezing, and with holiday fat to burn, we were happy to get back outdoors. Most satisfying was finding very few sprouts peeking above the soil line—a good indication that the November planting dance is worth the extra effort.
I’m pleased to report that the 2023 seed order was utterly boring. That’s a big change from 2021, when dozens of varieties were sold out, backordered, or simply unavailable—another casualty of the pandemic. We even came within a hair's breath of not being able to get Sun Gold, our favorite tomato variety. Supply-chain woes were still a thing last winter, and I didn't want to miss out by waiting too long, so I called the seed companies in early December and asked if I could simply repeat my 2021 order for 2022. This meant that the dozens of substitutions I took in 2021 I took again in 2022, trading precision for peace of mind. But this year, with supply-chain issues largely resolved, I figured it was safe to wait until the New Year break to sit down and go through the order carefully. Now the seeds are in, waiting for their turn to jump into the potting mix…which will be here in the blink of an eye.
I'll close with a parsnip recipe that was so delicious, I just had to share.
Thanks for reading!
—From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce
1 lb. parsnips
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
salt & pepper
4 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Slice parsnips into thin rounds or cut into matchsticks. Heat butter in skillet over medium flame. Add parsnips and cook, tossing often, until partially tender, about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to strong simmer. Lower heat, cover skillet, and gently simmer parsnips until almost tender, 5-6 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to high, and cook until liquid reduces to a syrupy glaze. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 400°. Butter a baking dish. Place half the parsnips in dish. Drizzle with half the cream and sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.