Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fall Mountain, Take II

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, so we seized the opportunity for a second hike up Fall Mountain—this time with friends who knew where to go. It was easy to accept their invitation, given all of the heavy, rich foods we'd been eating. The five of us ascended with laughter and lively conversation, making it seem less like exercise and more like an outdoor, roving party. And the view! Well, here, see for yourself:

Bellows Falls
Connecticut River Valley
Charming Vermont
Can you guess which one of us might be crazy?
Liz, Kathy, Sandy, Valerie
Solo project

We could hear the roar of the Connecticut bursting through the dam, and though the photos aren't detailed enough to show it, we could see numerous popular ski mountains in the distance, including Mounts Snow, Okemo, and Ascutney. Needless to say, this is bound to become one of our regular hikes.


Had I been more on top of things and not in a turkey-induced daze, I would have photographed the 100 pierogi that Liz and I made out of our copious mashed potato leftovers. Western Pennsylvania is a hotbed of pierogi madness, and Pittsburgh in particular has a bevy of pierogi-makers—everyone from Polish grandmothers from the Orthodox Church to the famous McKees Rocks-based business, Pierogies Plus. It comes as no surpirse then that I've be a life-long lover of this Eastern European delight and have always intended on trying my hand at a homemade batch. There's nothing like a bountiful bowl of buttery potatoes to turn dreams into reality. We made roughly 75 potato/cheese/onion and 25 braised red cabbage pierogi. Some were given to friends, but the rest will be cooked up with sauerkraut, greens, and sausage over the coming weeks. Yum!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey and All

Liz and I hosted six friends for our first potluck Thanksgiving dinner, which required preparation of only the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole. In case you haven't considered the potluck approach, please accept my ardent endorsement; potlucking is far better than spending the better part of a day cooking a mammoth meal. In addition to our culinary contributions, we feasted on greens, baked leeks, pumpkin with almond custard, cranberry sauce, spiced pears, biscuits, avocado pie, and chocolate mousse with ginger cookies and a port berry sauce (yum!). Our fete was followed by a much-needed stroll about town. I think everyone had a good time despite the fear that I said or did something out of line (did I mention the copious wine-drinking and homemade hard cider?). Either way, dinner included the best locally raised turkey we have made to date and the leftovers will be even better! Below are some photo highlights from the evening, expertly provided by the lesser-known Miss Julia Roberts:

All ready
Bringing work home
Mister Kitty will not be forgotten
Carving Contest—Round I
Round II
Round III
Andrea wins!
Julia and Janet digest

I am incredibly thankful to have shared this lovely meal with friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rady and Wumma

I awoke this morning at 5:30 to prepare for my second hike up Mount Wantastiquet. Andrea and I had been talking for months about the hike and finally found some time to make it happen. I picked her up and we headed to Brattleboro, arriving while the top of the mountain was still visible from town. Though we started hiking at 7:00, I have no accurate idea of how long it took us to reach the top. Drizzle set in shortly after we began, landing on us and on the already saturated forest floor, which did not make for the best hiking conditions. There was plenty of water and mud to watch out for, not to mention perilous wet rocks and tree roots, but we soldiered on and found our way to the overlook, where we saw...nothing.

Quick shot of Brattleboro on the way up
A murky summit
Making the best of the poor conditions

Stuck in a giant cloud, we turned around and gladly headed back down the trail. Despite the unfortunate weather, it was a fabluous hike and great time spent with a close friend.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Weekend Working

The town of Walpole—with help from the local group TriVillage Energy—held its annual Thanksgiving farmers' market on Saturday and Liz and I arrived early to help set up. The weather was fabulous, allowing us to hold the market on the town green. There were roughly twenty vendors, selling everything from wine to maple syrup, so we purchased some foods for our upcoming feast. The community supported the event by coming out to buy local:

Once we wrapped up at the market, we met Andrea and Brendan and headed over to the warehouse for some serious construction work. We managed to get the grow room walls up, while our friends worked on insulating the incubation room.

Two rooms!
Inside the grow room
Hanging insulation
Andrea loves polystyrene
All work and no play...

Liz and I returned on Sunday to fill in the insulation cracks with spray foam and set up some of the shelves. There's a lot more work to do next weekend—at least we get a break with Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Trekking

Liz and I set out early Thursday morning to hike Fall Mountain, which statuesquely ushers visitors from Bellows Falls into New Hampshire. Thanks to the telecom industry, the mountain features a wide road that leads to the top—and to a cell tower, which is fortunately not visible from street level. The road also serves as an excellent trail to what we thought was Table Rock, a well-known overlook that showcases BF and the Connecticut. We chugged up and out of the fog, reaching the summit in roughly 20 minutes, where we found an area that offered a partial view of the village and surrounding hills. Here are some photo highlights from the trip:

Liz leads
Rising above the clouds
At the summit

After discussing the hike with friends, we realized the error of or our ways in finding the observation area and are hoping to head back on Black Friday, weather permitting, for a second shot. Stay tuned for more pictures!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Needles and Pins

Three weeks ago, I decided to get over my fear of needles and give acupuncture a try. This is something that I've considered—but avoided—for many years now, knowing deep down that it probably holds great potential for treating my chronic ailments, namely Multiple Sclerosis and eczema/allergies/asthma (those last three must all be related, right?). Looking back, I'm not really sure what I was afraid of. Pain? The unknown? Success? The answer is most likely a combination of those possibilities.

After doing a light dietary cleanse (no sugar, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, dairy) for a week, I made an appointment at Watercourse Way to see what all of the fuss was about. Of course, I made sure to talk to hoards of people who'd already experienced acupuncture to get as much information as possible about the sensations that occur with the treatment. You can never be too safe, eh? Not surprisingly, everyone reported positive feedback—I mean the Chinese have been practicing this form of medicine for over 4,000 years. What did I really expect?

Regardless of my expectations, I have become a friend and proponent of acupuncture. I can't say that it's cured all of my ills yet (the third of six appointments happens this evening), but I can say that it's a fascinating experience. Spirituality and life energies are not my forte, yet the forces that guide acupuncture's success are bewitching. I don't pretend to understand them; all I know is that I want to know more.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Market and More

We spent yesterday in Brattleboro, completing our work day for the Winter Farmers' Market. We rose early, arrived early, and stayed late. Although we won't be selling at the market until January, we wanted to get the work requirement out of the way and reconnoiter the market scene. The morning included greeting farmers, helping them unload their goods, and assisting with setup; the whole thing ran like a well-oiled machine. The afternoon, however, was the exact opposite. Liz and I were both tiring, and loading things back into vehicles proved to be a far more time-consuming and involved process, mostly due to the unfortunate parking situation at the River Garden. The venue sits at a busy intersection where parking is sparse and the curbside serves as a bus stop, so market participants have limited options for parking. But we managed to make it through, despite the dwindling thanks and random gestures of gratitude (which, for a few farmers, came across as a bitter sense of entitlement, as if we had just magically appeared to lug their belongings to and fro). There were 35 vendors in all—selling veggies, breads, baked goods, cheeses, jellies, clothing, jewelry, birdhouses, cast iron towel bars, soaps, hand-crafted wooden chairs, prepared foods, even kimchi (that is so good!), and more—and the place was packed with patrons. These photos were taken before the masses arrived:

One long and tiring day led to another, as we spent the majority of today at our warehouse space, getting as much done as possible between the two of us. We cleaned, affixed plastic sheeting to the walls of the incubation room, and even managed to erect a few walls. There's still so much more to do, but these small accomplishments help to spur us on.

Posing with the first wall

Incubation room—almost there

Some friends have offered to help us next weekend. We'll need it if we're going to have mushrooms to sell in December!