Monthly Archives: January 2015


By |January 29th, 2015|

Poem by Nikyta


It is late January
and the fog lays thick as dreams
over the brown brushed
sleeping fields.

The lake is as still as town.
All the migrations have
come and gone:
swallows, geese, tourists.

Drops of shining water
adorn the otherwise barren trees
And the fields glimmer greenly
from the winter rains.

Only two turkeys stroll
through the empty pastures
Awkward and graceful
they hop, peck, swoop, flap.
Their eyes
shining black jewels of attention.

They have been the first to witness
the courageous daffodils
pushing their verdant way
up out of the cold earth.

They have seen with what
tenacious beauty
it has taken those
brave yellow faces
to bloom into radiant smiles.

Even last week
when their heads
drooped heavy with frost.
Even now as the clouds hold
in a blanketing warmth
Do their bright yellow heads
wink and nod
as they whisper of
the approaching spring.

-Nikyta Palmisani


Nikyta teaches yoga at Down Dog on Mondays and Saturdays. We have all been inspired by the early Daffodils and I am so glad she shared her words with us!

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Bounty Food Experiment #3

By |January 19th, 2015|



After cleaning up, when I was coming in to make dinner, the flock of mallards on the marsh rose together, arching across the sunset, only to land again with much scolding and worry. Overhead an eagle, graceful, silent, and intent, with talons lowered swooped down. It is so easy to identify with the ducks, fleeing the predator but I know that today I am more aligned with eagle. There is blood on the driveway, in the grass, on my pants and hands. We fed the seven pigs their last breakfast this morning and then ushered them one by one into the chute. It is fast- how life can end. I held a tub under the neck and caught the last heartbeats of blood. Startlingly red.



Pigs are how I crossed the line from growing food to feed myself to growing food for others. Pigs are how I moved from buying 25 pound sacks of chicken feed from the Island Farm Center to1000 pound sacks of hog feed. Pigs are how I dipped my toe into being a “farmer”. I am an imposter but learning.


On Tuesday we slaughtered. It was the first time we had used the Island Grown Farmers Co-operative (IGFC) USDA approved mobile slaughter unit for hogs (David has used them in the past for beef cattle but that was before my time here on the farm). The truck and trailer rumbled in before dawn. Setting up right outside our front door due to its flatness, circular drive and proximity to the pigs. Our seven hogs were not enough to fill the unit so other farmers brought their animals, all sheep. Soon pickups and trailers lined up with their flocks huddled uncertain in the corners. A pesky ram was the exception and he bumped and butted the inside of the truck canopy.




Jim and William the IGFC guys deftly set up in the dark and got to work. They were graceful to watch in their bib raingear and butchers sheaths full of knives. A shorn black lamb was the first and a blind ewe the second.   Starting with the hind legs, working into the groin and down the belly the skin is parted from flesh. The whole coat comes off inside out with some tugging but surprising ease. Underneath the fascia is a web of differing density with the pink of muscle showing through. The lambs look so small without their wool.


Outside the trailer the farmers stand in the growing light, sipping coffee and sharing tips about the best places to send sheepskins for tanning, the difficulties of drying hides in the winter. Offal is loaded into the tractor bucket and David takes trips up to the compost. Four sheep an hour. One by one the trailers leave empty. Finally, afternoon and time for the pigs. We go up to their pen and two by two they enter the chute, are stunned, bled and hung by the hind legs on the tractor bucket to be taken down to the trailer.


Pigs are fascinating creatures. Once they get used to you they do love a belly rub and will plop down and contentedly let you rub their soft undersides. They frolic too. With new pasture or wallow or when the air is right. Their little tails go in circles with delight. They love to be sprinkled and I would indulge them on hot days. They would tip their snouts up and mouth the water. Sometimes when they got bigger they would sleep outside in pigpiles. A row of four or five pigs spooning, each twitching to its own dream. And yes, they really love food and are not tidy eaters. There is shoving and competition at the trough and hurried gobbling when something extra tasty is available.


The day after the slaughter there is an emptiness on the farm. A quiet. There is nobody to feed in the morning. Nobody to eat the scraps from the days cooking. When I drive in there are no piggy shapes silhouetted against the evening sun. I miss them as I get the last roast from the spring batch out of the freezer. Somehow cooking and filling the house with the scent of meat browning brings the pigs home again. In the rich flavors of stew nestled with the tomatoes and squash they loved so much I let my appreciation wander back in time, remembering. And as I sell these hogs to others I am so glad that they are going to be appreciated, to be savored, to gather people around tables, fuel conversations and community.


Our friend Isobel Davis came from the city to visit. She is an artist and accomplished cook among other talents. Neither of us follows recipes and we decided to call our style “improvisational cooking”. I shared how the constraints of the “Lopez Diet” has spurred my creativity. Even if I wanted to follow a recipe they do not fit the “what is on farm” pantry. Cooking becomes a rhythm, an evolution of one thing into another. We asked the question “what would an improvisational recipe look like?”.

A chicken. First it is roasted and the proud center of a dinner. The left over meat is picked from the bones and the carcass is put in a pot with water on the wood stove to cook down into broth. The next night the meat goes into something- soup, stirfry etc. The broth is strained, the bones are picked again for the dogs (and given to the pigs when they were still here). The broth gets cooked with beans and becomes another main course soup later in the week.


Isobel gave me the biggest treat. We went off island for the day to pick up the pork. I had my lunch bags packed and my thermos of tea. I was prepared to want and I did. It is easy on the farm to just eat from Lopez but the mainland is associated with treats. With a latte or going out to lunch. Of getting some novel tastes. And this trip I had only my tiffin to look forward to. It was actually a fabulous lunch that would have cost a pretty penny at some smancy organic café. And lucky for me the treat came when we got home. Isobel had gone to town in our kitchen! There were a lovely dip of soisson vert beans cooked in duck broth with toasted Barn Owl Bakery Lopez Loaf to start, a roasted chicken, wheat berry pilaf, brusselsprouts, broccoli with garlic, and a celleraic salad with an apple cider dressing. And a bottle of Lopez Island Vineyards Madeleine Angevine (which was a treat after just having cider for days). It was all so good!

Improvisational Recipe for a Braise

In a Dutch oven sauté aliums (onion family) in a fat source until translucent and beginning to carmelize.

Add (if you want to go in this direction) carrots and celery, or peppers or mushrooms and saute on low heat until soft all the way through. Add some garlic at the end. Take all of that out of the pan and set aside.

Take your meat (usually a roast) and sear on all sides. Sear it until it browns and carmelizes but does not burn. When that is done put a cup or so of liquid (broth, wine, cider, beer, water, fruit juice) in the pan and deglaze the pan. Add the onions, etc. and enough liquid (more of the earlier list or tomatoes, plums, etc.) to go at least half way up meat.

Squash, potatoes and or soaked beans can be added to the liquid. Flavor with herbs such as rosemary, thyme, bay, fennel, juniper, sage, oregano….. and salt.

Cover and put in the oven at 250-300 degrees for 4ish hours.

Greens such as cabbage, kale, collards or parsley can be added at the end if you would like!


Walnut sourdough pancakes with Berkimire peaches and blueberries and apple cider syrup. On the side our bacon and sausage.


Meatloaf with our woodfired oven roasted tomato sauce, delicata squash with chicken stock and apple cider syrup, broccoli from the hoophouse, grated carrot salad with dill seed and Berta’s footlong white beans.



Warmed fresh goat ricotta, our raspberries, walnuts and apple cider syrup.

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Bounty Food Experiment #2

By |January 17th, 2015|

The first day of eating 100% from Lopez

I dreamt of a kitchen (mine but not- they way things are in dreams) and there were bowls of strange exotic fruits. I knew I could not eat them because they were not from Lopez.  I woke up less hungry than I feared.


It is frozen and clear. My day to milk Vera, the cow who lives down the road. Glass half gallon jars clink in my basket. I enjoy this morning routine: boil water, sterilize pails, put a flake of alfalfa in the bin, open the gate to let Vera into the corral. This morning the cold has turned the mud to hoof print craters. She shies from the uneven ground and with her udders swinging slowly crosses to the milkshed. I give her a nudge on the rump as she puts her nose in the headgate, drawn by the alfalfa even though she knows I will push the bar over and trap her there. She settles in to bites and chewing. I brush her down, murmuring about how pretty she is. Then sitting on the little plastic stool I take the rags out of the warm soapy water and wash her udders. I feel the milk let down and the fullness of her bags becomes a tauntness of skin. With the bucket positioned underneath I finally begin to milk. The squeeze of thumb against forefinger and then the full grip to push the milk out in a stream. At first a metallic zing and then froth builds as the bucket fills and the sound become smooth. I ease into the rhythm, my hands active as I rest my head against Vera’s warm and earthy flank, let my eyes wander out to the crisp morning.

When I am done I take the buckets in and strain the warm white into my jars. Milk for the week.


The Horse Drawn Farm Carrot

In the village and I didn’t pack any snacks. I duck into Blossom Grocery. Is there anything I could eat? Freezers, fridges, shelves and bins. And I find only a carrot. A pure, unadulterated Lopez carrot. Other than squash and frozen meat it is the only thing that is just from Lopez. Crisp, sweet and so satisfying. I wonder- why don’t I usually buy carrots for a snack on the run?


A Southwesterly throws waves against the tide in Cattle Pass. The Olympics are obscured with clouds. The dogs run ahead, circle back to make sure we are following and run ahead again with tails erect and wagging. I pull my hat further down over my ears as I pick my way down the rocks to the waters edge to fill my gallon jug.

Salt. I have not had it for days. Salt. Such a staple, traded for eons, the first preservative, the enhancer of flavors. Living on an island I am surrounded by it.

I fill a big stainless pan with my gallon of seawater and put it on the wood stove. Over the next day and a half of evaporating it condenses, transforms. Turns from clear liquid to white crystalline flakes. It is light and putting a bit on my tongue the sharp bite of sea and brine and salt expands into my palate. When I scrape out the pan I end up with a cup of salt. One gallon turns into one cup! When I sprinkle the flakes into my dishes, onto my eggs I am cooking with wind, waves and tide.




The realization that I have grown more food than we can eat slowly dawns on me. Pumpkins are piled in the utility room, squash sit in a basket in the corner of the living room. Potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic are waiting in the barn. Our freezer is full of chickens, pork and beef we raised, berries from the island, old yogurt containers of stock (pork, chicken, salmon and duck), tomatoes roasted in the woodfired oven, pesto, bacon we cured and salmon. In the garden- brusselsprouts, kale and in the hoophouse- broccoli, lettuce, asian cabbages and spinach.   So much abundance, it is easy to cook. Easy to eat well.





Barn Owl Bakery Lopez Loaf French Toast (eggs from the farm and Vera milk) with our preserved pears and apple cider syrup.


Chicken, bacon, red pepper (from Susan Bill’s greenhouse), shallot, black coat runner beans and a lacto fermented dill pickle on the side.



Lamb chop raised by Molly Bill with leeks, broccoli and carrots braised in chicken stock.



Mint and wild rose

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Bounty Food Experiment #1

By |January 1st, 2015|

ScaldFirst Post

I am the guest blogger for the month of January for the Bounty Food Experiment.  This is a project hosted by the Lopez Community Land Trust and the Lopez Locavores.  Each month a different Lopez resident eats local (with in their chosen parameters) and blogs about it.


How I got here

If I told you about my life through the food I have eaten, it would start with clams. Old memories of raingear on white shell beaches.  The sucking of mud on the shovel. Each one, a find, to drop with my child hands with a plunck into the bucket.  Later at dinner, hard little shells opening to soft bodies and the briney sweet on my tongue.  I grew up on a sailboat.

Moved to Lopez in 1979. There was venison on the fire at parties.  Old refrigerators in barns with glass gallon jars of milk and a little box to leave your payment in.  Abandoned orchards full of apples and plums.  There were crabpots to haul up and berries to pick.  There were giant ice cream cones at Richardson Store. Mom cooked. Dad cooked.  We ate well.

In college in Bellingham I purchased my first CSA share- working off part of the payment by helping on the farm.  It was balance to the rice, beans and cheap pasta.

Professional years in Seattle.  Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, sushi, Ethiopian, the flavors of the world. Shopping at the farmers markets and the PCC. Various gardens tucked into backyards. Forays into the parks in the spring to gather nettles.  Nettles my link to the wild.  I committed to the gathering, the steaming mounds of green drenched in butter.  I served them to friends.  I dried them.  I knew where they came from.  How they grew.

Lopez again.  Now an adult.  “I want to inhabit my food supply.” We buy squirming little piglets.  Chickens run about in the afternoon.  The garden expands into long efficient rows instead of the intermixed tumble I had been experimenting with.  We put up a hoophouse that bursts in summer with tomatoes and shelters the tender greens against our current cold.  I can. I dry. I freeze.  Squash is piled in the utility room.  Potatoes wait for stews in their boxes in the barn.

And now.  December 31st.  Filled with the sweets and treats of winter holidays.  I realize how my much I do inhabit my food supply.  I am drinking my last cup of tea.  I will miss this.  I am committing to eating food only from Lopez and its surrounding waters for the month of January.  The only exceptions will be salt or sugar which I have preserved things with this summer. Seems like a good way to start a new year.

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