Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Alton Brown arrives, by motorcycle, in the rain!

We have not had more than an inch of rain, on the farm, since May. Truly. It's been DRY. And then, this morning, the morning that Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show is filming at our farm, the skies finally opened up - big time. It ended up being O.K. The crew said the lighting is better in the rain and I am sure that Alton's leather outfit (biking outfit) would have been miserably hot in our normal weather.

It was so cool. The crew set up right next to our okra field, with two tents filled with sound and camera equipment. They even had a trailer in the field, for Alton to wait in while they set up! Gillen hung out quietly behind the main camera man. I am always amazed at his boldness. I used to have that too. The crew were fine with it.

Alton Brown directs as well as stars in the show. I learned a lot more about okra. The kids learned alot about TV production. Alton blew a line a few times and then commented later about how he had not been swearing in these moments because there were kids there. He ased why they weren't in school and I said that they were - that this was school. He really warmed up to Gillen and was very sweet to both of them. He even had his picture taken with me! Watch the show if you can. It will air some time at the end of Sept. they said. It is on every night at 7pm on the Food Network. The okra has never looked so well-weeded. I slouched into a middle aged mama slant. Oh well. At least the farm is looking good.

Tonight, I watched his show and an old friend of mine was on it - playing "Mr. Cinaman" - cinammon dealer and expert in cinammon history, both fact and fiction. What timing.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Hummingbird Festival

Gillen's birthday, last Fri., was the same day as the Hummingbird Festival (only 10 min. away!) so we met our playgroup friends there for the morning and then they came back here to visit. Gillen had saved up to buy some plants at the festival for his bird garden. His friend Shannon (who turned 11 two days later) helped him to plant them in the sunnyest part of our yard. We have so many trees that there isn't much full time sun. But we are radically assuming that his garden will thrive on the sun it does get! Already, the last few days, it has attracted so many hummingbirds. He got Agastache (smells like licorice), Pineapple Sage, Hibiscus (which I learned today from Alton Brown at the farm is a lot like okra - more on him later!), Crocosmia, and Stonecrop ("Autumn joy"). He planted them in a circle, inspired by the much bigger circular hummingbird garden we walked in,surrounded by tiny hummingbirds, at the festival. I tried for a picture of them. I was too slow.

Afterwards, here at home, everyone swam and ate and then somehow all ended up at the coffee table, doing art! From age 2- 11, one after another left the game cube,the pool or the toys in the bedroom to squeeze into the tiny art station,ignoring my offer of a much bigger table in the other room. It was my favorite part of the visit!

Gillen had his first sleeepover party the next night. He had four friends, all of whom only knew Gillen and then a friend who is Jesse's age to play with him (Gillen's idea). They all got along great. The older kids ended up playing with Jesse and "his" friend much of the time! There was swimming; a long,dark walk in the woods at the farm; and a spontaneous talent show at dinner (including many really creative burping displays as well as bird calls) and a movie - Jimmy Neutron, watched amidst paper airplane making and a few guys playing a Pokemon board game.

Cole gave Gillen a pocket knife. This was the dramatic unveiling of his present. Gillen also got a canteen and a sling shot, among aother things. All exactly what he would want and to which I have adjusted my initial unspoken flashback to "Lord of the Flies". I do love that he also wanted Playmobil. I was very glad to get him more for his farm set. He got to compare his pocket knife today to those of Alton Brown and his crew, all of whom are very into their knives. Who knew there was such a love of pocket knives among TV chefs, or maybe it's just on "Good Eats".

Praying Mantis Feeding

Gillen has been collecting bugs in the back yard or at the farm lately and keeping them for a few days at a time in bug houses. The Praying Mantis was so big that we could really see every detail of how it eats. I learned today that Praying Mantis females eat the male once they've gotten what they need from him. Wow. I informed Gillen and Jesse and was told that they already knew this from "The Most Extreme" on Animal planet. That show is sooo dramatic! I love to knock it!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Farm Day

Here is Helen, my MIL and the owner of the farm. She is turning 70 this Sat! She is amazing. Here is Eva, a friend who does flowers with Helen. Growing the flowers was my job for a few years. I did love it. But Jesse is not as happy at the farm as Gillen is and frankly, it is OK by me! I get to take pictures of the cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, etc. and press them for cards and love them, without sweating over them all day. Helen also started and runs the whole chicken operation and her true calling is natural medicine. She's only 5 ft. tall but is an Austrian powerhouse of a woman.

Some of the hoop houses. They have enabled Nicolas to radically extend his spring and fall seasons and to grow much more in the winter.

Here is Jesse, surveying the land, having just wrangled a Rattler.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Farm Fame (by okra)

I have tried several times this week to upload some great new farming pictures, to no avail! I guess it's about my Mac browser? I don't really know. Maybe it's the dial up connection. But it worked a few weeks ago! Argh.

I will solve my technical problems and bring lots of pictures of summer bounty and hard labor here.

In the meantime... I have to scream with joyful anticipation of an upcoming event at the farm - I found out today that Alton Brown - the cool, whacky, witty, so appealing guy from the Food Network, is coming to the farm on Aug. 14th! His article in a Bon Appetit issue taught me how to make gourmet turkey at Thanksgiving. Apparently he used to be a music video director. I have only seen him on the Food Network once, but it was very memorable!

We have had the Food Network at the farm before, but not Alton Brown! He is coming to do a piece on okra. The good pieces on us are always about the okra! So strange. Fame by okra. Nicolas and Gillen were in a picture on the front of the New York Times food section a few years ago, in an article about our okra. Nicolas says this is why he must be growing it. If you haven't experienced it, okra is brutal to pick. It causes rashes that used to keep me itching for weeks. not everyone is so sensitive. If you wear long sleeves and pants it can't get you too badly.

I will get up early and go toil in the okra (even Jesse in tow) to be able to be part of this one. I hope he actually comes, and not just his crew. You never know.

Here's a great Okra recipe from the NY Times article :

Black Skillet Okra
time: 15 min.

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 pound tender young okra, washed
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 tbls. vegetable oil (I would use coconut and olive together)

1. stir flour and cornmeal together in small bowl and set aside. Heat 9-10 inch, well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat 5 minutes. Heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Trim stems and pointed ends from okra, and slice pods into 1/2 inch rounds, dropping rounds into colander. Rinse lightly with water, shake to remove excess drops, and toss okra well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle coating mixture over okra and toss in colander to coat evenly. Shake colander to remove excess coating.

3. Increase skillet heat to high. Add half the oil to skillet. Drop half the okra in skillet in single layer. Wait 5 seconds, and stir. Contimue to fry and stir until okra is deep brown and crisp with spotty char marks, about 5 minutes. Transfer fried okra to sheet pan in warm oven. Using mitts, remove hot skillet from stove and wipe clean with paper towels. Return hot skillet to burner over high heat. Add remaining oil and fry remaining okra. Serve okra hot with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, fluffy rice and fried chicken or as croutons in a green salad (I serve it with corn bread and fried green tomatoes).

YIELD: 4-6 servings as a side dish.