With the end of another calendar year drawing closer, I sometimes feel bittersweet at the passage of each day. The glorious season of our cows living outside on the land while the home garden is bursting with color and produce, are both all but over, only now enjoyed as a series of fun photos or memories like eating ripe tomatoes with every meal everyday.
We live very close to the land here on the farm. Our lives are completely intertwined in growing animals and crops, while building sustainable relationships with the resources around us.
The later part of autumn in Vermont demands us to intensify the energy needed to complete tasks of preparing fields and farmyard for the coming winter. Manure is spread to benefit the hayfields in the next growing season and to give the grass a boost of nutrients in the spring. Our cows are making their last annual rounds of grazing. The grass is past peak quality but is still a valuable part of the cows’ balanced diet and they busily munch away as if knowing that within weeks there may be snow and harsh weather signaling the end of another pasture season.
Late fall afternoons bring the work of picking up our family garden. Bright cheerful faces of zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers, and marigolds are faded and wilted. Most of our favorite veggies are long since eaten or have overgrown to the point of becoming snacks for our pigs. Some crops remain in the ground though and it is continuing to tend these treasures that reminds me to consider the happy times and delicious foods coming our way again with the holiday season!
Our family enjoys whole foods the most. We are lucky here on our farm to raise much of our own meat, eggs, and vegetables. We happily eat our own farm produced milk, cream and maple syrup. Our family meals are not recipe-centered but rather homemade-centered. Our three sons have all learned to cook and each one is appreciative of the benefits that homegrown food brings to meals and recipes.
The holiday season is especially fun cooking both for family and with family members. We take turns hosting a homemade meal for Thanksgiving. Years ago there might have been well over 20 people seated around the table but today our gatherings are a bit smaller. We have raised our own turkeys which are tasty beyond comparison. It is so satisfying to feed our freezer bound livestock scraps from gardens, fallen apples, wild nuts, and in the case of pigs plenty of whole Jersey milk. Our beef cows are also raised here on the farm with the rest of the dairy herd. They are indeed grassfed and taste amazing!
One of our favorite family traditions associated with holiday cooking is trying new recipes and meals every year. Each of our sons are responsible for a component of a holiday meal, whether it’s biscuits, appetizer, pie, or veggie casserole. We do love to study cookbooks at least for inspiration. The Cabot Cookbook is one of our favorites! My three sons have healthy appetites and will eat practically any dish. One of our recent favorite special occasion side dishes is: Echo Farm Au Gratin Potatoes with Cheddar Stout Sauce. We love homegrown potatoes as an accompaniment to many meals and the addition of cheddar and stout lend a festive touch.
Even over the holidays we still have to do our daily farm chores. It’s the time of year when I appreciate make ahead meals that are simple and incorporate several of our homegrown ingredients. The Vegetable Egg Cheddar Strata is a perfect example of a hearty meal that can be baked while family members are finishing morning chores, then be ready to serve hot and delicious when they stomp back into the house with huge appetites.
Each of our sons has a favorite part of a meal to prepare themselves. One prefers appetizers or snacks before the main course and has developed an amazing recipe for sweet and spicy maple glazed nuts. Another option he likes to make is: Yogurt Curry Deviled Eggs. We all love fresh eggs for their nutrition and color. It’s a trick to peel them though!
Our middle son really goes for the veggie dishes and will happily prepare: Cheesy Broccoli Casserole as a delicious holiday meal side dish.
The youngest son is the most adventurous cook of the three and is willing to take on the thrill of dessert. One of his favorites (along with the rest of the family) is: Richardson Family Farm Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake which is not too hard to make but is beautiful to look at and wonderfully tasty to eat.
I hope our simple traditions of cooking with family, trying new foods, and using wholesome, mostly homegrown ingredients will continue for as long as we celebrate the holiday season together. Planning and cooking with my family and sharing meals together while being thankful for our gardens, our animals, and our farm-life is one of the best gifts I receive each year.
Amy Richardson and her husband Scott are raising the 5th generation on the family farm that Scott’s great-grandparents bought over a century ago. Tucked into the rolling hills of central Vermont is their picture-perfect farm with a herd of caramel-colored Jersey cows, beautiful wooden barns and a sugarhouse.
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