Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mayfair Farm to The Hancock 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's big!  Leave enough room for'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 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! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer in New Hampshire...Lobster boils, Coastal towns, and sand in between toes

Every summer weekend in New Hampshire is precious. We have noticed that New Hampshire-ites know how to play hard all summer long.  After coming through last winter, we understand fully this feverish desire to enjoy every minute of these summer months.  With the winter snow and ice a not-so-distant memory, each summer weekend is anticipated and planned for with relish, cherished from sun up to sun down, and adorned with bursts of colorful flowers everywhere.

We have had no trouble falling in step with this concept of playing hard each and every weekend and have joined right into the fun.  Recently, we took off for the little salty town of Portsmouth.  Hanging just below the Maine border, Portsmouth will always hold special memories for us.  It was in this quaint town at Christmas time 2014 that we made so many important decisions about our  future...which included our move here to New Hampshire.  

It was here in December that we delighted in the frosty little lanes of Portsmouth while graceful snow flakes twirled all around us.  We were bundled up in our down coats and capped by our knitted hats  and we feasted on steaming bowls of clam chowder.  The Christmas tree was lit up like a sparkling gift to delight and dazzle all the shoppers as they strolled in and out of the quaint and artsy shops.  The outdoor ice skating rink had just opened and the street scenes were ridiculously post card pretty.

The Dolphin Striker in Portsmouth, NH

It was easy to tell then that this town would probably be adorable in every season in addition to winter.  As quaint as everything was during the holidays, we surely didn't want to miss out on seeing Portsmouth dressed for summer.  And its summer ensemble was just as seasonally appropriate as we expected.  We were not disappointed at all!  Winter boots were traded in for colorful comfortable flip flops and pretty sandals.  Every breed of dog large and small seemed to be proudly attached to an owner as both happily strolled the bustling sidewalks. Flowers were bursting from window boxes and spilling out of the shop fronts.  The mood in town was as equally festive as it was at Christmas time...but filled the harbor, musicians fanned their delightful tunes to listeners on street corners, and delicious-looking ice cream cones dotted the hands of many passersby.

Top Left:  Seafood Paella at the Dolphin Striker
Bottom Right:  Seafood Medley over fresh Fettucini

Thank goodness we love seafood.  We LOVE seafood!  It would be hard indeed to live in the Northeast and not dream of clam bakes, lobster boils, and pots of clam chowder.  We had been recommended to try out a place close to the waterfront shops called The Dolphin Striker.   Set in a historic building at the corner of Ceres and Bow Streets, adjacent to the Portsmouth Harbor, The Dolphin Striker is a restaurant that has the wonderful dark ambiance of an old rustic English pub.   We felt as we were possibly sitting in the hull of a ocean faring sailing ship.  Their menu brings in worldly influences but celebrates the New England love of fresh food from the sea.  

Top Left:  Delicious chocolates and ice cream at Kilwin's Chocolate Shop

We sat in the depths of the mocha colored wooden berths that were made into intimate tables and peered out our little porthole window that looked out onto the harbor across the street.  The shops could wait for now while we fulfilled our cravings for all things seafood. The cheery ruby tugboats churned the waters as they moved in and out of the harbor.  Huge dark beams hung low over our heads easily lending the word cozy  and historic to our surroundings.  We eagerly roamed the menu trying hard to whittle down seafood options.  

Merry Hill Farm Antique Store in Nottingham...
my new absolute favorite spot for wonderful finds!

We easily pointed to the seafood trio to get our first taste of fresh seafood. Jumbo shrimp, lump blue crab and shelled lobster claws were served with drawn butter, house made cocktail sauce, and the restaurant's olde bay aioli.  Delish!  Wet our appetites nicely, but we were starving and wanted more.  

We had spent about 4 hours in Portsmouth with our fabulous window guy, Scott.  He spent all morning with us carefully selecting all manner of options with regards to the window replacements that will happen at the farm soon.  

Did we want "double-hung" or "casements"?  Did we want 4, 6, or 12 "lite" patterns?  Did we want them stained or primed?  

The options went on and on and on.  I don't think I'll ever be able to NOT notice windows nonchalantly ever again.

Les Madeleine cakes...easy, pretty, and delicious

We have our calendars packed full of summer time activities on weekends.  When Monday rolls around, the line of trucks comes up the drive, life resumes its temporary craziness for the work week.  Windows will arrive soon after the 4th of July holiday.  I can't imagine the mess that will ensue.  I am the type of person who unpacks every single box as soon as possible after a move to a new location.  I relish  spending hours finding places to tuck everything away nicely...usually not slowing down until the very last box and packing papers have been carted away.

Living now for 6 months with much of our belongings still in boxes, what isn't in boxes is strung all over furniture since closets are being redone, dust that is swept up from one day's renovation tasks resettles and coats everything by the next day...has made me a bit on edge.  

O.K. Patrick would define it as ALOT a bit on edge lately.

I'm finding that my solution to the chaos is to remember to escape, sit down, no matter what noise is happening around me, or how many people are in various parts of the house...and enjoy sipping a hot cup of coffee and enjoying a delicious snack.  There is a very limited amount of cooking happening in the "Thyme" kitchen at present.  The other day, however, it was fortunately Les Madeleine cakes that came out of the one working appliance...the oven. The oven has been our saving grace...little Les Madeleines cakes, warm out of the oven with their delicate scent of vanilla,  made a wonderful afternoon treat.  

Way on the top of the house, we have a little room in the red capped turret.  A tiny little narrow staircase leads up to a room that has views all across the hillside, river, historic cemetery, and covered bridge below.  We think possibly long ago it was a playroom for children.  Strips of red, white, and blue wall paper can be seen here and there.  

Now, it is filthy dirty  and needs weeks of good scrubbing and repairs.  I love imagining redoing this little turret room one day...just as my own little space.   I'll take my afternoon snack, or gouté as we called it in the south, and hide out there in a comfortable chair wrapped in a warm blanket enjoying a home baked treat.  I'll relish every bit of time there...before reluctantly descending and rejoining this tumultuous world once more.  

I'll dream of it...I'll plan for it...I cannot wait for that someday...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's about time for a chat...about the birds and the bees that is

Apple blossoms in all their glory

Buzz!  Buzz!  Buzz!  You hear those sounds often and everywhere around here.  The birds and the bees, that is.  It is a bit overdue for a chat over here...for a chat...about the birds and the bees!

Spring has exploded into summer here in New Hampshire and everything is...well...procreating! From the expansive variety of birds that are visiting our well stocked bird feeders to the big plump bumble bees that are teetering on the fragile petals of just bloomed lilacs and delicately unfolding irises...summer is indeed a glorious and very fertile event over here.

We drove over to the bustling capital of Concord, NH mid-May to finally...finally...FINALLY close on our New Hampshire farmhouse.  We met our realtor, Hilda, at the title company office...which was located in a quaint little renovated house in downtown.  She carried with her a little brown woven basket of fresh eggs from her chickens and offered them as a gift to us.  It just seemed so perfect that she would gift us with eggs from her henhouse because so many people here are often sharing with one another  items that come straight from their farms as well as their gardens.  Those make the best of gifts I say...

Patrick and I were chomping at the bit to put our much anticipated plans into action for our newly acquired farmhouse.  There is so much we want to do that we found ourselves spinning in one direction after another trying to nose dive into our list of to dos.

Tom, our fabulous contractor, has projects laid out for this old rambling house for the rest of the summer.  We've started work in the kitchen, pantry, and mudroom.  Simultaneously, we're making changes to a couple of rooms upstairs so it is quite a disarray there too.

Top Right: American Goldfinch

As I sort through these photos here and collect my scattered thoughts over the last month, I could probably assume the role of "Where's Waldo?".  If I'm not knee deep somewhere in the yard, I'm knee-deep somewhere in the midst of my jam-packed family room.  "Where's Sarah?" could be called out and one might find me deeply tucked into my floral arm chair surrounded by our mounds of bric-a-brac. 

The kitchen has been moved into the family room.  The dining room and office items have been piled into the living room.  The porch that wraps around the house is cluttered with saw horses, piles of construction materials, and pots of flowers that I keep bringing home to add to my garden.

One wonderful discovery...the dogwood trees outside the kitchen window

Upstairs claims its own page in this long list of Kenney renovation marching orders.  Our bedroom is completely taped off by a huge plastic sheet.  Clothes are thrown on any and all available beds in the other empty rooms.  We decided to take three regular sized rooms and turn them into a master bedroom suite with ample closet space and a romantic bath in one of the turrets that was added in the early 1930's.  It certainly isn't in keeping with the time period of 1828, to have a master suite of any sort, but we indulge a bit and create a very personalized nesting space.

First sighting of a Baltimore Oriole

We're now on week three.  Three weeks ago, and now ever day, early in the morning, the pick-up trucks beginn rolling in one by one.  I try to have coffee brewing to get everyone welcomed with a warm morning drink before the unloading and banging begins.  It is amazing how many decisions must be made such as, "Where to best place electrical sockets and light switches...two inches this way or four inches that way"  and "Which color wood stain is the perfect one for the kitchen floors out of about 35 different choices of brown, mocha brown, cinnamon brown, nutmeg brown, cocoa nib brown...and then the standards...walnut, cherry, oak, pine, and on and on."

Pasolivo Tangerine flavored Olive Oil from California

Bit by bit, we are watching the plans that we have been dreaming about begin to take shape here and there.  After driving Riley to his college orientation, I ambled back along what is known as "Rt. 4 Antique Alley" popping into one little antique shop after another.  I found a wonderful little cherry cabinet with a smoky grey marble top at what is becoming one of my favorite stops, R.S. Butler's. We are going to modify it into a vanity for the sink. 

The birds and the addition to the baby foxes living behind the barn

The next quest that we have undertaken is an attempt to resurrect a completely overgrown lot.  A very invasive vine called bittersweet has had plenty of time to wrap itself around lilac bushes and forsythia bushes...stone walls and stone stairs.  In addition, daylilies have stormed through the gardens engulfing every available spot they could find to cement down their bulbous root systems and shoot up tall and unwaveringly proud.  We were first delighted to see the sweet little creamy bells of lily of the valley sprouting up around the porch perfuming the air with their sweet babylike scent... until they didn't stop sprouting and swept through front of the house drowning out the ancient pachysandra ground cover that was one of the established plants we were going to work hard to keep.  

Top Left: Black & White Warbler;   Top Right: Barn Views
Bottom Left: Front lawn;   Bottom Right:  American Golfinch

I clapped my hands with delight when I first saw the purple thorny stalks of blackberry vines that were tangled along the edges of the lot.  They were weaving in and out of the old black iron hairpin fence.  Blackberries!  My favorite berry!  ...ready soon to be picked on a whim and folded into creamy yogurt whenever a craving set in.  Little did I realize how fast blackberry vines spread and take over everything in their path.  Many occasions in the last couple of weeks I could be heard out there deep in the trenches of the lot yelling...ouch!  With the slightest brush of a pant leg or sleeve, the huge prickly thorns on the stem snag anything they can grab. 

So we've been pulling and digging and yanking and unearthing all manner of pesky invasive plants that want to take over every bit of green space.  As Tom, the contractor, pulls up the drive in the morning or Jim, the electrician, gives us the latest update on the impending arrival of his first baby (update: it's a girl!), I get ready to pull on my wellies and arm myself against the buzzing insects.  I grab all manner of tools that we've have been amassing more of each week, say goodbye to the banging and pounding that take over the interior of the farmhouse... and head outside for a full day of land clearing, weed pulling, and eventually flower planting for my emerging garden.

Bottom Left:  Squirrels pairing up with chipmunks to pluck the fallen seeds

What is most wonderful during these long days filled with chaos and change and to sit back among the weeds and tangles of vines and look out over the hillside at the huge maples overhead etching the sky with their fan-like leaves. I pause for a few moments to watch the variety of birds come for a visit to the bird feeders.  Springtime brought the bold and brash blue jays that swooped in with pomp and ceremony all dressed in their royal blue coats.  They like to hang from the suet feeder that is a block of peanut butter mixed with seeds.  In competition for this nutty concoction are the strong and nimble spotted black & white red bellied woodpeckers. Then, when I put black sunflower seeds out, the petite American Goldfinches fluttered in clusters to light up the tree branches with their bright flickers of yellow as they eyed the sunflower seeds too.  If I keep alert, every now and then, a cardinal will appear. It sits quietly and studiously on a branch like a red jewel amidst a canvas of leafy green. 

One of our surprise treats found in the yard...bleeding heart flowers

So a few days after we officially took on this Nehemiah Ordway homestead, I was knee-deep in blackberry brambles when Paul, who lives in a quaint farmhouse up the road, built in the early 1800's, drives by in a stunning velvety black Ford Model-T.  He rolled up our dirt road in his handsome antique car and called out to me, "Sarah, stop working so hard and come for a ride around your new neighborhood!"  Without hesitation, and with a grin from ear to ear, I brushed off my dirt-smudged face, stomped out debris from my heavy boots and left the mess of overgrowth behind.  I  hopped up in his refurbished "T" and we took a fantastic spin around the countryside.  Paul pushed and pulled all sorts of levers that told his ancient beauty just what to do.  We hand cranked down the tiny windows and let the air flow right through.  Paul is a passionate clock restorer, music box collector and a true bonea fide jack-of-all-trades.  I don't think there is anything the man can't pull apart and reassemble to near perfection.  He refurbished his antique Ford Model T  from top to bottom.  The seats have the most beautiful tweed brown fabric set off with a gentlemanly pin stripe of  black.  

Completely delighted riding around in such a beautiful antique car and feeling thoroughly entranced by our new surroundings, I thought of how different our lives are now from barely one year ago...I thought of the trials and tribulations we went through to land in this very spot in New Hampshire...and we couldn't be happier.

Paul...and his many refurbished his beautiful Model T Ford

Speaking of getting out and about town...and not just out and about our thick woods and vine covered hills around our nearest neighbor Jennifer threw out an invitation to go to a garden gathering hosted by a friend of hers to meet many of the ladies of our town. Jennifer knows so many women from the town so for the first time, I immersed myself for an enchanting evening in the most warm-hearted, fascinating, and entertaining group of women.

I thought how nice it would be to scrub the dirt out of my finger nails for one night, put on a pretty summer dress, and go to a meet and greet garden party.  We've been so content to stay homebound and work to realize our dreams for this farmhouse, that we probably need to carve out time to get out into the town and see what the community is like around here.

Jennifer mentioned that since it would be a rather large group of women, everyone typically brings a dish to share.  I wondered what I could bring to this gathering but then I looked at our dismal kitchen situation.  

Right around the corner of the Robins nested deeply in their nest

I scratched my head at that dilemma.  The only thing in our kitchen is the range. It is sitting in the middle of the shell of a kitchen.  All kitchen items are across the house flung all over the living room floor!  I quickly relinquished all thoughts of pulling something together and thought instead of bringing wine or perhaps a bunch of flowers for the host, Faith.  

But my eye happened to catch a fleeting email recipe from Saveur magazine that came through my inbox.  Darn! It looked so delicious!  I was already missing trying out different summer recipes in the kitchen.  Before I knew it, I was sizing up that lone range sitting in the middle of the empty kitchen assessing the potential outcome of this tempting dish and whether or not I was up for the challenge.

Not just a nursery...a destination.  StoneFalls Gardens in Henniker, NH

It was a pasta dish I spied from Saveur magazine..."Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese".  It looked so summery and delicious.  I didn't have orecchiette pasta (and neither did the market) but I did have a bag of interesting wild garlic egg fettucini.  I also had goat cheese with dill from Main Street Cheese in Hancock, NH.  The rest of the ingredient list was doable:  garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes...

I eyed the cooking range in the middle of the kitchen.  A pot of boiling difficult can it be to make this dish?  What pushed me to pull this pasta dish together was that I have been waiting to use an olive oil from Pasolivo Ranch in California.  

 Pasolivo makes olive oils from their orchards out in Paso Robles.  What intrigued me were their flavored rosemary, tangerine, basil, lemon, and lime.  I ordered a few bottles, the tangerine and the rosemary, and wanted an opportunity to try them out.

As we're always thinking of Europe for olive oils, I thought it was nice that a family owned olive oil ranch was located in the U.S.  They say on their website:

"For over 10 years, Pasolivo has been producing world-class olive oils from our orchard in Paso Robles, on California's Central Coast. On the path to organic certification, we have over 45 acres of trees that are farmed sustainably, and our own on-site olive mill. At harvest time each year, the olives are hand-picked and pressed within hours, producing olive oils of deep flavor and amazing freshness.

A trip to the gorgeous StoneFalls Gardens

I dug out a large pot, filled it with water, and brought it up to a boil.  While I stirred in the wild garlic fettucini, I added a second pot to boil for the rapini (also known as broccoli rabe).  

I used the Pasolivo Tangerine Olive Oil to sauté the garlic.  The wonderful light citrus scent of the olive oil  paired well with the garlic.  With the lemon zest and the crushed chili flakes, it all looked delicious but seemed to missing something.

After draining the pasta and mixing it together with the tangerine olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and lemon zest...I thought I would jazz it up a bit more.  I added some sliced cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and grilled sausages.

I rolled up the dill goat cheese into little balls so that people could scoop them up with the pasta.  I stood there in the middle of the kitchen.  All 3 burners were busy.  The floors were sanded down, the cabinets were torn from the walls, the windows were half boarded up...but it smelled divine in that room.

Off to the gathering of town women we with my huge bowl of garlic-y pasta with that hint of tangerine olive oil and smoky grilled sausages.  We went through the middle of our small New Hampshire town.  After turning left, we rode up and over hills into a beautiful wooded setting several miles into the countryside.  We were at the home of Faith.  I knew instantly I would like Faith.  She is a woman that is immediately likable and energetic.  I carried in my offering to the dining room and set it on the table next to the most amazing array of dishes I've seen in awhile.  Each dish seemed filled with fresh produce from the many home gardens that exist in this area.  I had to circle the table just to admire the many flavors and taste combinations on display.

Top Left:  Red-bellied woodpecker
Bottom right: Lilacs popping open

The evening was enchanting.  Faith has expansive gardens that border a open hillside that look out on to a serene view of mountains in the distance.  A sweet path winds gracefully through the beautiful garden plantings and end at benches or little tables so that one can sit and relax and enjoy the New Hampshire mountain view.

I met so many women that evening.  We all seemed to be at stages of life where we have chapters of life stories and experiences to share.  Each person I met was so unique and engaging that Jennifer and I stayed at the garden party for hours chatting, listening, and laughing with this eclectic  group of women.

The evening came to a close.  I gathered my empty pasta bowl and chuckled to myself at my attempt to create something out of my meager home surroundings.  Not only was I inspired by the women, but also by the dishes that landed on the pretty dining table, as well as the beautiful garden setting.

I'm back now to the "Where's Waldo?" scenario.  I'm either lost in the yard tugging out what seems to be 100s of day lily bulbs rooted deeply into the soil or I'm hiding out among piles of our belongings trying to stay out from underfoot of electricians, plumbers, dry-wallers, and painters...waiting for the day when I can pull out the pots, pans, bowls, and ingredients to begin cooking up interesting looking recipes again.

Evening sunset from our back porch a few months ago (April)

*** I didn't have the orecchiette pasta so I used some raw garlic fettucini that I had on hand