A Welcome New Year at the Farm

We made it through another holiday season here at the farm with a lovely Christmas season shared by a large contingent of visiting family followed by a quiet and cozy New Year’s celebration.

We started celebrating the weekend before Christmas with an open house to honor the newlyweds – our son Peter and his wife Stefanie – who were in town for the holidays. Why not throw a party while the house is all decorated with boughs of holly? Haha, technically there wasn’t any holly this year but there were wreaths and swags of fragrant greenery, pine cones, candles and red bows along with some of our favorite birds (owls and cardinals) and bees for the tree decorations to greet our guests.

The open house preparations caused everyone to pitch in with tasks large and small as there were many details such as the folding of napkins…

to capture the special menu cards…

and setting a special table for the large family dinner after the open house.

As a special surprise, we ordered a little trio of Croquembouches (rough translation is ‘crunch in your mouth’) from a local bakery. These are traditional seasonal French wedding cakes made with creme filled puff pastries and stacked into “towers” with spun sugar and ribbons holding all the confections into place. These served as a wonderful wintry decor as well as tasty treats for the coming days!

All of this pre-Christmas festivity would have been quite enough but with little ones in the family, there was nothing quite like the continuing celebration a couple of days later with Christmas Eve and the BIG DAY! Grandson Coulter is a few months short of 4 years and is a perfect age for the delights of the season starting with peering into his knitted stocking…

and then dancing excitedly in front of the tree at his house on Christmas morning with the anticipation of what lay beneath in wrapped packages…

Little brother Willie was not quite as excited since Santa brought him 4 new teeth during the holidays…but he managed to smile cheerfully despite the long nights for his parents!

With the holiday excitement behind us, we refocus our attention to the needs of the farm and continue to have a modest harvest from the hoop house. On warmer days, we open the doors or windows for some air circulation and here is what it looks like today while we continue to harvest and share with our customers the lettuces, spinach, turnips, radishes and green onions.

It might seem as if winter is upon us in every other aspect but when you peer inside the hoop house and look closely, you can see that the insect world is still finding morsels to eat as demonstrated by this little slug who thought he would find dinner on a leaf of our spinach.

Slugs aren’t the only thing moving around this time of year. The bees are active on nice days and in anticipation, I decided to make candy boards for them yesterday with mixed results.

Candy boards are simply water and sugar boiled together to a candy stage of 250 degrees and then cooled enough to pour into a form that sets atop the winter hive body to provide emergency sustenance to the colony. It isn’t that hard to do but can be a heavy, hot sticky mess any way you look at it. I put several batches together yesterday, each with 4 cups of water and 10 pounds of sugar in a large pot on the stove.

When the mixture reached the hard candy temperature of 250 degrees..

I carefully took it off the heat to cool a bit until I could pour it into the prepared frames. Here is one waiting frame with the exposed screening or mesh and the second one with the paper towels in place to keep the fondant contained within the wooden frame.

An interesting phenomenon occurred while I was waiting for the boiling sugar mass to cool enough to pour. When it cooled from a clear, hot and bubbling mass to an opaque mixture, I suddenly heard the pot of fondant start crackling audibly, as if it were transforming in front of me from a liquid to a solid with sound affects! I do want to pose the question to a friend of Kate’s who is a chemistry teacher at JBS. Eric, am I imagining things, or would the change of status from boiling liquid to cooling mass be audible?

Nevertheless, the bees were pretty happy to receive the goodies today as they were flying about and doing some of their own housekeeping such as clearing out debris from their hives and taking stock of the new candy boards.

Best wishes for a happy new year to all!