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