August 16, 2016 Missive from J.K. Farm
Last year was a fallow year in our vegetable garden. We were in transition and couldn’t focus our attention on nurturing and cultivating. By August, we had many magnificent specimens of burdock and thistle and myriad other weeds covering every square inch. It happened so quickly. It seemed impossible to keep under control. It rained frequently. Photosynthesis responded in kind. It was simply a different kind of summer. There was little attempt to cultivate and in spite of the neglect the perennials still provided us with thyme, chives, sunchokes and hops.
This past spring, I was determined to bring the garden back into production and integrate what we could harvest into the menu planning for the Summer Dinner Series. I bought so many different kinds of seeds and so many potted tomatoes, peppers and okra. Then we had no rain for the next 10 weeks. I chose not to use our precious well water to irrigate the garden and so this year there has been little to harvest.
I noticed as the drought wore on that we were seeing less diversity in plant and animal life around the farm. Unplanted areas of the garden, which last year were overgrown with weeds, this year remained bare. The grass, normally lush and teeming with life, snakes slithering and frogs jumping, was this year, a trampled crunchy stubble. The heat sapped our energy and we missed the sound of birdsong as many species had flown away looking for water elsewhere. Even my friends, the breathtakingly elegant nesting pair of great blue herons that lived in the creek by my house, had moved on.
What a difference a good solid downpour can make. The moment the heavens chose to part may have been inopportune for some, and had the circumstances been different I would probably have agreed, but this was like a deep thirst being slaked by ambrosia. There we all were on the ridge as is usual for an early Saturday evening. We provided hospitality in the open air for guests to settle in to the rural environment, before descending to the loafing barn for dinner. The raindrops plinked into the deep fryer causing a dangerous cacophony of sound. Then we all got soaked. It was a warm rain and we smiled in spite of it and rejoiced in the knowledge that the drought had broken.
My jacket had finally dried out as I sat down with my family after dinner to enjoy a glass of wine. The following morning I heard birds that I hadn’t heard for months. While the grass was still brown at least it wasn’t crunchy and the earth was moist again, and the smells, almost forgotten, had returned. It was a peaceful feeling. I kept scanning the skies, hoping to catch a glimpse of my heron pair, retuning to their home in my creek.
MENU FOR SATURDAY AUGUST 13, 2016
featuring wines by Norman Hardie
Hors d’Œuvres on the Ridge
JK Fries with Two Sauces
Smoked Whitefish Éclair
Jardinière Vegetable Skewer
Bison Tartar on Crisp Round
2013 Hinterland Rosé Traditional
Pesto Gratiné Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Corn and Mushroom Soup with Romano Beans
Riesling 2015 VQA Ontario Norman Hardie Vineyard and Winery
Escabêche of Pickerel on Humble Rye
Chardonnay 2013 VQA Prince Edward County Norman Hardie Vineyard and Winery
Black and White Short Rib of Beef with Braised Leek
County Gamay 2014 VQA Prince Edward County Norman Hardie Vineyard and Winery
Dave Smythe’s Ontario Artisan Cheese Selection with Green Salad
Cabernet Franc 2014 VQA Niagara Peninsula Norman Hardie Vineyard and Winery
Black Currant Poached Sugar Pear in Ginger Snap
Coffee or Tea
Photos by Anita Ayres @anitacocktail2 and @vicvvvic