Monday, December 29, 2008

A Fabulous Feast

Today was JL's last day at the least until her return next summer, after studying sheep in New Zealand for 6 months. Not even this summer of too many graves has discouraged her from pursuing her dream.

Since it was coincidentally JF's monthly work day for her long-distance apprenticeship, we decided to celebrate JL's departure with a feast. I also realized it's been pretty close to a year since EF started volunteering here. So it turned into an awards banquet, of sorts. Families were invited; we ended up with 8 people including JF's children.

I did some prep and a little cooking ahead of time: Boiled the eggs for the devilled eggs; made meringues for desert; made a fresh batch of mayonnaise including freshly laid egg yolks left over from the meringues; gathered ingredients; made sure the rack of lamb and the applesauce I put up this summer were thawing. I filled pitchers with water, checked the ice supply, made a batch of spearmint tea to chill in the garage overnight.

Mainly, I cleaned the house!

This morning I got up and started the bread machine about 9 a.m. (whole wheat bread from flour grown and processed in western Kansas, seasoned with garlic, basil, oregano and sage from the garden). Then I started the roast, and began cleaning and cutting the veggies carrots dug aweek ago, right before the single-digit weather set in, and potatoes harvested a few weeks ago, and onions grown my my hay supplier a couple miles away) that would later join it in the roaster.

Folks started coming, and as planned we completed the meal prep together. After a long season of working together in the sheep shed and the garden, working together in the kitchen came easily. We made a grated carrot salad seasoned with ginger my mom grew in her greenhouse; we took tour of the garden and scrounged a surprising variety of salad stuff from under the row covers despite the recent arctic temperatures; the last package of frozen rooster turned into the chicken stock base of the leek-and-potato soup; the devilled eggs were completed with the homemade mayo and popped right back in the fridge; jars of Dilly Green Tomato pickles and Pepper Relish that Mom made from my veggies were opened and put in dishes; chestnuts from a friend who planted his chestnut orchard about the same time I started my farm were slashed prior to roasting; the kids and other bystanders took turns shaking a pint of heavy whipping cream in a glass jar to make the butter for the bread. Pinwheel Farm honey turned out to be a popular topping for the herbed bread, with a thick layer of homemade butter to keep it from soaking into the bread.

What more could we want? JL brought a pumpkin pie she'd made, I believe with one of those pumpkins we got from the neighbor awhile back.

It was a memorable feast, and a wonderful demonstration of the kind of meals that one small farm could produce for its people.

After the meal, it was my extreme pleasure to commend each of these wonderful dedicated volunteers for their work and learning this year. JL and EF received sheepskins as tokens of my appreciation for their work. I really could not have done it without them this year. JF received felt ball kits to share with her family; she's just been with the farm since June, and can only come once every three weeks because of the distance.

The most remarkable thing to me is that each of these folks deliberately set aside time from already busy, demanding lives to come work and learn here. EF is a fairly young full-time college student communting from near KC to KU; he unfailingly has done evening chores 6 days a week for the past year with only a few days off AND managed to keep up his grades in a demanding school schedule. JL worked a busy job, and in addition to coming to the farm 3 or more times a week, managed to complete the Growing Growers apprenticeship program which meant attending out of town workshops at inconvenient times once a month. I told her when she started that I would reimburse the GG program fee she had paid if she completed the GG program AND stuck with her work commitment to the farm until after the Holiday Sale in Dec., and I was happy to do so today.

Many other people worked this year--whether for a day or for months--to make it such a great year for the farm...and to make it possible for me to work full-time in addition to keeping the farm going. For various reasons, some could not make it to today's feast. But if they read this, they should know that their efforts are deeply appreciated. I hope to reward each of them in due time, when I see them again.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are great feasts, but neither means as much to me as this one.

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