Saturday, March 3, 2012

Farming Light

We tried. We unplugged the lamps in the coop, and with an impressive wave of the arm we informed the hens of their liberation. "You can stop laying" we proclaimed, "You deserve a rest! Molt to your hearts' content or find outside jobs. No need for you to be tied to the nesting boxes. No more barefoot and laying eggs in the coop for you. No more. And thank you ladies, thank you!"

But it was too late. The hens had already wed themselves to that bright orb that hangs in the big blue/grey sky.

The days were stretching themselves out into finely lit mornings, and the daylight hours were returning. So. Next day: eggs. Day after that: more eggs.

And how could we blame them? The contented clucking from the coop, in the sand pits, and around the spilled grain came from hens who prided themselves on being needed. Needed by families who downed 4 dozen a week. Their clock was ticking...and to a higher music than our own will.

These early Spring eggs truly are celestial. They are eggs born of a natural marrow of the bones love affair with light.

We ourselves were dizzy with a crush on the big ball-o-fire and its brilliant effects...last week we put the finishing touches on our greenhouse. We shamelessly throw ourselves at visitors to the farm "what do you think of it?" we ask as we beam at the little plastic-covered 9 x 16 tunnel. I remember what I used to think of these junky looking caterpillar hoop houses...but that was before I realized that to be inside of one on a daily basis meant keeping company with trapped light. Waylaid billowy reams of traveling light visiting our little baby plants as they made their slow ascent to the realization of our CSA garden dreams. Indeed the greenhouse is an ode to the magic and uplifting mystery of light...once in College I remember struggling with Light. I wrestled with its definition: "Is it a wave or a particle?" and spent lunch hours heedless of whatever I was forking into my mouth as I watched the progress of the noon sun filtering into the commons' full panel windows. "I can't take it anymore! Light is maddening!" I complained to a tutor...He smiled sedately and said simply: "Isn't it wonderful- God created something in the natural world as mysterious as himself!"

The greenhouses are little more than heated tunnels of plastic-stock panels pulled over and fixed to a wooden frame on the ground in our case. It seems impossible that such a vital and also magical structure can be accomplished so cheaply and simply. Within the next 2 months we will be building at least two more.
To celebrate the completion of this first one we baked loaves of wild rice and onion bread and brought down the Bodran and tin whistle for some jigs and airs by the fireside. The satisfaction of "The Curragh of Kildare" and hot buttered toast rivals the slow grin of a thawing earth beneath the prodigal sun of Spring.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread

from Peter Reinhart's fabulous book: " Artisan Breads Every Day"

6 C bread flour

3.5 tsp kosher salt

2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 C c
ooked wild rice
1/4 brown sugar
1.5 C lukewarm water

1/2 lukewarm buttermilk or any other milk

2 C diced fresh onion

Mix the above ingredients together into a coarse shaggy dough for one minute. Let rest for 5 min. Knead by hand for a couple minutes, adjusting the flour or water as needed. Place into a clean well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 3-4 days.

On Baking day remove dough 2 hours before baking. Shape into two free loaves, oil with olive oil and let rise covered with plastic wrap till 1.5 times their original size. (1-2 hours. Don't push it. Let the bread do its thing!) 15 minutes before baking preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves 10-15 minutes. Then rotate the pan. Total baking time is 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool 1 hour before slicing. HEAVEN!


  1. Oh how scrumptious! Thanks for sharing - and enjoy the light ;D

  2. Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing, I will have to check out the recipe.

    By the way, your husband looks very familiar to weren't by any chance at AMU in Naples, FL? It would have been about six years ago...we were undergrad students at the time. Just wondered.

    God bless you,
    the Crawfords

  3. The bread sounds amazing! I've never had good luck cooking wild rice, but I might give it another go just to try this bread!

  4. Hello Crawfords!

    We were down at AMU indeed! That was shortly after our Bothilde was born...
    Florida did much to make us long for green pastures!! How are you?