Office Grounds Tour
For Essex Week One it was only fitting to bring Meg Lowe, the FoodFeasible culinary genius. Meg is a grad student working fulltime with a family of Andy Sims (bread baker), and three rowdy rescue dogs, Loki, Guido, and Tucker. I prefer to call Meg and Andy “Low-Simmer”, some of the best meals are slow cooked like this ginger duo.
I have the weekend all outlined with lease signing, farm meetings, and camping. I find myself pacing as I check the time. 15 min…. 30 min…… 45 min late. A quick phone call confirms a sleepy Meg reporting that she had just woken up and will be on her way shortly. This sets me to pacing once again, mostly out of anticipation, not frustration. Maybe this was mountain time.
We set off for Essex a mere two hours late. Sun well up and the pot of coffee for two, now finished by one. We packed everything in my freshly vacuumed and organized Abbie Honda. Meg becomes anxious with clutter. Plus, I wanted to start this adventure off with an empty canvas—so to speak—knowing full well the car would be disorganized, dirty, and have all kinds of pine cone, stick like souvenirs by the weekend’s end.
First stop, the FoodFeasible Essex office location to meet Laura for the lease discussion and key retrieval. Laura breezes in with her genuine welcome and introduction to Meg. She tours us around the building and the grounds, showing property lines, providing all kinds of interesting names and locations as she does. Nonchalantly mentioning the purple sand beaches of Noblewood not 10 minutes away……….wait. Purple sand?
We then march down to the building’s own beach front and Laura offers us a tier of garden beds and two shady beds explaining we can plant whatever we want. Meg and I exchange giddy sideways looks. By the end of a fast hour we have the office and the garden beds fully planned.
Next stop, Essex Farm Store. As we enter, Meg slips into a comfort zone I haven’t yet seen her operate within, smiling as she discovers the 64oz mason jars of raw milk. “Do you know why you keep whole wheat in the fridge?” Before I can respond, an excited Meg exclaims, “Like REAL whole wheat? The germ will spoil and become rancid, it has all the vitamin E!” Meg is talking quickly and sliding open doors, lifting out bags of vegetables to examine them. “And, that is where the plant sprouts from,” I interject recalling my 3rd grade’s whole grain lesson from earlier this year, in which roughly fifty 8-year-olds successfully drew the whole grain and all of its parts. $23.25 later, our camping dinner is purchased and planned.
Our “on a whim” grocery list includes: a $6 -64oz jar of raw milk, $.25 for a shallot, $3 for 2.5 lbs of carrots and beets, $5 for 4 lbs of blue potatoes, and $6 for a dozen eggs. Meg is at it again. “Did you know blue potatoes are original? Like we bred out the blue?!” No, I did not know that, strange that blue potatoes are “in” and dietitians always advocate for colorful foods. Essex Farm Store has an herb stand complete with sorrel (a lemony herb) also new to me. I have so much to learn as I taste a leaf. Lemony to taste but not to smell. All the while, Meg’s voice is chiming about micro herbs in the background.
How did I get so lucky? Good timing? It seems as though meeting Meg and working together on FoodFeasible only makes more and more sense. It might be THE thing that makes all the sense, everything else following after. Almost like working backwards.
Our meal-to-be: Hash and eggs grilled over coals by my traveling grill that has been all over the state, even out of the state. Leaving all the peels intact, Meg simply cubed the purple potatoes, carrots, and beets. We cooked these in a camp pan over the grill with butter and some raw milk. Simple. Vibrantly colored. Delicious.
Farm Tour-Food-Camp-Farm Tour
It’s off to TGIF (cross off I, insert J) — Triple Green Jade Farms — for a conversation and tour with Dan and Kimmy Rivera. Their beautiful parcel includes a leaning barn overlooking a valley of could be grain acres, accented by the tall trees and the taller mountains behind. The landscape reminds me of an old refinished barn I used to rent with a valley view much like this. Funny that in both spots the barns are either refinished or on their way to being refinished. Dan and Kim, a worldly couple with interesting ideas! They take us through the barn to a wooden silo.
I have found the location of my next workout while staying in Essex. TGJF has plenty of physically demanding jobs to be completed. We talk entrepreneurship, networking, marketing schemes, and end with a tentatively planned pasta making party. Meg hopes to add cheese making. Manchego cheese? Hope this gets made. Dan wants to have a hiking trail going along the Boquet River. I introduce the potential of adding a letterbox location there too.
The birdsong switches from wakeful morning to drowsy afternoon melodies, and Meg and I can no longer resist the pull to go find the mysterious purple sand beaches of Noblewood. My imagination gets carried away as I picture early Americans of the late 1700s discovering the purple sand and relating this to the nobility of the color. Meg and I share our imaginings which include kings, jesters, and an accumulation of Champ’s crushed scales washing up on shore over time. With drift wood and bark as my sand holder, we make our way back down the beach and into town with grumbling stomachs.
We meet Meg’s rock climbing sister-in-law for dinner on the beach at the office. It seems, each visit to Essex, I discover another piece of me. I consider the probability of learning to rock climb, something I have always wanted to do, taking shape as we grill our hash on the beach together. A meal of locally grown, fresh vegetables and eggs. Some raw dairy and good conversation all for $7.75 per person…As a conventional dietitian in the skilled nursing setting you would portion this meal out to a standard of about 3/4 cup of mixed root vegetables (potatoes being a starch). All in an attempt to provide a standard serving for specialized diets such as the consistent carbohydrate diet. Our generous portions were quite a bit larger, but I would like to note that if you did in fact, portion this out to ¾ cup the cost per portion would run about $.75, and could serve about 45 people. This price is comparable to the large foodservice companies servicing most skilled nursing facilities in the area. Pricing I have found for these same items including $.72 & .$74 per pound. For a few cents more you can get locally grown, organic vegetables that haven’t lost any of their micronutrient or phytonutrient qualities, giving your body the most direct access to these. Our tri-colored meal was rich with carotenoids, lycopene, and anthocyanins. Trifecta for absorbing vitamins, promoting immune responses, and protecting against certain cancers.
Meg’s sister in law was able to catch the last ferry back to her home in Vermont, meanwhile Meg and I pack up so we could head to our campsite well after dark. We drove to ADK Loj Road where there happen to be quite a few car camping spots not requiring registration. We layered up and clamped on our headlights, the winter roadblock still in place. After a short walk and lots of laughing, we settled on a spot for the night. The moon bright enough to shut off our head lamps. We pitch the tent together, of course Meg has the same tent as I do. Finally, as I close my eyes, I hear Meg’s muffled voice, “This is the best sleeping bag ever.”
It must have been about 28 degrees that night. Unrested, Meg and I wake up at the same time. I hear quail wings thumping, which I always enjoy explaining to people for the first time. As a child this was always an unidentified noise for me. Furiously, I rub my ice block feet together, Meg now mumbling something like, “This is the worst sleeping bag ever.”
We have a morning meeting scheduled with Susan and Adam of Tangleroot Farm so we hastily pack. French pressed coffee in one of my two favorite high peak fields — the field on route 73, where you can clearly see Algonquin, Marcy, and Avalanche Pass cutting between! Many stop and pause here to take pictures of the mountain views. This image for me, I have seen numerous times, always looks different but is really the same. Meg and I fire up the light weight camp stove and brew a pot. We talk over ideas like we always do, our excitement never peaking. Coffee for two, drank by two this time.
What a great use of space at Tangleroot Farm. Susan meets us by the greenhouses, smiling and welcoming us warmly. A barefoot Adam gives a hello, while tinkering with some type of farm equipment. We talk over some ideas and potential collaborations. Susan more than willing to let us photograph her dirt and a baby celery plant for our brochure. I learn that Susan teaches yoga, I hope to attend her class one day.
We end this weekend with a reflection at the Pink Pig. This morning is busy with yogis from Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness. Fred tempts us successfully with strawberry banana bread, coffee, and two farm wraps. Meg and I talk the entire ride home of potential cookbook ideas, to do lists, more reflecting. We both agree Essex is full of people who seemingly gathered in the lake valley between the mountains of New York and Vermont, sharing a non-materialistic way of life. Welcoming newcomers as their own without hesitation. There is something in the water, maybe the air, maybe the purple sand. This something is sweeping us up for sure. We will be back soon.
Things are happening too quickly for me to write. As I write today, I find an extra-large smile on my face because today I know Low-Simmer Meg and Andy will be moving next door to me in Oneida, June first. Time sweeping us up.