The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

It’s a Long Walk When the Brakes Fail

January 30th, 2015 by Ed Bruske

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Most winter mornings begin very much the same: start the truck, scrape snow and frost off the truck, drive daughter to the bottom of the driveway in the truck to wait for the school bus.

Recently, there was a twist. When I stepped on the brakes, there was hardly anything there. I tried again: My boot almost reached the floor board. Seeing as the truck with its studded snow tires is the only vehicle we have that will get us off the property and home again, this brake issue was nothing to take lightly. So as soon as daughter was off to school, I drove to the mechanic’s, about four miles distant on the other side of the village.

There was just one problem with this strategy: My wife was out of town on business with the family station wagon, our only spare vehicle. Leaving the truck at the shop for a diagnosis of the brake problem and repair meant I would have to find an alternate means home. I could have called for a taxi. Out here in rural Upstate New York, that can mean an hour wait. It can mean longer–assuming someone answers the phone at the local taxi service. I decided to walk.

Back in D.C., I walked everywhere. It was my primary form of exercise. I figured the distance back to the farm–actually about four and a half miles–was only slightly longer than a round-trip stroll from our old house in D.C. to the main library downtown. Of course, with the mercury below freezing, it would be a bit chilly. But I was wearing my winter gear: insulated boots, thermal cloves, hooded Carhartt coat and winter cap.

I set off on a hiking adventure.

You often see things walking that you never notice driving in the car. I’ve driven this route a hundred times at least in the nearly two years since moving to the farm. But I had never walked the full length of the village–past the service stations, the hair salons, the post office, the bakery, the little opera house, the bookstore, the diner, the food co-op, the grocery, the consignment shops, the pharmacy, the Chinese carry-out and the pizza joint. Cambridge, now our home town, is compact and neat, not exactly booming, but offering most of the basic services along with some cultural gems that sets it apart. As I walked along, I thought how lucky we were to land here in our search for a new home.

Reaching the other side of the village, about halfway home, I decided to check with a friend to see if he might give me a lift. It would save so much time, and I was already thinking about saving my legs for the return walk once the truck was fixed. I knocked on the door, but he wasn’t home. And a good thing, too, because it wasn’t more than a few minutes later that the mechanic called on the cell phone to say they had found the problem–crack in a break line–and had already fixed it.

What luck. I turned around and started hoofing it the other way. Stopped at the diner for breakfast. Stopped and the hair salon for a badly needed trim.

As I drove home from the shop, I considered my morning adventure and thought how much this seemed to represent another aspect of the new rural life we had embraced. Look what happens when your primary means of transportation is suddenly taken away from you! The implications, if you followed this thread, seemed absolutely cosmic.

But when I related the story to one of my co-workers at the food co-op, she had a completely different take on things. “What you need,” she said, “is some more friends.”

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Fresh Ham

January 28th, 2015 by Ed Bruske

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We weren’t crazy about the processed ham we got from an earlier pig we purchased from our friend Mike, so this time we decided to skip that part and just take the ham fresh. Wow, are we glad we did. We ordered the hams cut into roasts, and have been cooking them lately with delicious results. Maybe it’s the local, lovingly raised Berkshire pig that’s so unctuous and full of flavor. Whatever–we are sold on fresh ham.

This one was rubbed with North African spices–cumin, cinnamon, garlic–along with some cardamom and of course salt and pepper. After roasting it in a 350-degree oven to an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit, I smothered the roast with a mustard-maple syrup glaze and finished it under the broiler.

I reheated some for breakfast next to a horseradish-cheddar omelet made with our own, fresh eggs. The ham goes extremely well with sweet pickled green tomatoes. I canned these from our garden in D.C. four years ago. They’re still fabulous–better than ever, in fact.

Next time you think to make ham for dinner, think fresh.

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