Monthly Archives: December 2016

O Christmas Tree, the Virginia Way

Roaming the woods searching for the perfect Christmas tree is easier said than done. My fourteen year-old black lab, Miss Bit, ran along beside us, keeping a keen eye out for stray rabbits that might require a good chase.

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A quick stop along the way for much-needed pets

Remembering scale is the toughest part of the job; an eighteen-foot tree simply will not fit under a ten-foot ceiling no matter how many twists and turns you attempt – and no matter how perfect it might look in the middle of a field. With a resolved sense of reality, we found the perfect eastern red cedar. My newest toy, a Ryobi battery-powered chainsaw, took care of the job with no problem. I got the tree loaded up on the small trailer and headed for the house.

Christmas Tree

I cut down the tree with my new favorite toy, a Ryobi battery-powered chainsaw that goes anywhere!

With a little trimming, the tree fits perfectly in the living room at about nine feet tall, and there was just enough greenery left to fill the mantles. The wonderful smell of freshly cut evergreen quickly filled the house. Each whiff makes me wonder why we can’t have fresh greenery all year-long.

Christmas Tree

For the past three years of holiday seasons, we have been under renovation and I simply couldn’t muster the holiday spirit. The energy and motivation required were hidden amongst the daily reminders of a wrecked house. There was no room for holiday cheer.

This year is different. Many projects were checked off the list, and our spare time, although still limited, has been partly spent doing things we enjoy. After much baking, broiling, and roasting in the new kitchen, I have spent many evenings and mornings resting by the lit Christmas tree.

Christmas

The dining room lit and decorated for the season

Christmas Oysters

Christmas dinner of fresh Mobjack Bay oysters roasted with Iberico ham and Pecorino 

Although we aren’t rushing the season, we are already looking toward our next projects. First will be to complete the cosmetic work on the upstairs guest bathroom so that we can host overnight and weekend guests more frequently. We hope that you will all come and join us for a night in 2017.

Peace to all this holiday season!

Fall Harvest with Melissa Clark

Final Harvest

Like much of the world, we have been plunged into darkness and cold for the next few months of winter. The harvest is over and our final haul consisted of a few remaining ears of blue clarage corn, a sugar pie pumpkin, and a lone spaghetti squash.

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All were delicious and fun to cook with the squash being dressed in a spicy alfredo sauce, the pumpkin becoming a spiced trifle with nutmeg cream at Thanksgiving, and the corn going to the birds. We do our best not to waste anything around here.

Parsnips, a collaboration with Melissa Clark

The very final crop was a half row of turga parsnips. I was so proud of these and they were the very easiest crop of the season – just plant and forget them until the first couple of frosts roll through. They get even sweeter with those first few icy nights.

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A few years ago, a dear friend of mine in New York got me hooked on Melissa Clark from the New York Times. Her recipes are classically perfect and incorporate a variety of my favorite vegetables. She shows up in our meals at least once each week. Last week, her recipe for Pasta with Parsnips and Bacon showed up in my inbox. I couldn’t help but think that Ms. Clark was spying on me.

With all the ingredients at hand, I roasted the parsnips, filling the house with the most amazing fragrance. Combining them with the leeks, bacon, pasta, parmesan, and cream was the perfect marriage. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself and there’s a video with Melissa Clark on the recipe link above that walks you through the steps.

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It was a triumphant end to the harvest season, and the beginning of a time to regroup and collect one’s wits before spring. I hope everyone has a chance to read, be inspired, and find a few recipes or projects that bring you joy.