Dear Home Cook,
Well, it’s June and it’s up in the 80s here in Vermont. The farmhouse is starting to warm up, and even the first floor is beginning to lose its spring chill. Old country homes stay remarkably cool in the summer due to full dirt basements, stone foundations, and porches.
Do you know how to catch a quail? My daughter, Caroline, was told that you set out a small paper cup filled with a bit of honey with birdseed on top. The quail digs down into the cup to get at the food and ends up with the cup stuck over its head! Okay, maybe somebody was having fun with her, but it’s just crazy enough to work. (Great visual, in any case.)
Lots of folks have run into bears in the past year. One neighbor found one sleeping on the ground right out in the open during turkey season. The bear woke up and stood up on his hind legs, yawned, and then sauntered away. The Trachte boys found one in a shallow cave during deer season last year. Bears often hibernate in shallow holes, not always in deep caves as one sees in the cartoons.
Speaking of Caroline, she and I just took a trip up to Foggy Meadow Farm in Benson, Vermont, where we met with Paul Horton and Sally Beckwith, who run the place. It’s organic but the interesting part is that they grow all year round, even without heated greenhouses. It was an old dairy farm that they converted through years of trial and error. Today they grow healthy food with a small staff and have proven that small-scale farming, even in Vermont, is economically sustainable. Here is a photo album of our visit. You can also listen to our recent America’s Test Kitchen radio show about organic farming in America that includes an interview with Paul as well as with the deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many years ago, a neighbor, after a domestic dispute, had taken up residence in an old mobile home on the property of a friend of mine. Winter was coming and the individual was not inclined to move, so in an effort to get him out, my friend asked another neighbor to bring his excavator and rip off half of the roof. The homesteader simply moved his effects to the other half of the trailer. A couple of weeks later, the excavator came back and removed the other half of the roof. That finally took care of the problem!
Valerie Depeyster just told me a story about one of her relatives who had been hiking through the woods at a time when the mosquitoes were particularly vicious. He had covered his head with sweet fern—it has mosquito-repellent properties—and ended up lost, finally knocking on the back door of a farmhouse. The very startled neighbor—this relative is 6 foot 5 inches tall and was covered in a makeshift spray of green leaves—was asked to call the Depeysters, since they would come and pick up this strange intruder. Valerie’s sister, Susie, answered the phone and said, “Oh, has he escaped from custody again?”
I walked over to the country store in the late afternoon on a very sunny, warm June day. An older gentleman, the father of one of the store owners, often sits outside. We trade small talk so I said, “Pretty nice day.” He thought about that for a few seconds and then said, “Yup . . . so far.”
That’s about it for this month. Next month, I will tell you about my encounter with a black bear and the story about the fourth little woodchuck that couldn’t make up its mind about crossing the road. (True stories, all of them, and they happened to me this week.)
See you then.
June Letter from Vermont