From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
This is the time of year, between sugaring and spring, when just about anything can happen. People get cabin fever, the roads are thick with mud, there is still wood smoke in the air, and the trees are too slow to bud out and turn leafy.
So it’s no surprise that even our small town has had its share of troubles: a car flipped over near the notch and we had a handful of break-ins over the winter. The good news is that the culprit was finally caught red-handed when he tried to sell stolen jewelry back to the store where it was originally purchased. The items had been taken from a churchgoing local who had employed this individual on a barn renovation over the summer. At least it was one of our own and not an out-of-towner.
I chatted with Nancy, our town’s green thumb, who was busy last weekend starting a few tomato plants in our greenhouse. She told me that she has two good rules for determining if a neighbor is not home. (Not in order to rob them, of course!) First, check for the white propane delivery receipt hanging from the front doorknob. Better yet, you know that the residents are long gone if their camper is no longer parked in the driveway.
Sugaring season is wrapped up. We did 430 gallons this year, a bit better than last year although the season ended abruptly when the weather turned unexpectedly warm after just two weeks. (Palm trees are going to start growing in our lower pasture if this weather keeps up!) Our syrup goes on sale in May. Go to www.twopigsfarm.com to sign up for notification if you haven’t already. (We will send you an e-mail one week before our syrup goes on sale. However, we can’t handle individual inquiries about the sale date. Thanks!)
We just finished up our 16th week of America’s Test Kitchen Radio (go to iTunes for the radio podcast and to our website for the recipes, tastings, and testing results: www.AmericasTestKitchenRadio.com). Recent shows have covered the life and times of Betty Crocker, the raw milk debate, and the truth about organic labeling. Plus, we host phone-ins, present a weekly recipe challenge, do blind wine tastings, test kitchen gadgets, and hold blind tastings with our food expert, Jack Bishop.
I was out and about in the woods recently and heard two tom turkeys loudly calling just over a rise in the hill. I quietly worked my way up to them and all I could see were two heads moving at high speed just beyond the ridge. (Turkeys have incredible eyesight and hearing; it is impossible to surprise them.) I ran after them and snapped a couple of photos. Later on, I came across a pileated woodpecker banging loudly way up on the trunk of a dead tree. I managed to capture him on video—click here to see one of these large birds at work.
Nate just finished clearing a pasture at the top of the mountain (click here for photos). We are going to seed it down with conservation mix (a mix of grasses) as well as some turnip seed, which provides good feed for the deer population in late fall. It has been a very easy winter for wildlife so I expect a strong deer population come October. However, beware of ticks this year! I have been told that the tick population is directly related to the number of mice in the woods. (Mice act as hosts.) One year ago, we had a strong acorn season, which means lots of mice and therefore lots of ticks, so don’t forget long socks, long pants, and boots if you go hiking over the summer.
I subscribe to The New Yorker, The Week, and my favorite magazine of all, The Rabbit Hunter. In a recent issue, a correspondent recounted the story of watching a very smart rabbit lead the hunter’s dogs out onto a busy highway by walking slowly down the middle of the road, leaving a strong scent trail. (The author leashed his dogs before they got to the road.) He was so impressed that he never took a shot out of pure respect.
Here’s a story about a Vermont hired hand and a long day at work. A tightfisted farmer worked his hired man, Seth, hard, from mowing and tedding the hay, to barn chores, to watering the horses, to doing the morning and evening milking. After another long day of work, the two of them were milking the large herd of Holsteins, all of them by hand.
The farmer remarked, “You know, Seth, sitting here milking is kinda restful to me.”
“Well, maybe,” said Seth. “I don’t know, but I’d rather go to bed tired.”
Enjoy the change of weather and the end of mud season, and may our bees get busy this year and make a lot of honey!