Peppers Becoming Peppers

IMG_0469 - Version 2Our peppers are ripening slowly but surely, coming into their own fully-peppered selves.

But meanwhile, a complaint. NYC’s scent gets a particularly bum rap for a city that contains upwards of eight million peeps. But come mid-July even I can’t contest that a haze smelling distinctly of diapers, feet, and way-past-its-sell-by-date milk looms in a fog around our fair town, making almost cartoony wafting shapes above piles of trash.

And thus! Evan and I will be merely in and out of the city for the next few weeks, avoiding the Oscar the Grouch smell and seizing the opportunity to take some time off before Evan starts his PhD (whoot!  Go bunny!) and I start my Master’s in Food Studies, Nutrition and Public Health (for real, I’ll be legit).

So over the next few weeks we’ll be helping out on my sister-in-law’s farm in Vermont, visiting both sets of our folks in Northwest CT, and even going to a wedding in Curaçao! As such we will be dropping into the city every few days, instead of every-every day. Hopefully our little window bounty will survive the lack of attention – although as things are looking a leetle shabby as is, perhaps not.

But! We do have some fine looking peppers turning appropriate pepper-shades coming along, and some very exciting eggplants, which neither of us are sure when to cave and pick. Suggestions?

IMG_0473 IMG_0472 - Version 2 IMG_0470(Oh, and it’s a metaphor. We’re the peppers. Obviously we’re the peppers, pay attention.)

 

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Zinnias in NYC

As we blithely told some apartment-hunting friends recently, “You’re not the first people in New York City to want outdoor space.”

New Yorkers do what they can with the minuscule amount of space the landlord gods grace them with, generally something resembling a shoebox with a toilet. As you might remember from last year, Pygmy Goats - http://blog.sfgate.com/pets/2010/01/26/pygmy-goats-the-new-it-pet/for Evan and me doing what we can means utilizing the two windows in our studio apartment with happy, fanciful window gardens, bringing the farmin’ to city as per usual.

In our dream world, we would have a rooftop garden, or even a rooftop farm. We’d have a city-cow for dairy and some city-chickens for eggs and maybe a city-pygmy goat. Because – I mean, look at them – who can resist a pygmy goat?

We have yet to build our city farm, but we are still desperately trying to keep our teenie-weenie garden alive and well. This year we still have our happy little lemon tree, as well as sage, mint, chives, basil, zinnias, johnny-jump-ups (which bring me unreasonable joy), and tomatoes again, both cherry and beefsteak.

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IMG_6127There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning, rolling over in bed, and seeing our city street framed by our garden.

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(Our friends, by the way, landed a lovely one-bedroom, with in-building laundry and gym, rooftop access, and outdoor space on their first day hunting… So who am I to talk, really.)

Thorncrest Farm’s Milk House Chocolates

Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm

A couple weeks before our chronicled trip to Europe, my wonderful in-laws took Evan and me to a dairy farm in Northwestern CT called Thorncrest Farm. As you probably know by now, visiting small sustainable farms near New York City is our favorite way to spend a weekend and to supplement whatever comes that week in our CSA. This farm in particular, was ambrosial. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry Kimberly the Chocolatierdairy farm might sell milk, but few will tell you which cow (by name) you are being fed from, provide cheese, butter, and yogurt-making classes, and have their very own chocolatier.

Kimberly, my new absolute favorite person on earth, is the self-taught mastermind behind the small chocolate operation in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. (Picture winding back roads, copious forestation, and maybe a handful of suspicious looking deer.) Kimberly was kind enough to methodically walk me through her case full of chocolate, telling me stories about her progress and her cows as she did so. After some introductions, Kimberly explained to me that certain cows produce milk that is better suited for specific chocolate flavors, and making chocolates on the farm allows her to use that to her advantage.

Trust me when I say, this precision pays off.

Her chocolates – be they milk, dark, with mint or peanut butter (a combination that in no way resembles Reese’s), caramel, ginger, pumpkin, creamy vanilla, mango, or hazelnut coffee – are all exquisite. When you walk into her kitchen-barn and are greeted by the chatty Kimberly in her charming chef’s costume the scent of cocoa and milk wafting through the air is truly penetrating. And the artistry involved in her work is simply unreal.

Milk House Chocolates, Thorncrest Farm

Harper's Mango ChocolateKimberly told me about her deep unbridled affection for her cows, tearing up as she shared a story about having sold one of her favorites to another farm.  Apparently when the cow’s milk production dropped soon after being sold the farmers prepared to slaughter her, and Kimberly promptly cut her losses and bought her cow back. The cow lived out her happy life on Thorncrest Farm.

Below is a picture of a very recent Mama-Cow, looking pooped but proud.

One of Kimberly's CowsSurrounded by the scents of chocolate it was hard for me to resist dreaming about following around Kimberly for a summer and learning about life on her farm, not to mention witnessing the process of creating her elegant artisan treats. And I felt so enchanted with her world that I found myself too shy to admit to her that I tiptoe on the fence of being vegan. That I’m so frustrated by the meat and dairy industries and the scandalous treatment of animals in factory farms that I often have vegan weeks, and have weeded out foods that seem tarnished by the trade. In the quiet of my own home, where I’m blissfully not tormenting others, I have replaced dairy milk with almond milk, eat little to no cheese, and miss butter terribly. But places like Thorncrest give me hope for future dairy consumption. That day I had a delicious sip of Victoria the Cow’s milk, and succumbed to more than a few breathtaking pieces of chocolate.

Thorncrest Farm Milk

Thorncrest Milk