After work on Friday, I stopped by a farm halfway between work and home. I knocked on the barn door with a half-gallon Mason jar and a couple bucks to see if the farmer would sell some of his raw milk to me. The farmer and his wife were happy to, they said, and gave me a tour of the farm, and afterward his son let me pet his barn kittens, rabbit, and a couple of calves. I washed out my jar and they showed me how to use the valve on the milk vat, how to keep it clean, and where to stash my $2.50 if he wasn't there (in that case, he told me to help myself.) Turns out, I'm one of only five customers he'll personally sell to right off the farm, because he wants to keep it small. He says he likes to know who's buying his goods, and wants to develop relationships with them; the rest of the milk he sends to larger organic milk companies. He did give me a small warning: I might get the runs. Since raw milk is a living organism, it takes people a little while to get used to it. He told me to increase my yogurt intake in the beginning, until my body can acclimate.
Speaking of the runs, we had tons of guests this weekend who came up from New York to escape the swine flu. And although we had big plans of putting the ping-pong table on the lawn, we had work to do in the garden first. Early in the morning, we tip-toed outside, figuring our friends would sleep in while we got started on the first planting of the season. We were wrong–a couple of them came out to work! We gave them extra rubber boots and gloves, they rolled up their jeans, got dirty, and helped us out big time. We dug out the walkways (in the style of Eliot Coleman, we planned ten planting beds at 30 inches wide, and nine walkways 12 inches wide), raked the raised beds, and set up trellises for the peas using iron stakes and chicken wire.
I planted two rows of peas, one on each side of the trellis, and a row of spinach in front. In the other two beds we did onions, shallots, leeks, and radishes. To prevent weeds, we took the advice of our neighbor (and master gardener) and put down newspaper in the walkways and topped them with hay and leaves. I was a bit wary: after all that work we're spreading hay that could turn to seed?! But word is that it works, cuts down on weeds in the long run, and so I'm suspending my disbelief and going with it.
Soon, more friends arrived, and it really started to feel like summer. In walked (among others) a pastry chef from the Union Square Café in NYC, an aspiring horticulturalist, an intern at Shelburne Farms in Burlington, a soon-to-be psychologist, and Gideon, a musician/shaman/child-nanny banjo playing performance artist, who set off for the cows and serenaded them with his banjo, mooing at them until they mooed back, and then lit the bonfire by shooting a flaming arrow into the burnpile. The hens, meanwhile, have taken over the house and forage for bugs on the deck.
The next day was packed with more foraging, this time by us. While some of the guests played whiffleball, I went out with a basket after catching sight of some fiddlehead ferns. While hiking up at Prospero's Island–a nearby off-the-grid commune recently bought out by Sam's cousin–we came across a ton of wild ramps, picked as much as we could carry, and for dinner sautéed them with olive oil and salt and threw them in spaghetti.