The days are suddenly shorter and there’s a cold wind blowing in from the north, just in time for Fall shows. This year I spent the winter, spring, and summer in the studio. It seemed super productive at the time — but now the walls are empty. Ten paintings are on their way to the ASA Landscapes for Landsake Show and I’ll be sharing two small landscapes at the Spencertown Academy regional show. Here are the invitations. Another small landscape will be donated to the Silent auction at the MHLC Gala. Would love to see you there!
Each month I get my happy chickens and eggs from Longfied Farm, a sheep farm near Altamont. Nestled in a small barn near the house is a huge stone oven, where owner, Gary Kleppel bakes the bread that they sell at the Delmar Farmers Market. Now a full-time farmer, Gary recently retired from teaching Ecology at the State University at Albany. HIs book, Emergent Agriculture, is a hopeful look at the link between small farms and sustainability.
Gary’s not the kind of guy to float conspiracy theories or embrace food fads, so I was stunned by his recent blog post, which links gluten insensitivity to Roundup. Who knew that Roundup (or glyphosate) is widely used to dry wheat before it is processed into flour? What this means is that every commercial wheat product you eat, from crackers and pizza dough to pasta, has been sprayed by glyphosphate. It doesn’t get washed off because the point is to dry the grain. Glyphosphate can interfere with digestion and has been linked to a whole raft of common and increasing human health issues. Is it possible that the reason for the surge in gluten intolerance is not modern versus ancient grains, but instead the invisible chemical stew that surrounds us?
Get the whole story here: Are you really gluten intolerant? Or have you just been eating too much Roundup lately?
I was approached about a portrait commission during a recent show. I hesitated because I don't really "do" portraits. I had painted a genre-type painting that included a figure, which a lot of people seemed to like, but I wasn't very confident about capturing a likeness where it mattered. I reviewed a lot of snapshots and spent some time with a charismatic young girl whose ideal pet is an African hissing cockroach. Eventually we settled on a photo of the girl feeding Birdeelee, a rescue who had become imprinted and would hang out on the patio waiting to be fed.
I struggled with just about everything. Getting the head to be that of a young child. Dealing with the background, which needed to have some reality but also needed to "step back" to give focus to the figure. The light in the photo was indirect, so I didn't have any obvious drama. As a result, I looked at a lot of impressionist portraits along with John Singer Sergeant -- a did the best I could. Now on to landscapes!
August 1, 2018
A celebrated organic farmer of peaches, grapes, and nectarines in California, David Mas Masumoto is also a gifted storyteller and chronicler of the considerable challenges and rewards of organic farming. Masumoto’s memoir, Wisdom of the Last Farmer, Harvesting Legacies From The Land (Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2009), is a tribute to his father, whose dogged persistence created the “perfect peach” celebrated by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. It wasn’t an easy path.
To read more visit the book reviews at: knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com
If you're an avid baker, wanting to take your bread baking to the next level or perhaps a locavore looking for the next food frontier in taste . . . or if you’re simply interested in learning more about the grains we take for granted, then Sara Pitzer’s Homegrown Whole Grains, Grow, Harvest & Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn & More(Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, 2009) deserves a place in your library.
To read more visit the book reviews at: knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com
I can remember the moment a fresh local ingredient changed my life as a consumer. It was an apple, sampled from the tree during an excursion to Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, near Albany in upstate New York. Besides being crisp and juicy, the apple’s flavor exploded and then lingered on my tongue, like nothing I had ever experienced. It led me on a path to eating almost exclusively from farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs: fresh and local became a guidepost.
Amy Halloran’s aha moment was an oatmeal ganache cookie bar made from oats and wheat grown near where she lived in upstate New York’s Rensselaer County. She set out to find the source of the flavor and fresh grainy taste. The New Bread Basket, How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf (Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2015) is the outcome of her quest to investigate the regional grain revival happening in New York State and New England.
To read the full review and other great stories, visit KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom.com
I don't know why it took me so long to start painting outdoors. I love landscapes, but most often these days I experience them from the car. I take tons of photos and have been using them for reference for a couple of yours. Still, I knew I was missing something besides mosquitoes, sunburn, and ticks. I needed a push to get started and signed up for a Plein Air painting workshop with Debra Bayly from the Arts Center in Troy. In the week leading up to the class I found my collapsible easel and toned some canvas boards in various shades of ocher. I managed to fit all my gear into a giant IKEA bag and was ready to meet the small band of intrepid painters at Peebles Island in Cohoes, NY.
Maybe it was the perfect non-humid summer weather. Maybe it was the big old trees with pools of cool shade or the water around the edges of the landscape with 19th century industrial buildings, bridges, and boats -- but I felt like I was in the midst of an Impressionist painting and my brush responded accordingly. I really like these little paintings and I'm looking forward to seeing where this new path leads.
When I started this project, I had a few paintings and a lot of questions. Was it possible to exclusively eat locally sourced food? Who were the people making my food? What was the best way to handle these fresh, new ingredients? How could I help surface this trend in the Capital region of upstate New York? And then, at a more personal level, would I be able to make art that mattered to me -- and others -- without getting bored or distracted? In a world of sadness, could I make art that would make people smile?
The food questions, quite honestly, have been answered by others more qualified than me. I'm a pretty good home cook, but I use the internet like everyone else to find out how long to cook an heirloom chicken or what to do with unusual fruits and vegetables like quince and kohlrabi. I now have favorite farmers at the Schenectady Greenmarket and e-mail subscriptions with other, smaller farm entrepreneurs. The information is out there and I wasn't doing a great job keeping up the blog because it didn't feel like I was adding anything new.
So, from now on, I'm going to focus more on my art. I'll share what's new... and maybe some of the things I'm struggling with. I'll try to post updates on shows and events. You can also see what's going on by following Farm Share Studio on Facebook and Instagram. I'll continue to donate 10% of all my sales (less tax and commissions) to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the American Farmland Trust, and the Agricultural Stewardship Association. I'll also continue to look for ways to bolster our local markets and community.
I’ll admit to skipping over the philosophy section when browsing bookstores. On the book buffet, philosophy sits there next to seitan or black-eyed peas – virtuous, yes, but surrounded by more enticing, tastier options. But Philosophers at Table, On Food and Being Human (Reaktion Books, London, UK, 2016) by two American professors of Philosophy, Raymond D. Boisvert of Siena College in the Capital Region of upstate New York and Lisa Heldkeof Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, Minnesota is a welcome surprise.
To continue the buffet metaphor, this book is kale salad with quinoa, sweet potatoes, and pepitas — bright and packed with ideas but readable and not densely written. The authors set out to challenge the common separation of soul and body, a central theme of modernity with roots in the Enlightenment. It’s a big project in a small book packed with sparkling prose and new ideas.
Philosophers at Table allows us to see food as a way to restore the connections within ourselves and between others. You can read the review at the wonderful website: KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom.
One of my favorite art shows of the year is the Landscape for Landsake show to benefit the Agricultural Stewardship Association in Washington County. It takes place at Maple Ridge near Cambridge, NY from Saturday, October 7 through Monday, October 9. Half of all artist proceeds benefit this great organization, which directly supports farmland conservation in Washington County, NY.
To celebrate my participation I've decided to offer a 20% discount on all my original paintings on my ETSY.com site during the month of October. During the sale, I'll donate half of sale proceeds to the Agricultural Stewardship Association. Please note that unsold paintings from the show will be relisted on October 10.
It's been awhile! But though I haven't been posting, I have been busy. I'll update my paintings soon, but in the meantime, here's a book review I did for a wonderful site: KnowWhereYourFoodComesFrom. I recently helped the publisher clean up expired links and was amazed at the depth and breadth of local food coverage. Looking for a CSA near you (even if you live in Bozeman, MT)? Check. Traveling and want to find a good farm-to-table restaurant or farmers market? Check. So I was thrilled when asked to contribute a book review.
Reviewing Sasha Martin's memoir, Life from Scratch, was a joy -- starting with the very first page. She's an engaging writer with a passion for food. She writes a successful blog, globaltableadventure.com, which started when she decided to expand her horizons in middle America and cook a meal a week from every country in the world. But though the memoir that grew out of the blog, it is much deeper and more meaningful. It became an intensely personal exploration of childhood trauma, confusion, and loss. You can read my review HERE.
I live in a picture-postcard village, surrounded by a patchwork of agricultural landscape bordered to the west by fossil-laden, steep cliffs of Devonian limestone. The softly rolling land below the cliffs was once the edge of glacial lake, whose ground is a slurry of smooth round rocks encrusted in hard clay. Nevertheless, the region was settled by German tenant farmers in the 1700s and the fabric of history is still preserved in Dutch barns, small farms, and family names. Though the area seems to be turning inexorably into real estate, it is still possible to ride and walk through open countryside, much as people did in the nineteenth century.
This painting is of chicory encroaching on the fields of a sheep farm on Meadowdale Road in Guilderland, New York. I love the color of chicory, its stiff, yet random growth pattern, and the fact that the flowers bloom early today and then fade, before reblooming tomorrow.
For some time I've been wanting to start painting landscapes. Having my small food paintings off site for a couple of months has given me the clean slate I needed in the studio to start working in a new direction. The painting will be shown at the Albany Center Gallery members' show from January 6 to February 17, 2017. The opening reception will be January 6 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Since I started eating closer to home, I've had a great time getting to know the farmers who grow my food. I've become more curious about the history and, I suppose, anthropology of local food. After finishing Everett Rau's memoir, Stand Tall, I still stop by to chat with him and his wife, Peg, in their hilltop farmhouse. During one of our visits, Peg brought out a treasure trove of handwritten cookbooks from her mother, grandmother, and grandmother-in-law, along with her own box of recipe cards, which she began the year she married Ev.
My hands trembled when I opened the old notebooks, carefully turning their food-stained pages, brittle with age. Determined to preserve them, I carefully scanned the notebooks and cards and sat with Peg as she regaled me with stories of Grange dinners and favorite family recipes. At 93, Peg doesn't cook anymore, but she is passionate about nutrition and can still recall the first time she tried many of the recipes in her collection.
Heirloom Recipes focuses on a handwritten cookbook begun by Everett's grandmother, Sarah Ogsbury, in 1891. We know the year because she used a complimentary journal from a thread company that is stamped with the date. Throughout the book is elegant ink penmanship from Sarah, who was a teacher, interspersed with clumsier pencil recipes from young women. The girls' writing is in several different hands, presumably her daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth. When Peg found the book in a drawer after she married Everett, she also found newspaper clippings, which she pasted, as if in a scrapbook. She says she never saw her mother-in-law, Margaret, use the cookbook, because Margaret had "all the recipes in her head."
The second half of the book features a selection of favorites from Peg's own recipe box, including many of her mother-in-law Margaret's that Peg wrote down while they cooked together.
Bump's Apple Sauce Cake
One of the best parts of finishing the book is having time to try some of these vintage recipes. Most of the old recipes lack cooking instructions, so it's often useful to back them up by googling vintage recipe sites. This applesauce cake was pretty straightforward. To save a step, we purchased homemade applesauce from Indian Ladder Farms near Altamont. The lard came from the baking section at Hannaford supermarket. We made a half-size recipe to test and cooked the cake in an 8" square cake pan for about 25 minutes. The result was moist and spicy. When I took a couple pieces over to Ev and Peg they said it reminded them of their early married days.
It's been a busy late summer and autumn! I participated in three outdoor art fairs, and the Landscape for Landsakes Exhibit in Cambridge, NY. I'm happy to say my studio walls are empty for now, which gives me an opportunity to look ahead to future work. You can find my large asparagus painting at the Saratoga Arts Member Show until January and everything else can be viewed at the Hive in Schoharie, NY. The show is running now through the end of December. I'll be there on December 10 from noon to 5 p.m. as part of their annual Open House, so stop by if you're in the neighborhood!
The Hive is one of my favorite gift-giving destinations in the region. Theresa has assembled a carefully curated mix of antiques, vintage, modern, industrial, organic, handcrafted, local items. I love her upstairs art spaces and always find something to buy in the Book Room. A big supporter of local business, Teresa welcomes you with a cup of custom-blended tea or coffee and freshly baked organic treats. It really is worth a drive (and I say that not just because she's an early supporter of my art!). Most of my paintings are also on display in my Etsy Shop. You can get a closer look and then contact me or Theresa to purchase through the Hive during the show (the ship!).
Landscapes for Landsake is an inspired fundraiser that brings together first-rate regional artists, patrons, and the community to celebrate the agricultural landscape in a beautifully restored barn near Cambridge, New York. Artists donate 50% of their sale price to the Agricultural Stewardship Association, which has conserved nearly 17,000 acres of farmland in Rensselear and Washington Counties over the past 25 years. I was thrilled to have five of my paintings chosen for this very selective show.
Landscapes for Landsake takes place at Maple Ridge, 172 State Route 372 in the hamlet of Coila, just west of the Village of Cambridge. The show opens on Saturday, October 8th from 12 to 5 p.m. with a wine and cheese reception. Admission is $5 per person. The gallery is also open from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday free of charge.
Before signing up for our CSA, I imagined a Lucy Show in the kitchen, where I was stuffing all manor of recipes with zucchini, just to be overrun the following week with eggplant or tomatoes. While cooking from the CSA basket does take some management, it's mostly fun googling the week's vegetable combinations to find new recipes to try. The Fox Creek assortment is fairly pedestrian (no exotic greens or asian roots) which leaves me free to experiment on new things at the farmers market.
One nagging question I had, though, came from a fellow shareholder who's had a lot of health problems and asked if the vegetables from Fox Creek were organic. Hmmm. Because they hadn't mentioned organic, I decided to find out.
I picked a beautiful Saturday to drive out to Gallupville and take advantage of the U-Pick garden, which is part of my CSA membership. While there, I ran into Raymond, who explained that Fox Creek did farm using organic methods but that they hadn't applied for certification. I was reminded of a passage in The Omnivore's Dilemma, where famous-farmer Joel Salatin said that, given a choice, you should start with local food rather than big-box organic. If you buy local, you can always stop by the farm and simply ask about their farming practices. Plus you get to take flowers home!
I got an interesting appeal from our CSA, Fox Creek Farm, right before we went on a long vacation. Back now, and I wanted to bring it up to the Farm Share community and get your thoughts. Our friends at Fox Creek Farm sent along a link to an article in the New York Times: When Community Supported Agriculture is Not What it Seems. I must say that I've generally been supportive of more ways to shop local. There are many folks whose schedules or lifestyles don't lend themselves to the routine of CSA pick-ups and organizations like FieldGoods allow them to enjoy fresh local produce "on demand."
What the NYT article points out is that these new ventures are not really CSAs, though they use the language of CSAs in marketing. In fact, they're venture-capital-funded distributors that contract for produce from family farms. While they do provide a new outlet for family farmers, the farmers assume a lot of financial risk added to the inherent weather risks of farming. Fox Creek reports that with the rise of these alternatives, that their subscriptions have been stagnant after a period of robust growth.
It struck me, listening to all the presidential campaign rhetoric, that while globalization is demonized for declining wages in America, there's been no mention of the rise of huge internet corporations for erasing whole categories of work and community. The beauty of a CSA is that you establish a direct relationship with the folks who are growing your food. You get to help out in the harvest if you want. You get to watch their kids grow up. You get to contribute to the health and strength of the community you live in.
In their latest newsletter, I saw that Fox Creek Farm is offering a 30% discount on mid-season sign-ups. This seems like a great way to check out their produce. They have a lot more pick-up locations than I realized. Pick up times are 4:00-6:00 p.m. If you're interested, you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find a pick up location near you on their website at www.foxcreekfarmcsa.com.
I haven't been posting in the blog recently because I've been painting a lot. Between painting, scanning, color correcting, social media, managing my Etsy Shop, and framing, there hasn't been much time for anything else! You can see some of my recent paintings if you scroll down to the end of my painting gallery.
I made these little strawberry paintings to enter into the Saratoga 10x10 show. Finished size of entries must be 10x10" and they should sell for $100 each. The image size of each is 5x5" with generous painted borders. They're painted in oil on specially treated 100% cotton rag paper. It's a new technique for me -- working backwards from a frame size, and painting on paper. I also used the two Pantone colors of the year -- Serenity and Rose Quartz. The result is sweeter than my normal backgrounds, but I think it suits the subject. What do you think?
These paintings will be on display at the Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY from July 9 - August 26. After that, they'll be available in my Etsy shop. By the way, my shop is closed until July 25, because we're going on vacation to Japan (yay!). You can follow our progress on Tumblr.
There are few foods I’ve encountered that are as polarizing as humble rhubarb. Its sharp puckery taste, like cranberries, requires mounds of sugar to tame. Though beautiful when freshly cut, the sleek red and green stems cook up into a pea-green mush that has all the eye appeal of split pea soup.
But after a winter of little but apples and pears, I was ready for fresh local fruit and decided to figure out ways to eat rhubarb. When the sign went up at the farm stand down the road, I stopped in to buy an early bunch. The fresh-cut bunch of rhubarb was $2.50. It’s an honor system but the cat is keeping an eye on things!
In one of my many farm share projects, I’m scanning and documenting Peg Rau’s treasure trove of handwritten cookbooks from the early 1900s. Everyone has a recipe for rhubarb pie. This one is from 1911.
Early recipes don’t include cooking instructions, so I searched around on line to find cooking times for fruit pies, but stuck to the ingredients as written. Let’s just say the results were less than successful. The filling was a super-sweet gooey mess, but nevertheless I loved the tangy rhubarb flavor and decided to wait for strawberries.
Everyone’s raving about strawberries this year and I’m lucky to know a farmer who grows them organically. We’ve been going through a couple of quarts a week on yogurt, in oatmeal, fresh out of the box, and yes, painting them. As we’re getting toward the end of the early berries I decided to try some tarts. I don’t eat a lot of sweets so I figured that strawberry rhubarb “pop tarts” would be just the thing. After merging a couple of recipes from the web, here’s where I ended up:
Strawberry Rhubarb "Dumplings"
- Makes 16 tarts
- 1 cup strawberries, cleaned and washed. Larger berries cut in half.
- 1 cup rhubarb, outer strings removed with a potato peeler. Stalks sliced lengthwise and then chopped into ¼” dice.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 2-crust store-bought pie crust
- 1 whipped egg
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Take pie crust out of the refrigerator and let it rest for 10 minutes
- Cook the strawberries and rhubarb with sugar on low heat for 10 minutes.
- While cooking, roll out the pie crust on parchment and cut into 3 1/2” rounds.
- Strain the sauce and put a dollop of strawberry-rhubarb mixture in the center of each round, leaving a half inch or so.
- Brush the un-filled area with egg, fold the disc in half and press down the edges with your fingers, followed by the tines of a fork. Brush the tops with egg and poke them with a fork to allow steam to escape.
- Smitten Kitchen recommends that you place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking. Not sure why, but I did this.
- Cook for 25 minutes and cool on a rack when done
Though they would have tasted better with buttery homemade pie crust, these were pretty tasty. A little burst of sweet-tart flavor, leaving you wanting another.
Happy Strawberry Season from Farm Share Studio!
Route 146 is a busy state road that runs past my house into Altamont. There are houses strung along its length, interspersed with old fields, thickly overgrown with briars and small trees. About a month ago I noticed the sap buckets, and then the mason jars started appearing. On Easter Sunday morning I finally had time to stop at the first farm stand of the year.
Many think that eating local is more expensive, but at $4.00 a pint, this syrup is a bargain compared with the grocery stores. I left my offering in the plastic zipper bag and went home to have pancakes.