Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Traditions

I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions. It would just be another thing I would break. However, January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start.  Many of us follow old traditions instead of leaving everything up to fate. Many of these traditions involve a meal to increase your good fortune? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in consumed in different pockets of the world. The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes.
In my family we follow as part of our New Years tradition the eating green grapes and legumes
The Tradition of Eating Grapes
New Year's revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour; March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of  the clock.
We do not rush to eat the grapes…performing the Heimlich maneuver is not the way I want to start my new year!
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it's customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight—a particularly propitious meal because pork has its own lucky associations. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the New Year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame.
In the Southern United States, it's traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin' john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This tradition traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume were thereafter considered lucky.
My Lentil Soup
  • 3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil  
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice


Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
Transfer 2 cups soup (mostly solids) to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick. Season with salt, pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy.

What Not to Eat
In addition to the aforementioned lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there's one more superstition—that is, guideline—to keep in mind. In Germany, it's customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.
May you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Cheers to you all!
~Old Dog~

Monday, December 27, 2010

After The Storm

~Old dog~

The storm has past, the sky is beginning to clear and I have shoveled all the snow around the house and barn.The wind is still blowing ferociously making the temperature feel like minus 2 degrees. It was definitely a three dog night last night.
Speaking of the dogs, they have been outside twice and are now snuggled on the couch in my den. Bella and Blue are snoring and Molly is barking in her sleep. She's probably dreaming of the fun she had running around in the snow this morning.
 Since everything was set around the farm, I decided to go into town. I like to survey the damage old man winter bestowed upon us and see how my neighbors have survived the blizzard.

 The walk around town was amazing, the storm dumped fifteen inches of snow on us. I used my cell phone to snap some pictures.

 The old Congregational church is near the center of town. The church is only used for special occassions, mostly  weddings or funerals. This is where my son will be getting married this coming February. I'll admit  that the snow covered ground makes for a peaceful setting, but I hope the weather is better on the day of the wedding.

~The Bean~
 I thought that I would warm my bones so I stopped by the village bean to have a cup of coffee. The "Bean" as it is called, is the only coffee shop in town and the unofficial meeting place for all the locals to catch up on the town's gossip. Most of the patrons were snowplow drivers and the buzz around the room was the storm.The accidents the saw, how many hours they logged in,and how many more they would log in before they could go home. Most of these guys have been on the road for 24 hours. They only stopped to get a cup of coffee and some lunch before they went back out to "clean up the edges" as they put it.

  As the plowcrews left the Bean I couldn't help to think how important they are to us. Without them, we could be stuck inside for a long time. I better stop and pick up some more wine and cheese before I head home. I could be another long cold night.
~Old dog~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Waiting out the Blizzard

Old man winter is having one of his tantrums in the form of a good old fashion blizzard. Weatherman says we can expect between twelve to twenty inches of snow. This is enough to send the locals into a major panic. The mass hoards will go running to the local markets for milk, bread, juice and eggs. The shelves will be cleaned out with the slightest chance that the snow will accumulate more than six inches. This ritual has become synonymous with
 Rhode Islanders. A habit brought about by the blizzard of "78". As for myself, as long as I have enough wine, cheese and some fruit...lets light a fire and have a party.

Today the dogs were restless, in and out all day long. Molly, my two year old lab, loves to play in the snow. She runs through the snow, eats snow, and pushes her snout into holes in the snow to inhale fresh air. However, Bella and Blue are a different story. They are thirteen inch beagles that were born and raised in Georgia. They came to live with me a little over a year ago. Bella, four years old, will try to tough out the cold hoping to reinforce her role as top dog. Blue, five years old, is comfortable with his spot in the pecking order. He's content to run out do what needs to be done and then run right back in so he can curl up in his favorite spot on the couch.
Old man winter is really howling outside. The only thing one can do in a storm like this, is wait it out. I'll begin to dig out tomorrow when it stops. Until then, I think its time to pull the cork on a bottle of wine and sit by the fire.
~Old dog~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's going to be a beautiful day

When snow covers the fields,  I love to try and identify the tracks of critters that walk through the farm.  Sometimes, if I'm really quiet, with a little skill and a whole lot of luck, I can follow the tracks right to the foot or "hoof"  that made them. My heart is still beating fast from my meeting with this magnificent creature. I'm surprised I was able to snap the picture.

Many, in these parts, are saying that the deer population has grown so much that it is becoming a problem. There has been an increase in auto accidents because of deer crossing the major highways in the area. The state is considering extending the hunting season or increasing a hunter's "bag limit".

As an ecologist I know that without natural predators, a population can grow beyond the carrying capacity of an ecosystem. Many of these beautiful creatures would die of starvation and that would be cruel.

This big guy was walking solo, but I usually see small herds of four to five in the pastures around the area.  When you see how beautiful these creatures are, I am sure, that this is a sign that all is right with the world. I rather do my hunting with a Nikon.
~ Old dog~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Night for a Luna Eclipse!

Is it only a coincident that an eclipse and the winter solstice took place  concurrently. Such timing last occurred in 1638. I'm glad I stayed awake to watch. Aastronomers say that the red tinge is from atmospheric dust.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sad Day!

It's funny how we get caught up in the moment and really let life pass us by without truly noting the important things around us. I just came from the wake of my friends younger brother, George Aldrich. A tragic accident ended his short time with us. He had a great passion for life, a love for the outdoors and a passion for the sport of snowboarding. I wish his family my sincere condolence. I hope that you will receive the peace in knowing that the love you shared with George is carried over to the next life. God's speed George. May you always find deep powder, feel the  warmth of the sun on your face, and the love of family and friends. rest in peace.
~Old dog~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Ready for Battle!!!

 I am always ready to wage war against my old nemesis, old man winter. I don't plow snow anymore, but my friend David does and he was getting his equipment ready for the upcoming storm that the local weathermen have been  predicting for our area.  One of his plow trucks had been damaged and was in need of a quick barnyard repair. We couldn't get the tailgate off because the back of the dump body was bent in an accident. We used the backhoe to pull the side of the body out and then David used the grinding wheel to cut away a small piece of metal that was blocking the clamps that held the tailgate closed. Now the fun began. I hung from the operating level that opened the tailgate while David, and Eddy, banged with mallets, pried with levers, and applied generous amounts of W-40 to the mechanism under the truck. Slow but ever so sure the clamps opened and the tailgate was freed. Now we could remove the tailgate from the truck. Sliding the sanding unit into the back of the truck was an easy task now, David  hooked the chains on the sander  and lifted the sanding unit while I backed the truck under the loader. Ed connected the electronics hook-up to the sander. All we need now is to pick up a load of sand. We were about to head out on our mission, when my wife Susan called us to come in from the barn to come in for lunch. She made cheddar-ale soup.   This is really good when old man winter wants to do battle.   Helps warm the bones after you've been outdoors in the cold ,damp weather.

                        Cheddar-Ale Soup


  • 4 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pale ale
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Toasted croutons for garnish
  • Olio novello for drizzling


In a 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Discard all but 2 Tbs. of the fat in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and melt the butter. Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.

Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly; do not allow the soup to boil. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish with croutons and the bacon and drizzle with white truffle oil. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Eats

Toad in the Hole
I love dishes that are cooked all in one pan. This is a traditional English Christmas breakfast, but to me its good any morning that you have a group of friends around the breakfast table its called... toad in the hole.
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 whole eggs plus one egg white
  • 2tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 3Tbs.plus2tsp.vegetable oil
  • 1 lbs mild pork breakfast sausage links
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded cut into1/2" strips
  • 4oz. spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 2 Tbs. fresh chives 
In a bowl, using an immersion blender, blend milk, eggs, egg white, and mustard for 1 minute. Add flour and 1 tsp. salt; and blend 20-30-seconds. refrigerate batter for 2 hours.
Preheat over  to 425degrees Fahrenheit. In a 10" fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 tsp. of oil. Brown sausages 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.Wipe out pan . Warm 1 tsp. oil in pan. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes and transfer to a plate.
Pour 2Tbs. oil into a 12" fry pan; place in over for 10-15 minutes. stir cheese into batter. remove pan from oven. Add sausages, bell peppers,and spinach to pan; pour in batter. bake 25-30 minutes; do not open oven door early. Garnish with chives.
serves 4-6.

I usually like to have a crockpot of mulled wine or hot butter rum on hand to serve on Christmas morning or any morning when you have good food and good friends around the table. Eat, Drink and definitely Be Merry!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


We had an intruder on the farm last night. He hasn't quite shown himself, but he left evidence that he snuck in last night while I was sleeping. There was ice on the pond and the thermometer out on the barn read 12 degrees this morning. He's old man winter and his arrival can be felt here at the farm. I don't like him, after all I didn't invite him. He just barged in and decided he would stay a while. He made himself right at home too. I think he turned the thermostat down because it was cold in the house when I got up this morning.  He does this about this same time every year, and he never really says when he's leaving.

Old man winter and I have been bitter adversaries for years. He can't be trusted. Sometimes when he's cranky he'll wander around the farm and you can hear him howling while he storms around breaking branches off the trees. There is usually a lot of work cleaning up after one of his tantrums. Once he clams down I can actually tolerate him. At night when I sit by the wood stove enjoying a cup of hot coco, I'll look out the window and notice that he covered the farm in a blanket of white. His work can really be quite beautiful.
I guess I  just like to hang on to summer as long as I can. 

Mark twain said. "If you don't like the weather in New England just wait a few minutes." 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Early Morning Walks

Early Morning walks
 Every moment, think steadily - - as a Roman and as a human being - - to do what you have in hand with perfect and simple dignity and feelings of affection and freedom and justice; and give yourself relief from all other thoughts. And you will give yourself relief by laying aside all carelessness, and hypocrisy, and conceit, and discontent with the portion that has been given to you. And so, performing every action as if it were your last, you will see how few the things are, which if a person lays hold of them, their life flows on in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods.
          ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus~
I think Marcus Aurelius was trying to tell us do whatever you are passionate about and as long as you carry yourself with dignity and take care of the important things in life; everything else will fall in place. In other words enjoy the simple pleasures in life and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I always have been an early riser because I enjoy the quiet of the early morning and I am privileged to see some of the most spectacular crimsoned sunrises. I get up every day at 4:30 A.M. and dress right away. I am not one to lounge in bed. After I’m dressed I’ll go downstairs and my first task is to get the espresso pot going for a strong jolt of caffeine. This morning while I sat enjoying my coffee the quiet of the early morning house was interrupted by a chorus of snoring coming from the den. The two beagles Bella and Blue were poised in the shape of a prefect Yin and Yang pose on the recliner, while Molly our Yellow lab lay sprawled out on the couch, all three were sound asleep.

 I returned to the kitchen and poured some coffee into a thermos and grabbed a granola bar. I also filled my pocket with some cookies for the dogs. I sat on the steps that lead to the den and started to put on my boots. Molly took some interest in this because she knows this means that we are about to go for our morning walk.
One of the small pleasures I enjoy is my early morning walks through the woodland and pastures around the farm with the dogs.  The walk gives me the exercise I need to get the blood flowing and the fresh air provides the oxygen to wake my brain up, so I can start the day with a clear head.

The beagles are all business. As soon as they are out the door, their heads go down and their tails point straight up as the sniff around for the scent of some woodland creature that trekked through the yard surrounding the house. They emit a high pitch yelping as they sniff the ground for the slightest scent and when they finally lock on to the scent they break into the signature baying that is synonymous to all beagles. They are off on the hunt. Bella being the more dominant of the three dogs will lead the way with Blue right on her haunches.

 Molly, the youngest of the three dogs, never really strays to far from my side and will walk right along with me. Occasionally, she will bring me sticks to throw so she can retrieve them.  Molly and I head through the south pasture behind the barn toward the path that leads through the woods. The sky is only beginning to brighten and I am happy to walk the path, as I not about to stumble through the woods in the dark. I can hear Bella and Blue in hot pursuit of their prey.  As Molly and I walk the path the baying gets louder and I can see Bella and Blue up ahead of us. They cornered a rabbit in an old stack of firewood.  I called for them to follow but they are too interested in the rabbit. I tried to lure them away with a cookie. Bella continues her relentless pursuit of the rabbit, but Blue is always ready for a free meal or snack and quickly abandons the hunt for his treat. Bella continues to run around the wood pile trying to dig the rabbit out.
 Molly, Blue and I walk the rest of the path to pond in the field beyond the woods. The sky begins to turn red as the sun breaks over the horizon. I take up a spot on a log along the edge of the pond and pour myself a cup of coffee from the thermos. I toss the dogs a couple more treats and eat my granola bar as we watch the sunrise.
Molly quickly devours her treat and comes running with a stick to play fetch. I toss the stick into the pond and Molly charges right in with a splash. She is a true waterdog and loves to swim in the pond. After several volleys into the pond we start our walk back to the house.
 We entered the path back through the woods, I noticed that Bella has stopped barking. I could see her still standing near the wood pile where we had left her. When I got closer I could see that she had something in her mouth. It was a small baby rabbit. I quickly grabbed her by the collar and pried open her mouth to remove the bunny. She immediately started barking in protest. I examined the bunny to see if it had been harmed. It seemed to be OK, excepted that it was wet from drool and frightened. I snapped a leash on to Bella and Blue and put the bunny back in the hole under the wood pile. I covered it with some leaves and led the dogs away and back to the house.
When we reach the house I brought the dogs in and fed them their breakfast. I went upstairs to get ready for work. When I came back downstairs, I found Molly, Bella and Blue again snuggle on the couch and the recliner sleeping.
I went outside but, before I got into my car, I look out over the farm and I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for people who feel that they need to go the gym for their morning exercise. My early morning walks provide me with a good work out, fresh air, as well as a great time to bond with the dogs.
 I can’t help but think that Marcus Aurelius would agree that my early morning walk is one of life's simple pleasure. I think he would approve and I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
~Old Dog~

Monday, November 22, 2010

Memories, an Old Pocketknife, and Mushroom Torte
While cleaning out my sock draw today I found my old pocketknife that was given to me by my uncle Mike. It has a bone handle with a little bail on the end to which I had attached a rabbit’s foot for good luck.  My uncle was a jeweler and before opening his own business he worked at The Imperial Knife Company which was based in Providence, Rhode Island. I was five years old when he gave me this pocket knife. Before he gave me the knife, he considered the all the possibilities of how a five year old could get hurt or hurt others possessing a “real knife”.   So he ground off the point on the end so it resembled a butter knife and never sharpen the edge so it was impossible to cut anything. He was very clever when he gave them the title of “A Mushrooming Knife”.  His design was so we could dig the mushrooms out of the ground using the blunt end of the Knife and slice through the soft tissue of the mushrooms to check for worms without getting hurt. At the last cookout of the summer he gave one of these Mushroom knives to me and each my cousins, with a promise of taking us all mushroom hunting.
It’s been over fifty years since my uncle gave me my mushroom knife but during each spring and fall, when the weather is warm and rainy and the biggest mushroom flushes of the year occur, I will wander the woodlands around the farm foraging for mushrooms. Mushroom collecting requires only the simplest of equipment: a flat-bottomed basket or box, a roll of waxed paper, a digging tool and a pencil and paper for notes.
The trick for most mushroom hunters is how to identify the choice mushrooms from the poisonous ones. A saying often quoted among mycophiles: “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.”
If you are a beginning mushroom hunter, remember that phrase and repeat it often. Some of the most beautiful wild mushrooms are poisonous or deadly.

My recommendation for anyone thinking about hunting for mushrooms is not to go alone. Ask an experienced mushroom hunter or join a local mushrooming club. Many old timers will not give up their secret spot or favorite spot to hunt mushrooms, but if you have some land they will be more than willing to come along…they are always looking to expand their hunting grounds. You may have to share your secret spot but the information the old timers can give you is priceless.
Take notes about the weeks weather, the habitat and appearance of the mushroom. It's a good idea to note where the mushroom is growing (on wood, soil, moss); whether it is single or in clusters' the colors of the caps, gills and stem; and any other distinctive features. The more you can observe about the mushroom in the field, the easier it will be to identify.
We were all hunter-gatherers at one point, so we all have a deep need to get out in the woods and fish, hunt mushrooms, game, or collect wild plants. It really does awaken something primeval within us — even my non-mushrooming friends who come along on a mushroom walk have told me that it completely changes the way that they see the woods.”

~Old Dog~
If hunting wild mushrooms seems too confusing or dangerous you can always buy some delicious mushrooms in the produce section of your local market. This is a recipe my wife Susan uses to prepare a delicious mushroom torte. Serve with a green salad and a glass of Burgundy and enjoy.

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, frozen in the freezer 1 hour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons
ice cold butter, cut into 12 pieces
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

1/4 ounce dry porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 green onions, white and green, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1 pound cultivated or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 ounces Stilton or other blue-veined cheese

1) To make crust: Place flour and salt in a food processor and pulse two times to combine. Add butter and pulse several times until most of the mixture is size of bread crumbs with a few pieces remaining pea sized. Dump mixture out onto a work surface in a pile. Spread it out a little. Make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together sour cream, lemon juice and water; add half of liquid to well. With your fingertips, mix liquid with dry mixture until large lumps hold together. Remove large lumps and repeat with remaining liquid, using as much liquid as needed to hold dough together. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place dry porcini mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and let sit 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms and reserve liquid for another use. Finely mince mushrooms and reserve.
3) In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes. Add rosemary and thyme and continue to cook 1 minute. Increase heat to high, add fresh and minced dried mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft and liquid from mushrooms has completely evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool.
4) Roll dough on a floured surface to make a 12-inch circle. Place on a baking sheet. In a bowl, combine Stilton and mushrooms. Spread mixture over dough, leaving a 1-1/2-inch border around edges. Fold uncovered edge of pastry over mushrooms and cheese, pleating it to make it fit. There will be an opening in center of tart. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Slide galette onto a serving plate. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.
Yield: 6 first course servings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome to Yellow Dog Farm

Yellow Dog Farm is a small farm, located in the small community of Scituate, Rhode Island. The farm is named after our yellow Labrador, Molly.  I am known as the Old Dog and I live here on the farm with my wife Susan, Molly and two beagles Bella and Blue. Susan is a gourmet cook that can whip up some of the most mouth watering dishes you can imagine from the produce that is grown here on the farm. We also produces delicious jellies and jams  made from the fruit picked in our orchards. So follow along in our blog if you would like a taste of life on a farm without the work. We will share some stories, post photos and some great recipes.
Old dog