Finally, wedding photos

Months later, I decided to finally post some wedding photos on this blog. Married life is wonderful, and we’re busy planning our new house and farm. We bought 24 acres of woods just after our honeymoon, and we’ve had four acres cleared for our home, orchard and gardens. I plan to start another blog one of these days for the farm, but I’m too busy to do that now. In the meantime, here are some photos. All were taken by Sarah Moore.

We had our wedding ceremony outdoors right next to a lake. We were lucky to have perfect weather.

My parents grew gourds and dried flowers for the table settings. A friend designed the program/menu.

We made gallons and gallons of half sour kosher dill pickles for the wedding, for us, and to sell.

Caprese salad: tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

This kale salad with Braggs and maple syrup was a big hit.

I may be biased, but I thought dinner was delicious.

I think others agreed.

Wedding dinner recipes

Here are the recipes we used for our local food wedding dinner. We grew or raised most of the ingredients.

Appetizers

Hummus

Ingredients (for 10 cups): 

  • 4 cups dry chick peas
  • 16 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 2 cups water (saved from cooking chick peas)

Directions:

  • Cook chick peas until soft and tender, making sure they are well covered with water.
  • Drain chick peas, saving 2 cups water, rinse with fresh water and let drip.
  • Food process all ingredients until a smooth paste is formed, more water may be necessary to achieve desired consistency. 

Vegetable sticks, cheese, crackers, fruit

Caprese salad

  • Tomatoes
  • Mozzarella
  • Basil
  • Olive oil

Chips & homemade salsa

Homemade half sour kosher dill pickles

Dinner

Autumn gold squash soup

Ingredients (for 100):

  • 35 lb squash
  • 7 lb onions
  • 1.75 cups vegetable oil
  • 5.25 lb carrots
  • 21 cloves garlic
  • 28 bay leaves
  • 7 tsp thyme
  • 7 tsp cumin
  • 7 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 tsp coriander
  • 7 quarts vegetable stock
  • 3.5 quarts tomato juice
  • 3.5 quarts orange juice
  • ~7 tsp salt
  • ~7 tsp pepper

 Directions:

  • Halve, seed and bake squash, cut side down, on baking trays at 400 degrees for 1 hour or more (until soft).
  • Saute onions in oil for a few minutes.
  • Add the bay leaves, garlic and spices and continue sautéing until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the carrots and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves.
  • In a blender, puree the squash, vegetables and juices in batches until smooth.
  • Mix back together and add salt and pepper to taste.

Swedish coleslaw

Ingredients (for 100): 

  • 12 lbs cabbage
  • 3 lbs onions
  • 18 carrots
  • 12 sweet peppers
  • 6 cups cider or red wine vinegar
  • 4.5 cups canola oil
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 T dry mustard

Directions:

  • Use slicer attachment to cut up cabbage, onions and sweet peppers. Use the grater attachment to cut up carrots. Mix in a large bowl.
  • Mix all sauce ingredients in a saucepan an bring to a boil. Immediately pour over vegetables. Do not stir. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator several hours before mixing.

 Maple kale salad

Ingredients (for 100): 

  • 12.5 lbs kale
  • 25 large hakurei turnips
  • 3 gallons water
  • 3 1/8 cup sesame seeds
  • 3 1/8 cup Braggs
  • 1.5 cups maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 50 cloves garlic, pressed

 Directions:

  • Cut up and cook kale in water for 7 minutes.
  • Immerse kale in cold water to cool. Add sliced hakurei turnips.
  • Toast sesame seeds in the oven on a baking sheet until light brown.
  • Mix sauce ingredients.
  • Add to kale just before serving.

 Garden salad

Rosemary roasted chicken and potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 21 chickens
  • Brine at a ratio of 1/4 cup salt:1 quart water:1 T dried rosemary ratio
  • 40 pounds potatoes (including up to 5 lb for vegan potatoes)
  • Salt, pepper, rosemary, olive oil for vegan potatoes

Directions:

  • At least 12 hours before cooking, immerse chicken in brine.
  • Wash potatoes. Cube potatoes, cutting out rotten spots but leaving the skins on.
  • Rinse chicken.
  • Arrange chicken parts and cubed potatoes on baking pans. Roast at 450 degrees until a thermometer stuck inside the breast reads 160 degrees.

Rosemary roasted vegan potatoes

Directions:

For one pan of potatoes (no more than 5 pounds), soak 10 minutes in hot tap water. Dry with a clean dishtowel. Mix in a bowl with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook them at 450 degrees without chicken. Flip the potatoes periodically until they are nicely browned on several sides.

Homemade salad dressing

Homemade bread

 Dessert

John’s ice cream from Liberty, Maine

Pies made by our moms and Andy

  • Pumpkin pie
  • Walnut pie
  • Apple fig pie
  • Shoo-fly pie
  • Blueberry pie
  • German cheese pie
  • Apple pie
  • Apple raisin pie

Our local food dinner

We did it! We cooked and served a meal made mostly from ingredients we grew, raised or made from scratch ourselves. We made way too much food, but no one seemed to mind taking leftovers home the next day. It was such an incredible weekend! The weather was perfect, the people wonderful and fun, my husband amazing…

Andy & I during our wedding ceremony

It’s weird to be on the other side of a weekend that we have spent many months preparing for. We’re back home and back to work for a week before heading out on our honeymoon in southern Utah. Then we’ll have to find a new project to take on – maybe getting our new land ready to build and farm on!

Andy asked me several times throughout the weekend, “Was it worth it?” Were all the hours of preparation worth it for one meal? I always said yes, absolutely.

We cooked our wedding dinner with friends and family in a summer camp kitchen

The meal provided more than just pleasure and sustenance for our guests, it was a learning experience for us as well. We gained confidence in our growing skills, since this was by far the biggest garden either of us had tended on our own. It gave us hope that anything is possible.

It was also a test of our relationship. There was stress and there were decisions to make together. We realized that the way we approach projects is quite different. I like to think things through before starting and have a plan for exactly what will happen. When we have to stray from the plan, it stresses me out. Andy, however, likes to figure things out as he goes along, and he is more flexible when something doesn’t go as planned.

Butternut squash destined for soup

“We’ll figure it out,” he said numerous times this summer. “But I want to figure it out now,” I would reply. We struggled at times and got grumpy with each other, but we’ve developed some new techniques for dealing with stress and for combining our different styles of approaching tasks. Once we let go of needing to be right, we realized that it’s better for us to be different. When you combine us, we think ahead and we’re flexible.

Kim roasted endless trays of chicken and potatoes

It’s hard to describe the weekend because for me it all went by so quickly. On Friday we gathered in the kitchen of the summer camp we rented out for the weekend. Friends and family washed, chopped, mixed, baked and boiled. We filled the walk-in cooler with trays of roast chicken and potatoes, salads, squash soup, veggie sticks, hummus, chopped watermelon and cantaloupe and more.

I can’t do Saturday justice by explaining the sequence of events. It was an emotional and incredibly wonderful day. And the food was delicious and abundant.

Max designed the image we had printed on aprons we gave away to our cooks as gifts

To be honest, I find it remarkable that we pulled this off. Neither of us have ever done any catering before, but we decided to make a meal for 90, and it worked out. I’ve been thinking lately about how neither of us are scared to take on projects, even if we don’t know how we’re going to accomplish them. I’m so grateful for this trait, which I can probably thank my parents for. Through their words and actions, they have infused me with a feeling that anything is possible with hard work and determination.

I guess this blog is done, now that our local food wedding is finished. However, I plan to start a new blog that Andy has named, Living From Scratch. We do so much from scratch – cut our own firewood, make tomato sauce and pickles and ketchup, boil maple sap into syrup, bake bread, smoke bacon, make cheese, brew beer…. We enjoy providing for ourselves, and we’re able to live a lifestyle less tied to our income. We still need money, of course, but since we have a low consumer footprint, we are able to put away money even on very modest salaries. Check back for a link to the new blog.

If you want all the recipes we used for our wedding dinner, I plan to post them sometime soon.

Harvest day

Yesterday was our big harvest day, and we’re happy to say we provided all the vegetables, meat and cheese for our wedding except for some donated goat cheese, greens, broccoli, a couple of pounds of onions and some garlic!


Andy's Brazilian brother Lauro and his girlfriend Daniele helped us harvest

Gabbie loyally guarded our piles of vegetables

Daniele helped pick peppers

We were doubting our slow-growing cabbages, but they pulled through and provided us with more than we need

Tomatoes, peppers and edamame

19 chickens on ice

Yesterday we took the second batch of chickens (the slower growing ladies and one giant rooster) to the slaughterhouse. I’m glad I went this time and saw them through the whole process. I have similar conflicted feelings as Andy when it comes to eating meat. Ending lives is sad, no matter what species they are.

The second batch of chickens on their last day

It was interesting to watch the whole process of live chicken to food. It’s amazing how quickly it all happens. I’ll spare you the bloody details.

I like to tell myself that at least these chickens died quickly in a slaughterhouse where the human workers don’t seem to be mistreated or exposed to dangerous conditions. The chickens lived their lives outdoors with fresh grass every day. I’m certainly more excited to eat them than any chicken we could buy in the grocery store.

The really hard part of yesterday came after we got the chickens home. First, we cooled them in ice water. We’ve been told that it’s important to cool the meat as quickly as possible. Since we still have almost a week until we cook the chickens, we had to figure out how to keep them fresh and safe for our guests. We talked with people at the slaughterhouse and did some research to find that fresh chicken can be stored safely for a week on ice, as long as it’s kept below 39 degrees. Even though we have two refrigerators, both of them were full when we came home with the chickens, one with mostly pickles and melons. Somehow, though, Andy found space for 19 chickens on ice. We went out and bought some more ice and we’re monitoring the temperature carefully. So far so good.

Sometimes I look forward to the end of this whole project, because then there won’t be so much to keep track of and think about. It seems crazy that, without any prior experience cooking for crowds, we’re trying to pull together a meal for more than 90 guests. But I do not regret taking this on, and I’m determined to do enough planning ahead of time so we can simply enjoy ourselves next weekend. As Andy keeps reminding me, it’ll be great.

Squash soup

Digging yukon gold potatoes

Harvesting is so much fun, and it is so gratifying to see the results of all our work. I love having a refrigerator full of melons and pickles and a living room full of squash, pumpkins and potatoes. Now it’s time to start obsessively checking the forecast for frost warnings and hurricanes (ironically, Hurricane Julia is off the coast of Africa heading for United States). We’re still testing recipes and making last minute arrangements, but we’re feeling ready and excited for the wedding.

A trunk full of butternut squash

We’re so excited to create this meal, to spend time with people we love, and most of all to get married!

Here’s one of my favorite recipes we’ve tested recently. Since you are probably not cooking for 100, you can always shrink the amounts. Dividing by seven gives you around 15 servings and nice even amounts.

Autumn Gold Squash Soup

Ingredients (for 100):

  • 35 lb squash
  • 7 lb onions
  • 1.75 cups vegetable oil
  • 5.25 lb carrots
  • 21 cloves garlic
  • 28 bay leaves
  • 7 tsp thyme
  • 7 tsp cumin
  • 7 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 tsp coriander
  • 7 quarts vegetable stock
  • 3.5 quarts tomato juice
  • 3.5 quarts orange juice
  • ~7 tsp salt
  • ~7 tsp pepper

Directions:

Halve, seed and bake squash, cut side down, on baking trays at 400 degrees for 1 hour or more (until soft).

Saute onions in oil for a few minutes.

Add the bay leaves, garlic and spices and continue sautéing until the onions are translucent.

Add the carrots and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves.

In a blender, puree the squash, vegetables and juices in batches until smooth.

Mix back together and add salt and pepper to taste. Warm slowly.

The cabbages are coming along nicely

My parents came to help in the garden

Guest post: Chicken wrangling

The following post was written by the groom, Andy McLeod.

Since camp ended and the cow I’ve been milking went back to Maryland (summer people and their dairy cows, sheesh) I’ve been feeling a little guilty about staying home, not earning any money and not “working,” while Julia goes off work everyday, slaving away in her lakeside office or snorkeling. But I have not been idle (see previous post and add to that cleaning up from all that canning, splitting fire wood and wrangling chickens).

J.M. Hatchery told us that Freedom Ranger chickens need 9-11 weeks to grow to slaughter weight, so we scheduled a date with the slaughterhouse for 11 weeks. After about 7 weeks of buying bag after bag of grain, it became apparent that most of the roosters would be ready at least two weeks before our date. Fortunately, West Gardiner Beef, where Julia’s parents and many other people we know bring their animals to meet their end, was able to fit half of our birds in a couple of weeks earlier. It was a Friday so that left the chore to me alone, since Julia had to go out on the lake to look for invasive plants.

Andy with one of our pastured Freedom Ranger roosters

Thursday afternoon I started separating the birds into keepers and takers.  We have two pens — the smaller one held 13 and the larger one housed 35 birds. Sometimes we let the lucky 13 out to poke around in the woods. We tried to let the 35 out but the door to their pen opens only at the top, so the opening is a few feet off the ground. We propped boards up as ramps inside and outside the pen so they could walk up and then down to freedom. But they wouldn’t do it. One chicken would walk to the top of the inside ramp and stand there looking out — like that kid at the playground who climbs to the top of the slide and freezes in fear while all the other kids are waiting on the ladder yelling at him to just go. And like the kid on the slide, each time, the chicken, well, chickened out and went back down into the pen, forcing all the chickens waiting behind her to climb back down too.

The smaller pen’s door opens all the way to the ground, which means they only had to jump six inches over the bottom board. Even that seemed like too much of a barrier at first, but once those first few brave chickens made the leap, the rest followed. So on Thursday I opened the door to the smaller pen, shooed out the smaller hens and one tiny rooster and kept the big guys. That was the easy part. Next, using a borrowed dog crate, I started sorting the birds in the big pen. The first few were easy to catch by just grabbing them by the feet. After a few seconds of being upside down, they went into a kind of trance and just hung there, looking around. But once they knew I was after them, the rest of the chickens ran to the far end of the pen. That meant I had to crawl into the three-foot-high pen, kneeling in chicken poop. They also seemed to know I wanted them by the feet, so they sat way in the corner with their feet tucked safely under their wings. Once I had a crate full of chickens, I then grabbed them by the feet two at a time and carried them to the smaller pen.

Once all the big, fat chickens were sorted into the smaller pen for their last night, I then had to catch the smaller hens and rooster and put them in the larger pen. They’re pretty easy to catch. You just walk toward them slowly with your arms out wide and herd them in the direction you want them to go. If you get them pinned against the outside of the pen as you approach, they just hunker down and hope for the best. If you grab them around the body, making sure the wings are tucked under your hands, they don’t squirm much at all. With all the chicken sorting, I was worried about new chickens being picked on by the old flock, but after an initial inspection of newcomers, everyone seemed fine with the new arrangements.

With the sorting done, all I had to do was load the 24 largest chickens into the waiting pet carriers Friday morning. I foolishly gave myself only 15 minutes for this chore. Of course some of the chickens escaped while I was loading others.  As I’ve said, they’re easy to catch, but considering my time constraints, I was a bit rushed. Luckily, the extra-large roosters couldn’t run very far before they need a rest. Once I chased them into the woods at the edge of the field, it was just a matter of getting them to trap themselves in a bush or tangle of branches. With everybody loaded up, I was off to the slaughterhouse.

24 chickens cooling in the fridge before being frozen

It’s a strange and confusing experience to raise animals to eat them.  While they were alive, I wanted them to be happy and comfortable and to lead a good life. Up until the last minute, I was concerned about their well-being — trying not to brake or swerve too suddenly with them in the back of the truck and worrying that they were too hot or thirsty on the ride — only to hand them over to blood-splattered butchers to be unceremoniously beheaded, feathered and gutted in a matter of minutes.

I am not philosophically opposed to eating meat that has been raised in a humane and environmentally-friendly manner. I think animals play an important role in the small farm model and can provide valuable protein to an otherwise vegetable-based diet. But at the same time I find it emotionally troubling to kill an animal just as it’s reaching full size and maturity. How can I put that much energy into caring for something, not only making sure it is well-fed and healthy, but also that is has fresh air, clean grass and comfortable living quarters, only to eat it in the end?

I’ve been considering being vegetarian again.  It doesn’t feel right to leave the dirty work to someone else and I don’t think I want to do this often enough that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t want to be numb to the suffering of others, even if they are my dinner. Maybe I’ll get my protein from eggs and milk. I’ve found no difficulty in enlisting the outputs of animals for my own use, and it warms my heart to see a flock of plump laying hens foraging in the bushes.