Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wandering into the White Mountains...only to get lost in lupine loveliness

Lupines in the fields of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

Patrick and I have been having some wonderful getaways this summer as we continue to slowly peel back the lovely enticing layers of our new home state.  The more we explore New Hampshire, not only do we want to savor these early discoveries but the list of places to explore and visit grows longer and longer.

Polly's Pancake Parlor  in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

Several weekend options lured us up into the gorgeous breath-taking White Mountains of New Hampshire recently.  In my early research about New Hampshire, I came across an article in an issue of Yankee Magazine that elicited "oohs" and "aahs" as I read through the words and soaked in the sweet images of fields of lupine flowers flowing up the base of the mountains along the Presidential Range.

In Texas, I was captivated by country drives during springtime to soak in the fields of Texan bluebell flowers.  I love that each state seems to have its signature flower that is indigenous to that area of the country.  

We decided to retrace the steps of the Yankee Magazine article, in reality instead of virtually, since we are now bonafide residents of New Hampshire and are within an hour's reach of this beautiful spectacle.

In the heart of lupine country, one sweet inn caught my attention so we booked a weekend stay at The Inn at Sunset Hill in the lovely historic town of Sugar Hill, NH.

Heading towards the White Mountains in New Hampshire

I couldn't help but be equally lured up into the White Mountains in order to have an excuse to stop at the much adored breakfast pancake spot...Polly's Pancake Parlor.  Being that our kitty's name is Polly, it was practically an obligation to make a pilgrimage to her namesake to see if their pancakes are as special as our sweet pet...right?!

Scenes around Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

For 75 years, Polly's has been flipping pancakes and using all natural maple syrup from the region.  Gingerbread pancakes, Oatmeal Buttermilk pancakes, and Buckwheat pancakes are a sampling of the  list of batters that are stirred up in the kitchen.  The pancakes can be mixed and matched in order to sample a variety.  And, then there are the add-ins such as blueberries and walnuts...

The scenery driving up into the White Mountains became more and more beautiful and impressive as we crossed over the mountains on the drive to Polly's Pancake Parlor.  We ignored all of the exits leading to the inviting Lake Winnipesaukee, perfectly situated at the base of the mountains.  So many locals here in New Hampshire tell misty-eyed childhood stories of spending summer after summer swimming, picking blueberries, and catching fireflies on Lake Winnipesaukee.  We're tempted, but it'll have to wait to be discovered after we've feasted on flapjacks as well as  fields of purple, pink, and white lupines.

The view across from Polly's Pancake Parlor

My choice was the buckwheat pancakes.  They came stacked high with a pitcher of maple syrup and generous scoops of butter.  We had saved our appetites all day to enjoy this treat and it did not disappoint.  

The view across the street was of the towering White Mountains splayed out before us.  The winds were breezy as they scooted the marshmallow clouds along the tips of the mountain tops. Patrick had the blueberry pancakes as well as the oatmeal buttermilk.  We feasted our tummies and well as eyes on the food and the views.

The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire

We had driven up and over the White Mountains. The view behind us was gorgeous.  Not too far down the road from the famed flapjack house, we drove along the country road, appropriately named Sugar Hill Road, to find our weekend spot at The Inn at Sunset Hill.

We turned left onto an even smaller charming country lane marked only by the adorable St. Matthew's Chapel. With its pale yellow doors and glimmering stained glass windows, I expected to see horse drawn wagons like in Little House on the Prairie rolling up to the doors.   

The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire

At this point, swaths of lupines could be seen up the hillsides of the mountain, in fields behind country houses, and all along the roadsides of the picturesque drive.  I literally clasped my hands in delight as this storybook scene unfolded before us.

We rolled up to the lovely Victorian inspired inn.  Dick Green, along with his wife Sally, are both from the UK.  They fell in love with New Hampshire after vacationing here long ago and it was their dream to settle in the heart of New Hampshire. The owners of this sweet B&B were such a delight to meet.  When we arrived, Dick was out front playing with their lovable and sweet dog, Dudley...an English Sheepdog.  We quite easily fell in love with Dudley and now have English Sheepdogs on our list of future pets...

All I say is...the views!  The views!  As the sun began began to slip down the sky, the colors changed from oranges to blues to purples.  On either side of the cozily nestled inn there are mountains ranges spreading across the horizon.  At one point, the soft rays of the sun spilled muted pastels over the White Mountains to the east and a soft barely-there fingernail moon slipped into view as we gazed over the manicured golf course to the Green Mountains of Vermont to the West.

We enjoyed the touches of English culture that Dick and Sally bring to the Inn at Sunset Hill. Patrick enjoyed a generous pour of beer from the little pub.  We settled ourselves into our moodily lit and rather romantic room but to be honest, we couldn't help but be lured outside because the views were too enticing.

Polly's Pancakes were becoming a much earlier memory and the clinking of dinner preparation and kitchen aromas could be heard and smelled when we took a peek into the dining room.  Again, the views of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains stretched all the way across the dining rooms.  We kept saying, "Can you imagine these views with the beauty of painted oranges and corals in the fall?  What about the mountains and sky streaked with pristine whites and greys during the long cozy dark days of winter?"

The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire

As the air outside became crisp, we settled ourselves in the dining room to watch the dazzling colors wash across the sky while we enjoyed a slow and absorbing dinner.  I enjoyed a delicious bowl of clam chowder.  I am still new to clam chowder so I am taste testing this seafood soup whenever possible before I embark on various recipes at home, that is, if we ever finish renovation work on our farmhouse kitchen.

Instead of worrying when sunset will occur, Sally and Dick have set up a sweet-sounding bell, called the sunset bell,  that rings shortly before the sun slips over the horizon.  It was fun to be a part of the hotel guests as we all joined each other outside to share in this evening ritual.

Patrick could NOT resist the fish and chips.  With owners of the inn hailing from England, he knew he would be in for a certain treat.  They did look and taste delicious.  The slight beer flavor added to the batter was a nice touch.

The Guava Double-Glazed Pork Chop caught and held my attention.  It was a moist pan seared chop glazed in a guava purée, accompanied by sautéed spinach and topped with crispy leeks...all sitting on a nice pilaf of rice.

New Hampshire

With the sun setting over the western mountain range, I couldn't help glancing over to the eastern mountains to anticipate the morning sunrise over the fields dotted with hundreds of lupines.  We slept comfortably in our room that night, leaving a window open to let in soft breezes that billowed the curtains across the floor giving us glimpses of the moonlit horizon that was steeped in deep hues of purple and black etched against an indigo painted sky.  

I set my alarm for 45 minutes before sunrise the next morning.  Leaving Patrick to sleep heavily under a bundle of bedding, I gathered my camera equipment, layered on several pullovers, pulled on a warm hat, and slipped into some tall boots.

There was no way I was going to miss seeing the vast fields of lupines become softly lit one after the other by the morning's sun rays.

Breakfast at The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire

Many of my most special memories of travel are made during these early sunrise hours.  I love the solitude of slipping outdoors, tromping through fields of wet dewy grass, and seeing my own breath float behind my wandering trail.

I hiked down the country road from the inn carrying my tripod over my shoulder.  I crunched through the tall grasses that grew in the fields until I found a spot to set up my camera.  Fields of lupines overlapped each other and volleyed for space as each one reached to feel the first soft rays from the sky.  

I was quietly joined by 3 other photographers who settled into various parts of the huge open lupine fields.  We each whispered a soft hello to one another but didn't dare break the morning reverie with chitchat.  We didn't want to break the beautiful reverent mood of the early morning hours.  We are each wrapped up against in the brisk chill of morning air. There were a few clicks and sounds of adjustment as each of us readied our tripods and camera gear.

As the sun rose up over the mountain line, and the lupines lit up one by one across the fields, the only sound that could be heard was the clicking of photographs capturing forever the beauty that lay before us.  We didn't speak...we just enjoyed each moment for what it brought.  Eventually the clicking stopped, and we each nestled into the tall grasses and just enjoyed the scenery as it woke up to a new day.  What an experience...certainly as special and memorable as the photos captured.

A stop off the highway at Flume Gorge in Franconia, New Hampshire

Breakfast at inns are always a fun and lively affair.  I can chat with just about anyone...anywhere.  That being said, Patrick and I ended up practically joining the couple at the table next to us.  Quite surprisingly, the delightful couple were from New England, but currently on an assignment in, OF ALL PLACES...Louisiana (my birth state).  They kept us laughing in stitches as they recounted their experiences of culture shock in the deep south...having grown up in New England.  They were at the inn escaping the sultry humid southern weather but happily anticipating their return to the south, their continued enjoyment of southern cuisine, and their embrace of all events having to do with Mardi Gras.

Breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day.  Breakfast for dinner is a typical and welcome occurrence in our house.  I'm always looking for breakfast options and love when guests visit to try out something new.  Our daughter, Madeleine, was home for the summer on a brief break in between internships.  

I thought I would try making a delicious breakfast that I enjoyed a few summers back at a B&B way up north on Prince Edward Island.  I stayed at a precious B&B called Shady Lane.  The couple that own the B&B, Ian and Pam, were busy putting together a cookbook and they ended up using many of the photos that I took for them while there for their new cookbook.

They made a delicious French Toast Casserole that I enjoyed on one of my mornings at the inn.  I thought I would try it out for Madeleine as a treat on her brief respite from the working world.

It was very easy to pull together the evening before.  The cream cheese cooked into the eggy mixture was delicious as well as the generous dose of maple syrup.  I used some maple syrup that we brought back from our journey into lupine country from a famous little shop up the road from the inn called Harmon's Cheese and Country Store.

We're racing each weekend to keep up with all of the summer offerings in New Hampshire. We're trying to not let the home renovations keep us tied down.  There is so much to do and see.  Farm stands have popped everywhere, blueberry fields beckon us to pick containers full, art fairs are so tempting to stroll, and just a teensy yearning for the experience of fall up here in New England is beginning to be felt...just a teensy bit as we soak up every day of this beautiful first summer.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thirty tiny little fingers and thirty tiny little toes, came for a visit to our farm...

Delicious Pasolivo Rosemary Olive Oil

I just picked up my coffee mug and noticed that a new layer of dust settled all over the dining room table leaving a clean light circle where my mug has been sitting since the day before.  I looked at this newly acquired layer of dust...and sighed.  We're marching along very well with the renovation work, but certainly (as everyone says...) couldn't have anticipated the tumultuous journey every day presents to our normal sedate routine as we watch parts of the house transform from ideas on paper to actual home decor.

I thought I would disappear from the noise for a few hours today.  I wanted to collect my photos that I took of my cousin and her 3 precious little angels... Maria, Camille and tiny petite Lila.  They came up to our Nehemiah Ordway farmstead here in New Hampshire a few months back from their new home in West Point, NY.  It feels like ages ago now that 3 sets of tiny fingers and 3 sets of tiny toes spent a weekend doing all of the wonderful activities little kids do...exploring, running, swinging, and laughing.

The lilacs were still blooming on the trees and I had the house filled with their heady aroma. The littlest of these 3 sisters, Lila, was so delighted that she was named after this beautiful flower.  She carried a little sprig of lilac around with her the entire weekend.  She would carry it around for awhile and then carefully lay it somewhere and run off.  Hours later, in a panic, she would go searching for her tiny floral keepsake. Noticing that it had wilted on the table while she was off playing, I couldn't resist snipping a fresh sprig to replace the first one.

So I threw myself into an Alice in Wonderland-type world for a weekend.  It was wonderful. Seeing our new home and world through the eyes of little girls was such a delightful experience.  They were fascinated by the old well with the broken wooden bucket dangling from a long ago frayed rope.  They ran through the barn inspecting each stall naming off the horses' names that were once housed there.  We peeked around the corner of  the big red barn and stood on tippy toes to see the baby robins tucked deep into their nest wedged in between the pine tree branches.  The Momma robin, bold and strong, squawked in distress with a shrill chiding chirp telling us to "scram"!

We ambled up the road and met our neighbor, Paul.  Paul showed the girls his "secret garden".  This garden is truly magical.  Humongous lilac bushes towered over us as we squeezed through a narrow walkway that opened up to an enchanting view of his hillside. He and his wife, Betty, have spent years cultivating a very natural country garden setting.  They have lily pad studded frog ponds and charming stone bird feeders.  I think there were more blooming lilac trees all in one place than I have ever seen before.

Being a super busy mom of 3 active girls, I wanted to prepare a meal for my cousin that would be very "grown up" and not consist of some sort of nugget or dipping sauce.  Being that New Hampshire is so influenced by the seacoast, I decided on a pasta dish filled with fresh ingredients and topped with salty clams nestled in their shells.

I ordered two flavored olive oils recently from a company out in California called Pasolivo. I really wanted to try their rosemary olive oil as well as their tangerine flavored olive oil.  I wondered if they would be too sweet or over power the beautiful earthy flavor of the olives. They were both wonderful additions to each dish.  I was very impressed.  I added the tangerine flavored oil to this pasta & goat cheese dish and loved the slight hint of citrus.
So when I drained the spaghetti pasta, I drizzled it with rosemary olive oil.  Again, at the end, I sprinkled a few drops on the dish after I added all of the toppings.  I was very pleased with the oils...I plan to experiment with some of their other flavors as well.

So with that very adult dinner in mind for the evening, we set out to delight and exhaust the girls by taking them to the many farms in the area that allow visitors like us to see their animals.

Hopkinton Farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire

I heard wonderful stories from the families around here that they often make a yearly pilgrimage to Beech Hill Farm in nearby Hopkinton, NH.  The Kimball family is on their 9th generation of family members running the farm in this idyllic part of New Hampshire.  Even the drive out the farm was a charming pastoral journey.

Beech Hill Farm was a huge hit with the girls.  The barns were full of baby goats, baby lambs, and bunnies.  One minute the baby goats were dozing in an adorable little pile; each baby snuggled right into the next one.  Then the next minute, they were full of energy, prancing around and climbing the roof of their little hut and leaping off of it to the ground. Each little antic they performed released giggles from the girls as they watched the delightful farm scenes.

We packed a picnic lunch and sat outside at one of the picnic tables around the farm.  Maria, the oldest, took little nibbles off her apple as we roamed around the farm.  It is so wonderful to escape into their childlike worlds and watch the girls process each new discovery.  Maria would carefully balance her apple in the most suitable location she could find as she ran off to discover something new.  She would return to her perched, half eaten, nibbled on apple, take another bite or two, and then carry it to the next spot, carefully looking for a new and safe apple perch.

A highlight at the farm is a large barn filled with an assortment of sweets.  Ice cream is the featured treat at Beech Hill.  At the ice cream barn, 75 flavors of premium ice cream made locally are on offer to fulfill just about any flavor request.  It was fun to see what flavors the girls preferred and just like when my kids were little...sprinkles are still very popular as ice cream toppings!

After picnicking at the farm, petting the goats, coo'ing over the little lambs, marveling over the majestic peacocks, filling our bellies with ice cream, we had 3 very happy and very tired little girls.  They were ready for the car ride home, a kid friendly dinner, and a warm bath in our claw foot tub.

My cousin and I were ready for a real adult meal filled with flavors of toasted pine nuts, fresh tomatoes, and that rosemary olive oil over salty steamed clams.  Watching the girls grow up at these early stages is nothing short of delightful and wondrous.  We certainly don't have little ones around anymore and hopefully we have a stack of years ahead of us before grand children arrive.  Delving into the world of the little children of my sweet cousin and spending a weekend in their childlike world was great fun indeed!

* Note:  I  added a handful of Calamata olives on top of the pasta dish
**  Clams:  Place a metal steamer in the pot that was used to boil the pasta.  Fill with about 3 inches of water. Bring water to a soft boil.  Place cleaned and closed clams on the steamer and cover the pot.  Wait about 5-7 minutes until the steam pops open the clam shells.   Remove the clams and place them (in their shells) on top of the pasta right before serving.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mayfair Farm to The Hancock Inn...farm to table living in New Hampshire

I have so much to say, so much to write, so many photos to sort through that I am dizzy with the excitement and enjoyment gifted to us by this incredibly beautiful summer we are experiencing in New Hampshire.

It's been a spectacular summer...our first as residents here.  New Hampshire-ites live life to its fullest during these summer months...squeezing the most out of every delicious and absorbing day.

In between house renovation work and the temptation to explore New Hampshire,  we've allowed ourselves to be pulled outdoors in all directions of the state. Mountain climbs inspire us to the north.  Salty ocean lobster shacks beckon us to the east. The lovely soft hills of Vermont are tempting and alluring, like a siren's call, and we are most willing to be lured by their sweet sounds.  In June, the lupine flowers burst open in the White Mountains...and we were right there to witness this dazzling yearly display.  

I have had so much living to capture with my camera and so many stories to press into this keyboard this summer.  My fingers want to fly quickly over the computer to catch these sweeping first experiences in our New Hampshire home...our lovely New Hampshire home.

A never-ending supply of swiss chard from my kitchen garden

My kitchen garden is thriving.  We have eaten more salad than ever before.  I am steeped in a learning curve as far as gardening goes and all I can say is, "If I can garden...anyone can garden".  I've learned that swiss chard grows quickly so don't plant so much of it.  Leave enough room for zucchini...it's big!  Leave enough room for rhubarb...it's big too!  And finally...weed, weed, weed.  Wait a week later...repeat, repeat, repeat.

The kitchen is still a "work in progress" for sure. The floors have been sanded down but not finished.  We're moving forward with a cabinet maker on 3 major pieces in the kitchen.  Pantry items are piled in baskets and sitting on the floor here and there.  The mudroom cabinetry isn't built...so more baskets on the floor in there.  We're waiting on the range to be delivered in September but we'll get the hood built and mounted and my hand painted tiles put up soon.  The kitchen stone fireplace is looking terrific.  Everything is progressing well...but the process is one that takes patience.  I need to get out to the antique/flea markets and scour them for accessories like latches, hinges, towel bars, etc.  That takes even more time.  We know it will be worth it in the end!

 "I'm on kitchen strike."  That is what I keep repeating for weeks now.  I find that my enjoyment for cooking is paired with being in an environment that is inspiring.  I'm not quite inspired at this point so I'll source meals from farmer's markets and country farms whenever I can.

However, ALL of the windows have been replaced and the 3 large french doors along the porch have been heaved up and put in place.  What a process!  What a messy, messy, messy undertaking!  Last week, the entire front of the house was completely open to the outdoors as the walls were cut and prepped for the french doors.  It was a bit of a wild view.  A big beautiful breeze blew right into the huge openings and we all stood and watched as a spray of dust and insulation swept through the house.  It was quite comical actually because there just wasn't anything we could do but stand there and watch.  At this point, the vacuum cleaner is practically velcroed to my hip.

But, it's over.  We are over a huge hurdle.  Once the drywaller repairs all of the damage to the walls...we should finally get to the fun part...pulling all of the stylistic elements together...and being able to keep the house clean!

So to force ourselves to get away from it all, I signed Patrick and I up for one of The Hancock Inn's "History Weekends".  We have been having so much fun indulging in their gourmet summer dinner menu in the evening after joining a diverse group of people in the morning for arranged outings by the inn to explore the wonderful offerings of things to see and do in New Hampshire.

For the month of June, a group of us took a trip to nearby Harrisville, New Hampshire for a tour of a delightful family farm in the  Monadnock region called Mayfair Farm.  Mayfair Farm is a small scale diversified farm and kitchen run by Craig Thompson and Sarah Heffron. 

The drive to the farm took us through the delightful little town of Harrisville, a quintessential town nestled in the heart of the Monadnock region that can best be described as..."cute as a button".

The gorgeous views from the back hills at Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, NH

Sarah greeted us with her shy smile and warm eyes as she welcomed us all to their beautiful farm.  It was quiet and peaceful on the farm that morning.  Beyond the barns and orchards and open fields to the north, the land opened up to a beautiful sweeping view of the mountains .  Several cows, half buried in the tall lush grass, relaxed in the field not seeming to have a care in the world.  To the east, I noticed an adorable little farm house where Sarah said she and Craig are raising two  little children, a boy and a girl.  "What must life be like growing up on a farm?" I wondered.  It must be full of all sorts of every day adventures that quench the thirst for excitement and fulfill the ever present curiosity of young children.

Craig and Sarah of Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, NH

A very fragrant aroma wafted out of the farm kitchen.  We opened the screened kitchen door and entered into a room that smelled divinely of freshly baked bread.  Just out of the oven slid a huge tray of beautiful plump round bagels.  With my affinity for all things "bread" related, I was ready to purchase, swipe, snag, or downright beg for one of those perfect looking aromatic bagels.

Sarah was already ahead of our thoughts.  She quickly sliced up the fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels and set out little crocks of cream cheese for us to sample.  Needless to say, I'm pretty sure that almost all of us left that day with packages of bagels from the little farm shop tucked under our arms due to sampling them in the morning.  

Sarah was also pouring a quiche mixture into individual rounds of quiche molds.  She carefully filled up each mold and readied the large pan of mini quiches to slide in the oven.  She said that after our tour of the orchards, pig pens, and sheep and hog fields we would return in time to accompany her as she pulled the pan of savory quiches, all bubbly and poofed, out of her large oven.

Craig  and Sarah led us out to their fields after we munched on hot bagels spread with cream cheese. The morning was bright and a gusty breeze tussled with the tall grasses.  Beads of shimmering dew sparkled when touched by the morning rays of early sun.  A wonderfully fresh earthy scent came from the ground as if the land had been scrubbed clean and hung out to dry.  I knew the day was going to be one huge treat for all of my senses.  I could hear faint noises that sounded like "snorting" so I assumed there were some pigs over in the barn to the left.  

Craig is a man who embodies confidence and energy when he talks about his farm.  His passion for the lifestyle he has chosen is evident.  He carefully laid out the the pros and cons of farming as he has experienced them.  With each hurdle he encounters on the farm, he gathers knowledge that is applied to the well being of future farm situations.  He was quoted in a beautiful book featuring a collection of wonderful local New Hampshire farms as saying, "I farm because I like to be outside.  I like animals.  And I like to eat."  

We listened to him speak candidly about the pros and cons of growing strawberry plants and asparagus crops.  Craig explained to us the care needed to tend to a fruit orchard.  I stopped attempting to photograph spears of asparagus (something I had never seen outsdie of a grocery store) and tried to listen carefully to this part because I have been learning how to care for our apple, cherry, peach, plum, and pear trees at home.  We haven't been sure which tree is which on our farm until they bear fruit so it was important to pay attention here.

As the wind whipped around us and the beautiful fields of green grass swayed as if their arms were raised high while enjoying the crooning of a gospel choir, we spotted a herd of white tufted sheep in the hollow of the field.  One sheep seemed to be running faster and more agile than the others.  We realized that this one was Craig and Sarah's sheepdog.  He was running in circles around the sheep until they came to a rest and then sheep (dog included) sat down and rested in the tufts of the grassy field.  The sheep are called Polled Dorset sheep and they graze all summer long until winter...their diet resulting in meat that is tender and delicious.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Chorizo Sausage

Beyond the sheep fields, movement in the woods caught our attention.  Craig and Sarah's pigs were foraging in the distant trees of the forest.  Like some scene straight out of the fields of England or Ireland, the sheep dotted the foreground and the hogs and pigs ran wild in and out of the wooded background.  They raise Old Spots, Tamworth, and Chester Whites.  The pigs are allowed to romp in the woods, eating nuts and roots they find... supplemented by a non-GMO grain raised and milled specially for Mayfair Farm.

Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, NH

At the top of the field is a flat spot that looks ideal for a wedding gathering.  In fact, it is there that Mayfair Farm hosts farm to table dinners.   I can only imagine how lovely an evening out there would be...a long harvest table set with candles that twinkle in the unfolding dusk...much of the food locally sourced from their farm...a gathering of kindred spirits coming together to enjoy a serene summer evening.  I sighed inside and made a mental note to look into one of these dreamy sounding evenings on the farm.

What a wonderful farm tour!  Craig and Sarah are obviously passionate about their lifestyle and career choice.  Craig amazed me with his knowledge of farm life from orchards to pigs to managing a New Hampshire farm as a prosperous business.  We all slowly made our way down the hillside to their little farm shop.  At this point, everyone was laughing and chatting easily because we had just coo'd and ooo'd over the adorable baby piglets recently born in the large pig barn.  They were each so pudgy and wobbly as they fell over each other and jockeyed for a position to suckle milk from their mother.

Eventually, we meandered back down the hillside.  Craig and Sarah have opened their own farm shop.  The farm shop was bursting with all manner of food from the farm.  Sausages, cheeses, quiches, and prepared soups were some of the many tempting options.  One soup in particular caught my eye.  It was a split pea soup with smoked Chorizo sausage.  It sounded so tempting so I filled my hands with several cartons of it.  I picked out a bag of those wonderful bagels we indulged in the morning and sampled some of their smoked sausages they offered to us.  

Being that we don't have a kitchen in working order, I figured I had meals for several days supplied by Mayfair farm.  My own version of "farm to table" for sure.  After a long day of working on our yard, we sat down to steaming bowls of the split pea soup.  It was delicious and  I especially enjoyed the chunks of smoked sausage.   

The morning wound down.  My respect for small farmers around this state as well as around the country grew that morning and continues to grow as I meet more and more people around here that rely on their own back yard farms to feed their families.  The idea of "farm to table" events may be a movement that is trendy across the country, but in New Hampshire, that is just the way people have always eaten.  Most everyone here seems to have a garden. Conversations quickly and easily slide from the weather straight to gardening...whose tomatoes are ready...techniques for smoking sausage..or when is the best time to plant garlic and shallots.  My learning curve is a steep one but as I gaze upon my own garden, lush and thriving...I figure I'm climbing the learning curve as fast as I can. 

I decided on my way back from the farm and before the dinner gathering that evening, I would enjoy driving through the little New Hampshire town of Harrisville, a few miles up the road from the farm.   What a postcard perfect village.  There is the most adorable public library as well as a wonderful natural yarn shop.  Just behind the pond that is situated in the middle of the tiny village and up the little hills behind a row of cozy little homes, their yards overflowing with flower gardens, is a tucked away cemetery.  It is a peaceful spot with tombstones falling topsy turvy and a bit further back, there is a calming view of a larger lake.

Harrisville, NH

I stopped in the little village store with the squeaky screen door that seems to have been the same door that existed on the shop front since it was built in 1838.  I was quite surprised to see wonderful gourmet options on their chalkboard menu and the selections of salads, sandwiches and pastries in the glass case up front looked delicious and tempting.

Harrisville, NH

I made my way back to The Hancock Inn in order to relax, refresh, and anticipate the gourmet dinner that evening.  The wonderful morning farm visit was filled with all the intriguing sounds, tastes, and smells of farm life.  I was glad I left the many "to do's" at home to venture out and explore.  Now, we could look forward to a relaxing evening and a delicious dinner at the inn.

The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire

The theme for the month's  "History Weekend" was "Baked Beans and Fried Clams...How Food Defines a Region".   Completely tickled and intrigued by this theme, I was thrilled to learn that the guest speaker during dinner would be the famed Yankee Magazine author, Edie Clark.  

For almost twenty years, she has written a popular monthly essay for Yankee Magazine. Known as Mary’s Farm, the column is rooted in the place where she lives, an old farm in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. 

The Hancock Inn in Hancock, NH

I had a hard time waiting for the dinner to start and thoroughly relished the idea that the evening would be filled with stories from Edie's many books.  

Each time we stay at The Hancock Inn , we are more and more relieved to get away from the dust and debris left behind at our farmhouse.  Furthermore, we love the style of this inn so with each visit, we are further inspired to continue our renovation plans and not give up as the days get chaotic on our end and rooms are piled high with boxes, ladders, and tools of the renovation trade.  

Edie wrote a wonderful book called Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers: Kitchen Stories from Mary's Farm.    She takes the reader on a journey of food, friendship, and life from the 1960's through many decades afterwards.  Her stories are studded with recipes of note that collect her thoughts associated with food and how it affected not only her but all the people around her throughout her life.  

The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire

I knew I was in for a treat...and when it was finally time to go downstairs for cocktails and dinner, I was not disappointed one bit with the evening.  Edie was personable, warm, friendly, and funny.  She read through some of her works as well as touched upon famous writers such as Julia Child and Haydn Pearson.

We sipped on cocktails in the inn and then slowly made our way to the large table set up for us in the dining room.  The lights were dimmed.  Before appetizers, we enjoyed baskets of freshly baked bread made by the inn with drizzles of tapendade dipping oil.   Edie's calm voice drew us into her world of food-related experiences while we were creating our own food oriented memories around the large dining table.   She settled in under a small light and as she spoke softly,  we all settled back in our seats for a wonderful evening of good food and good fellowship.

Dinner at The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire

When it was time place the entrée order, I didn't hesitate.  I ordered the lamb sourced by Mayfair Farm.  The meat was prepared with a touch of spice from harissa and served with grilled red onions on a bed of  soft chickpea purée and a sprinkle of oregano.  It was mouth-watering tender, prepared with a nod towards traditional cooking but added touches of middle eastern flavors and textures.  A very delicious selection!

The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire

I really do need to branch out and try other dessert options on the menu, but I just relish this monthly indulgence of Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It is so moist and thick and sits in a shallow pool of exquisitely made salted caramel and is topped by a dollop of thick white whipped cream.  The combination of flavors suits my sweet tooth perfectly and I haven't managed to pass up this dessert option.  Perhaps next month it's time to try something new?  Perhaps.

The change in color palette in New Hampshire from winter to spring to summer is dramatic.  This is our first summer in the state so we are wide-eyed as we drink in the appreciable bursts of color and foliage.  Each season seems to wipe out the previous landscape as we remember it and touch a fresh new canvas with a completely new set of brushes and paints.  No wonder artists flock to this area each season to capture the beautiful scenery.  My mind begins to wonder about the deliriously gorgeous palette of fall that is beginning to appear in the distant corners of the calendar.  We haven't experience a fall here and I can't even imagine what we are in store for in a few months.

Speaking of fall, the buzz in our neck of the woods up here in the Northeast is sounding the call for winter preparations.  In the middle of the summer season, while my gladiolas are tall and popping open each day with blooms and the humming birds are fluttering to the feeders only  feet in front of me, winter preparations begin...

The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire

We spent several weekends chopping up large trees that have fallen over on the property.  With our newly acquired chainsaw, Patrick donned the bright neon orange protective gear and we added to that chorus of high pitched whining sounds that we've been hearing throughout the countryside.  Farms are cutting up their downed trees and splitting the chunks into logs to provide warmth during the winter months.  We chopped, cut, split, and hauled dozens of wagon loads of wood out of the woods below our farmhouse.  We tried to stack the wood neatly like we see the piles on other farms.  We're still a bit wonky on the stacking...but getting better.

But we're keeping a firm focus on completely enjoying the offerings of summer around here.  Blueberry signs have popped up on country roads and at farmer's markets across the state.  I'm getting ready with excitement to join The Hancock Inn's next History Weekend which will highlight this favorite berry of New Hampshire.  We're going to meet at the inn and journey to Pitcher Mountain to hike in the Andorra Forest.  We'll forage for wild blueberries in these protected lands and I can only imagine that for dinner that evening, blueberries will be somewhere on the menu!