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

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