I was recently introduced to the smash–muddled fruit mixed with simple syrup and spirits, topped with crushed ice. So I made one yesterday. It was hot. Let me tell you that baby was refreshing and delicious. I made it with blueberries and a peach and orange vodka. I sipped it while grilling vegetables on the deck. I looked out over the green fields and truly enjoyed a moment of summer. I will be revisiting the smash again during these warm days. Summer is short.
Yesterday I picked up our farm share. We switched this year from Stony Loam Farm to our neighbors who offered shares for the first time this year. We loved Stony Loam but the Needham Family Farm is close enough that we can walk there. It was hard to give up a relationship of several years with some folks who are just plain awesome, but this made sense to at least try. Typically more than one of us walks over; often we all do as a family. But yesterday I went solo since I was the only one around. It was a fine day for a walk.
The Needhams do things a little differently. Instead of a box that we pick up on a certain day of the week, their farm stand is open every day. We go on the day that works best for us. And instead of a particular allotment of produce, we choose from what they have. We get a set number of points each week and can divide those points how we want. The have produce–this week included kale, swiss chard, lettuce, beets, zucchini, summer squash, peas and some other stuff–and they also have eggs (we get these every week), frozen chickens, maple syrup, honey, granola, quiches, pies and other prepared foods. This week I picked up a jar of honey since I was planning to put some in the beer I made today. I got beets and squash. I walked home with a bag full of good stuff.
This is working out well for us so far. We were away last week and picked up our share when we returned on Saturday; we did not worry that we would miss pick-up day. It isn’t perfect–we missed out on the early tomatoes because there just are not many and they are popular, and it is less social than meeting everyone else who has shares on pick-up day–but overall I am happy with the system. Simply being able to walk over makes working with the Needhams a good deal. It may be muddy and it may be dry. The deer flies may be out or they may not. The oaks will be there on any day, however, and the path will offer a mini adventure any day we go.
I wasn’t really all that fond of beets. My parents grew them in our garden when I was growing up. I ate them with the rest of my siblings because that was one of the things we were served. I don’t remember hating them, but I also didn’t ask for second helpings. Once I moved out on my own I never ate beets. I didn’t buy them, I didn’t cook them, I didn’t order them. They just were not on my radar of delicious things. That, however, has changed.
Last year I planted beets in our garden for the first time. It turns out my parents instilled in me not only a love of gardening, but also a love of beets. Who knew those purple guys could connect generations? I only grew a few of them last summer. I had a spot in one of the beds and so bought a few seeds and sowed them. And they were tasty. The first ones I coated in olive oil and grilled, and I have not turned back. I remember eating boiled beets, but roasting or grilling is my cooking method of choice.
So last night we had beets for dinner. I had a small crop, thinking I would plant a second batch that hasn’t made it into the ground yet. They were fat and bright and red. I peeled them and sliced them thick and grilled them like I did that first time. I also grilled zucchini, several of which we got from our farm share this week. The topper was the pesto I made yesterday as well. Basil and cilantro is bursting so I cut lots of it. I also pulled a couple heads of garlic–the first from our garden this year. I whipped up a batch of traditional basil pesto and one with cilantro. I froze most of it and the rest dressed the grilled vegetables. It was dee-lish.
It turns out, after turning into somewhat of a grownup, that I now have a real taste for beets. Soon I am planning to brew another batch of beer. I will add a couple of pounds of beets to that. I will add some sugar for the yeast to snack on and it will likely turn the brew red or pink. That will be interesting. I certainly did not imagine myself, back when I was swallowing those red boiled tubers, that I would be a fan of beets, growing them myself and adding them to homemade beer. Maybe I am more of a grownup than I thought.
We had a bit of a spontaneous morning. We tossed bikes and helmets into the van and drove to Burlington. We had breakfast at Penny Cluse which, frankly, is hard to beat (those home fries are pretty much to die for), then pulled out the bikes and headed toward the lake. My wife needed air in her back tire, but when she tried to fill it with the pump we had brought along, it went flat–busted valve. Rats. We had just loaded the meter with quarters–enough for three hours–but she had to bring her bike to the Ski Rack to get a new tube. Somebody got a great parking gift after she pulled out of that spot.
The kids and I walked our bikes down the sidewalk to the Ski Rack. The tube was replaced in no time and we were off to the bike path. We rode for a couple of hours, slowly making our way to Winooski. We turned around at the bridge over the Winooski River, which was a big hit with the kids. And, I have to admit, for myself, even though I had been there before. The river spilling into Lake Champlain, the water shining in the sun, the Adirondacks glowing in the distance–really, it was spectacular.
As we rode back to town I thought about how amazing is this place. We live in a beautiful spot and I don’t think I could take it for granted. I am stunned on days like today. After a breakfast that could not be better, a ride with my family in the most picturesque of settings, how could I not be happy?
When I first moved to Burlington I worked at Abraham’s Camera Shop. I worked the standard nine to five shift, selling cameras and film. They had a great selection, although the owner was creepy. Actually, he was really creepy. He had an assistant in the upstairs windowless office whose job in part was to watch the security cameras. The cameras were to make sure no one stole anything, but they were aimed not out at the floor, where customers lingered, but behind the counters where the staff worked. They were watching me. Creepy.
That was a short job for me, however–only a few months. I was out of there as fast as I could go. I got a job at Photogarden around the corner, processing film. That was way more enjoyable. In both cases I did not have far to go to get to work. I lived on Hyde Street, in the old north end, so I walked or rode my bike to work every day. Those were not career jobs, but the commute couldn’t be beat.
Since I worked on Church Street, which is open only to pedestrians most of the day, I loved walking down this street in the morning. The street was bustling. Shops were being unlocked and deliveries were being made. Before 9:00 trucks would park on the street and unload. It felt like the world was clear and real and waking again to a new day. It gave me a sense of perspective–I was just one of many people with interesting or boring, exciting or mundane, happy or depressing lives. I felt good about my own life. I had health and friends and a good attitude and years ahead of me to fulfill my dreams.
I watched the boxes roll from a truck and thought about the man pushing the trolley. Did he have children? Did that Remington hat mean he was a hunter? I thought about the woman accepting the boxes. Did she own that place? Did her business mean as much as a relationship? I looked at the cute waitress serving breakfast at the restaurant next door. I thought about the future sometimes and often just lived in the moment.
Yesterday I walked down Church Street early. I do not do it often anymore. I had just dropped off my daughter at a photography camp program on lower Church Street (how things loop around) and was walking with my son to have breakfast in town. The scene has not changed much. I still wondered about the people on either side of the deliveries, and the waitresses don’t seem so cute now (compared to my wife, who could?) but the trucks were still lined up and the boxes still rolled off the backs of them.
I had some of those same feelings of hope and wonder that I had all those years ago. I felt proud of my daughter for trying something new and I felt happy to spend some time with my son, who is turning out to be a pretty great person. We walked up the street, some of my dreams now fulfilled, some still to be met, and I felt glad to simply be there, to be alive and to welcome the day.