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.
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.
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.
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!