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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 30 2012 Market

Sarah West

This Sunday marks the last day of September and the our last market of the season. Near enough to 10:00 AM, some stimulus, usually a bell but sometimes the nod of Eamon's head, will open the market.

We will return to Hillsdale Farmers' Market on the 18th of November and linger through 17th of February. Chef and friend Cathy Whims once chided us for being a seven month farm. We stand accused, but in our defense we will add we that we do not stop farming, we just need the other months to assure a well-run farm. As we survey the crops for the winter markets, we are looking forward to our return.

This Sunday, Anthony will be selling his book, Beautiful Corn(link), and Carol's sister will help behind the scales. So you will have his full and undivided attention he will be placed some distance from the stall, something that is impossible under normal market conditions. For the holiday market, we are thinking about putting together a gift box with the book and other sundries to be determined.

At 11:00 AM, Hillsdale's market chef, Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans, will start preparing several dishes using hominy prepared from Amish Butter popcorn and Roy's Calais Flint corn. Both types will be available when we return to the market at the end of November. Especially if you harbor a chip on your shoulder about hominy and are not yet willing to prepare it yourself, stay a while and see how good the fresh version is. As Carol so often says, it will knock your socks off. We are looking forward to seeing what magic Chef Yeomans lends to this wonderful food.

Here is what we expect to bring:

Again, we will have an abundant supply of Astiana, our culinary tomato. As we did for the last two weeks, we will have some boxes, tape and a scale next to the tomatoes for bulk purchases. There will be some Striped German tomatoes as well.

We hope to have some plums and onions.

In addition, almost all of our dry beans have been harvested and we will bring is a broad selection this Sunday, along with chickpeas. The beans will include Tarbais, Borlotto Lamon, Dutch Bullet, Black Turtle, Zolfino and Purgatorio.

We will also have some preserves. Our selection is very limited but good on toast, cheese or paté. One of our tasks over the next two months will be our annual three day pilgrimage to Sweet Creek Foods to make our preserves. We will be adding jostaberry to the mix of preserves. Our selection up plum preserves will be robust, joined by gooseberry again.

An Agricultural Act

For those who love our Astiana tomatoes, flint corn and popcorn, the beans and all of those wonderful chicories, imagine how good life would be if we and other quality market farmers were allowed to lavish the same attention on Cannabis sativa. The plants would be organically grown in the field with dilute foliar sprays of salt and kelp, followed with timely and careful harvest and cleaning. Levity aside, Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is one more proposal for relieving this nation of it crazy fixation on marijuana. The prohibition clogs the court system and destroys peoples' lives senselessly. More importantly, Measure 80 is an agricultural act.

This Friday, for the better part of three hours, seed growers and fresh vegetable farmers testified against recklessly changing Oregon Department of Agriculture's quarantine in rapeseed, aka canola, in the Willamette Valley. It is a known noxious weed which will increase disease and insect pressure, and cross pollinate with valuable seed crops. In a surrealistic procedure, we testified before a hearings officer, an impassive scribe, who had no decision-making authority and no working knowledge of the issue. Our testimony was delivered in three minute snippets, governed by horizontal traffic light. For those who recall Woody Allen's Sleeper, it was a scene reminiscent of talking to the leader's nose. Using a hearings officer in this manner is simply agency cowardice and insouciance; dozens of farmers joined by numerous other citizens took the time to express their concerns and the agency's decision-makers hid behind the "nose" with no interest in engaging the public. We were an inconvenient step towards a decision they have already made.

It doesn't have to be this way. When Janet McClennan and Dick Roy, both of whom frequent the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, were members of the Board of Forestry, they sat through hours of public testimony regarding forest practices and other thorny issues with Jim Brown, the state forester. Chair McClennan, and her predecessor Tom Walsh, took the time to thank each person when their testimony concluded. The board members and state forester engaged people appearing before them with respectful questions when appropriate. Their discussion following the testimony took place in public, and took into account the testimony. They followed a consent agenda, so if no member of the board dissented that agenda item was approved. It was a glowing example of public process and civil engagement, in the finest spirit of democracy. Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture chose the exactly opposite route, leaving us to speak to an impassive nose and then finalizing the decision behind closed doors. It was a shabby example of public process and civil engagement, with nary a shadow of democratic spirit.

This bring us back to Measure 80. Currently, the domestic production of hemp is impossible because of its relationship to marijuana. Hemp is a valuable, high quality fiber and oilseed plant that is well adapted to the climate of Oregon. Disentangling ourselves for our state and national marijuana prohibition, will allow the cultivation of Cannabis sativa for its fiber and oil, as a well a pharmaceutical. If it is joined by the passage of similar laws in Washington and Colorado, its will be big step in opening the conversation about legalizing its cultivation nationally. Is Measure 80 perfect, probably not as the Oregonian has taken pains to point out, no law is upon passage. But a statutory measure can be amended easily. So, as we fill in our ballot sometime in October, these two farmers will mark "yes" on Measure 80 as an agricultural act.

And if we miss you Sunday, we hope to see you on the 18th of November, santé,

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 23 2012

Sarah West

We will return to Hillsdale this weekend with a good complement of late season fruit, including tomatoes, table grapes, and prunes. Bell rings when Eamon says it rings, but generally at 10:00 AM.

Of special note this week are the table grapes. The fecund grapes will include some muscats and the extraordinary Price which is the grapiest grape of the grapes. The crunchy seeds are essential part of these grapes, and have a pleasant hint of pepper and clove that lingers on the palate. Price is to the grape what Chester is to the blackberries, a singular and stunning parcel of perfection. The celibate sorts will be represented by Canadice and a mixed ensemble of green grapes. Good grapes too.

In the region's agricultural weekly, Capitol Press, there is an article about how Idaho table grape growers are trying to achieve the large berries found on California table grapes. Apparently, they have convinced themselves that small grapes are uncompetitive against big blobs from industrial vineyards. Happy to say our grapes are dinky, and look and taste nothing like those giants from the Sequoia State. Table grapes keep well in a cool place or on the kitchen counter. Refrigeration kills the flavor. Better to freeze them.

Again, we will have an abundant supply of Astiana, our culinary tomato. As we did last week, we will have some boxes and a scale next to the tomatoes for bulk purchases. There will be some Striped German tomatoes which are excellent sliced raw.

We will have a good supply of prunes and some damsons. Chick peas, preserves and other odds and ends as well.

Been a busy and productive week, so that's it.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 16 2012 Market

Sarah West


Sunday, 9:59 AM, we will be standing in the midst of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market waiting the 10:00 AM chime.

Earlier this week, we sent out our "Dear Produce Manager" letters informing them that the Chesters are no longer fit eat. Yes, we can pick some reasonable facsimiles, nice black berries, but they have lost their essential character. Fortunately, we have bunch of really good stuff coming to market.

Tomatoes: We will have a generous supply of own sauce tomato, Astiana, at this market and probably the next two as well. Earlier this week, a frost fell on the lower parts of the farm, reminding us that October is getting closer, but the upper bench was spared. We will have some boxes on hand that you all can fill with tomatoes, or you can bring your own box. It will be ideal processing weather for the ideal sauce tomato. If you have room in your freezer, Astiana also freezes beautifully because it is much drier than most tomatoes. In the middle of winter, that bit of fresh tomato makes the saag or stew brighter.

Dry pulses and grains: chick peas, zolfini, and naked barley. We have given up trying to keep our barley varieties separated. It is now a mix of Arabian Blue, Dolma and the black Jet type, and some other long forgotten types. Two-row and six-row all mixed up. Sometimes it is important to keep varieties separate as in the beans and corn, but other crops, such as barley, we have decided are better as a mixture.

Fresh shell beans: flageolet, cranberry and johnson (aka soldier)

Table Grapes: Mostly green types such as Interlaken.

Plums: prune d'Agen, Pozegaca, Fellenberg (Italian), prune d'Ente, Royale de Vilvoorde, Reine Claude violetta, damsons

All four of the prunes dry well. Pozegaca is the prune used to make the Balkan eau de vie Slivovitz and the plum paste Slatko. It has a pleasant astringency and the same distinct fragrance as the eau de vie. Probably the widest selection of plums found anywhere in the United States, so revel in our plummy obsession.

Preserves
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Gathering of Dusty Feet

When the market manager's designated representative swings the bell on Sunday, it is a gesture steeped in history. Markets are regulated places of exchange. The antecedent to the market structure, a big and heavy club in order to whack somebody over the head and exact their goods, was woefully inefficient. The lump on the head approach of unfettered exchange requires double the number of transactions, and headaches all around. People of a libertarian bent rant about the need for "free markets," but that is an oxymoron. From the earliest times, the right to conduct a market or a fair was granted by the reigning monarch to an individual or institution by means of a charter. A critical component of the charter was granting of safe passage to and from the market or fair by the monarch. Without that guarantee from the government, there would be a paucity of vendors and buyers.

Markets must also have rules of trade. When Adam Smith was contemplating his "invisible hand" in the late 18th century, he recognized three conditions necessary for an efficient market. The first is the requirement that buyers and sellers have free will, no coercion, no big clubs. Second, the market is composed of atomized buyers and sellers, in other words everyone is operating at the same scale and no entity can dominate or monopolize the market. Third is the notion of perfect information. These are sweeping conditions impossible to fully meet. Ideally, rules and regulations nudge the market closer to meeting them. For example, standard weights and measures are there to help the market advance towards the third condition, consequently we must use an inspected and licensed scale to conduct trade at Hillsdale. A standardized opening time signified by the market bell is another gesture at meeting the third. In times past, the weight of a loaf of bread was also standardized, giving rise to the extra loaf in a "bakers dozen" to avoid the stiff penalties for coming up short.

As soon as rules and regulations supplant the big wooden club, the need for a means of a club-less resolution of disputes arises. Probably from the time of first organized markets an organic and rational system of justice arose, ultimately giving rise to merchant law. In England during the time of the Saxons, market charters granted the right to "sac and soc and tol" and "infangthef." This meant the owner of the market could investigate (sac) and adjudicate (soc) claims, and exact goods and money (tol) to satisfy a claim found legitimate. The right of infangthef allows the owner of the market to purse and apprehend miscreants within the market or fair boundaries.

With the Norman conquest, these rights evolved into the Court of the Piepoudres. The name "piepoudres," in its various spellings, is derived from the French/Latin words for "dusty feet," a reference to the long distances traveled by the merchants as they walked between markets and fairs. The merchants may have travelled from France, Spain, the Low Countries or Ireland, as well as other parts of England. They were a transient population, and needed to move on as soon as the market ended. Consequently, these courts displayed a streak of practicality. The investigation and trial had to be completed within a fixed time, typically a day, or in the case of seafaring merchants, three tides. The proceedings relied on evidence rather than testimony regarding characters of the plaintive and defendant. The tribunals included merchants and customers. When an alien was before the court, an alien was also seated as a member of the tribunal. We have in these courts the inkling of a jury of peers. The Courts were administered by the market itself, a separate and limited jurisdiction distinct from the town or borough in which they were located.

Over time, a body of merchant law developed and the need for a separate court within markets and fairs faded. The very last of these courts was seated in middle of the 19th century. Though, in the United States, the modern tradition of small claims courts shares the spirit of the dusty foot courts – expedience and practicality. If you are interested reading more, Charles Gross discussed the court in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (1906), vol. 20: 231-249 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1883654). It includes the proceedings from the mid 15th century case of Thomas Smith vs. the contumacious Cristina van Bondelyng.

Fortunately, the Hillsdale Court of Piepoudres sits very infrequently, and if all goes well this Sunday and there no infractions of the rules, we can hasten home and enjoy a tasty plum cake (Zwetschenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen) with a mix of the prunes we picked for market. This recipe is adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 11th Edition. As New Englanders, Fannie Farmer is where you go for basic recipes.

Plum Cake

Butter a 9" x 9" pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream
1/4 cup butter
Beat in
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
Sift together
1 &1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add to the first mixture alternately with
1/2 cup milk
Cut plums in half and place cut side up close together in even rows over batter. The plum flesh should float slightly above the batter.
Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons melted butter
and then sprinkle with turbino sugar, especially over the plums.

Bake about 20 minutes or so until the batter is cooked. Cut into squares.

The original recipe suggests placing the plums in the batter cut side down, and adding cinnamon to the sugar. Wouldn't look as pretty, and who needs cinnamon when you have a good plum.

Style Manual for Market Farm Newsletters (3rd Edition) satisfied, that's it.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 9 2012 Market

Sarah West

 

A cheerful bell ringing at 10 am will see us tallying up your purchases at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday.
Finished planting the winter crops this week, including turnips and mustards. Next we start planting the first of the summer crops, garlic, shallots and wheat for frikeh. And you expect us to get the correct change every time when our minds are addled by having to straddle whole seasons. Anyway, you might ask why we continue to plant turnips as none of you want to buy them, and sometimes recoil at the mere suggestion. We are waiting for some sharp researcher to illuminate the common link between the great centenarian cultures. Yes turnips. Theories state that secret of longevity is fish in Japan, yoghurt in Georgia, garlic in Russia, and pomegranates in the Middle East. Jiminy cricket, can't they figure out that turnips are enjoyed and eaten with gusto in all of these long-lived cultures? Hope springs eternal, so we pray the turnips grow well and our perspicacity is rewarded as reason returns to your eating habits. You can even start your centenarian regime now because a diet rich in plums is the other common thread among those cultures. The plums may even generate a hankering for turnips as you feel the spring return to your step.

Here is what we will have at the market, more or less, the advertised specials at any rate:

Chesters: They still in good shape and we will have some this week.

Plums: Seneca, damsons, la mirabelle, prune d'Agen, golden gage – What a lovely way to start the centenarian diet.

Tomatoes: Astiana and striped German. In our estimation, two perfect tomatoes. Astiana is the cooking tomato, richly acidic and flavorful. Striped German is the slicer for the mid-morning tomato sandwich.

Preserves

Roots: Beets and spuds, but not many because of space considerations.

Fresh shell beans: flageolet, cranberry and johnson (aka soldier)

One of the earliest vegetable crops we planted at the farm was shell beans. It was one of those odd ideas the got lodged in our heads, yet we were clueless as to how handle them at a commercial scale. A couple of years later we would repeat the scene with flint corn and frikeh. One of the advantages of farm equipment is that you can plow under your blunders and failures, such as summer turnips, emboldening the creative streak. The beans were planted and we began began to practice the pitch. Sitting around on a hot summer's afternoon shelling beans is a great family time, just like shelling peas. Though, truth be told, as children we had regarded shelling peas and beans as a dreary chore taking us away from far better things.


In the spring of 2000 we planted several different varieties. In June, before the craziness of harvest began, Carol took a week off to visit her parents. In a rural country store, she saw a container of freshly shelled butter beans (limas). She joked that it must be a lot of work to shell all those beans. The woman directed her to a shed out back where they had a bean shelling machine. The big green wooden machine had hand-routed on its front panel "Roto-Fingers Pea-Bean Sheller." The manufacturer was Welburn Devices in Laurel, Mississippi. A few weeks later, Larry Welburn shipped his first Roto-Fingers west of the Continental Divide. He quipped that it is highly unusual to find any identifying marks on the machines because, once a farmer had one, the information was obliterated to keep the information away from any competitors.

The Roto-Fingers is a batch sheller. About 20 pounds of beans are shelled at a time, and it is a very gentle process. All of our dry beans are shelled in the machine as well. Fourteen years later, many tons of beans have gone through this contrivance handmade one at a time down there in Laurel, and it still runs perfectly.

Fresh shell beans are the equivalent of new potatoes or frikeh sans the smokiness. They are still developing their starches, and they have more of a vegetable flavor than the dry forms. Initially we harvested them very green, but over time we found they are better when they have a range of maturities in the mix. Not every dry bean is good fresh shelled, and some are very dull indeed. In addition, some shell in a messy fashion and take a long time to clean. The beans, shelled or unshelled, should be refrigerated. Part of the mythology about shell beans is that they keep better in the shell. This is not true, the shells are big chunk of respiring tissue which generates heat and often mold in storage, compromising the beans inside. When harvested, the shell comprises between 50 and 60 percent of the bean's weight.

The soldier or johnson is a white bean from northern New England with a reddish figure around the eye that reminds some of a soldier and others, with a less martial mindset, see a piece of anatomy. Use it as you would a cannellino bean, very good in a cold salad with tuna and some minced shallot. Get a bit of albacore from Robin at Wild Oregon, or a bit of salmon. The flageolet is a small green bean which is often served as a side dish with lamb or in a gratin. The name comes from a French wind instrument similar to a recorder. Vermont Cranberry has the most robust in flavor of the three, yet will disappoint you when the beautiful pink bean turns a muddy brown as you cook it. At that point you are left to enjoy the distinguished flavor. A bit of acid will restore some of the markings.

Chastened after purgatory among the berry flats, the staff writer is even offering a recipe in compliance with the essential style manual for market farm newsletters. If you are inclined to ignore such instruction, there are two things to remember. Never eat shell beans raw. You will suffer a stomach ache that you will never forget. When cooking any type of beans, add any acid ingredients, such as tomatoes, after cooking. Otherwise, the beans don't cook well and stay tough.  In some parts of the country, they add a pinch of soda or slack lime to the water to keep it on the alkaline side of neutral.

Cooking Fresh Shelling Beans

Judy Rogers offers this excellent method in her cookbook, The Zuni Café Cookbook  (2002, W.W. Norton and Co.)    

For about 2 cups:
2 cups fresh shelling beans
1 carrot, peeled, split lengthwise and cut into chunks or minced
1 small, yellow onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
Salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Directions:

Rinse the beans in cold water.  

Place the carrot, onion and bay leaf in a 2-quart pan and add cold water to cover.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables have softened and flavored the water, about 25 minutes.

Add the beans and enough additional water to cover.  Some varieties may turn the water grey. Bring to a simmer then tilt the pot and skim any foam that floats to the surface.

Simmer gently uncovered until the beans are tender, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the variety and point of maturity. Stir a few times to ensure even cooking and add water as needed to keep everything just covered. To test for doneness, cut a bean in half.  The bean should be moist and tender with no pale, chalky core.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste.   As it takes time for the beans to absorb the salt, taste the liquid, not the beans for the right saltiness.  Stir in the olive oil and leave the beans to cool in the cooking liquid.

Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days in their liquid.

See you all Sunday,

The Boutards of Gaston