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  • Writer's pictureElie Ravitz-Basser

Week of 6/28/21-7/2/21

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

We're in the last week of June, which in Virginia is accompanied by the characteristic sweltering heat and almost unbearable humidity. It's times like these that I give thanks for swimming pools. I'm not the only one who doesn't appreciate the high temperatures; the vegetables growing in my garden agree. Speaking of the vegetables, the heirloom tomatoes are rapidly maturing. While not yet plump, they sure are on their way to fully ripening, much to my delight (as I hope to happily enjoy homemade marinara sauce and lamb with tomato chutney in a few weeks...stay tuned for the recipes).

The growing tomatoes

Tomatoes on the vine

As for some of the other plants, the sugar snap peas are already shooting forth from each vine. Truth be told, I've already consumed many of the ripe peas (and also the not so ripe ones). But how can I resist such a delicious snack?! I recommend that if you have the time and patience, run to Home Depot to pick up a whole bunch of snap pea seed packets. They're easy to grow and trust me, after only a few weeks, your harvest will be worth the wait. The remaining peas which I hadn't gotten my hands on met a similar, although more refined, fate. Rather than eating them raw, I prepared the peas simply with down-to-Earth ingredients. With a little bit of lemon zest, some salt, a whole lot of butter, and a bit of smoked paprika if you're feeling adventurous, you will create the most perfect summer dish. Toss the sautéd peas on top of simple Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, and you're set for hosting the ideal, sophisticated picnic with friends and family. As for me, I'll still snack on raw snap peas from time to time when I get a craving.

My brother, Etan, posing with the peas

While the snap pea population is quickly dwindling on the farm, the quantity of my family's fresh farm eggs is mushrooming. Periodically, we don't have enough room in our refrigerator to store all the eggs. To be precise, you're likely to see at least six dozen eggs in our fridge on any given day...that's 72 eggs in total! I've been busy collecting the eggs, cleaning them, and packing them into cartons. Our 26 chickens lay their eggs in boxes in a coop, though to be sure, it's less a coop and more an elegant chicken resort, complete with earl gray walls and furnished roosting bars.

One day's worth of farm fresh eggs

After moving to my family's farm in Middleburg, Virginia at the start of Covid-19 in late March of 2020, my family soon decided to purchase chickens. With the pretext of my birthday ---though really it was just because my family didn't want to waste food---we bought an assortment of 32 chickens; Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, Australorps, and Easter Eggers (which are perhaps my favorites). In fact, the Easter Eggers lay beautiful colored eggs. I often find pastel purples, blues, and sometimes even greens. Although some have unfortunately passed away this year, the remainder are leading a happy life filled with bug finding and fly catching.

Anyway, when we first brought the noisy newborn chicks home in little cardboard carriers, they were just small, fluffy creatures with barely visible wings. As you can see in the photos below, they'd play together, eat together, but mostly just nap under the heat lamp. Every day I'd walk a few feet down from my farmhouse to the barn to visit them. I'd check to make sure the chicken water was filled, their feeders full, and their hearts happy. You know what they say, "a happy chick is a happy life"...well ok maybe that's not how that goes. Flash forward more than a year later and my duties are pretty much the same. I go down every morning to fill their waters, sprinkle some chicken feed and usually the remains of last night's dinner, and collect the eggs (which they lay in the early morning). Then, the rest of the day for the chickens is usually just comprised of scouting out flying bugs and incessantly screaming at the top of their lungs until someone takes pity on them and throws them a few extra food scraps.

Our baby chick, Zara

Our chicks huddled together

After tending to the chickens in the mornings, I head over to the goats' paddock to feed and fill waters. Every morning, the herd of around 65 goats wake up early, around 5 am, in order to get a head start on the day. You know what they say, "the early goat catches the worm." ;) Then they spend the next 30 minutes crying and usually succeeding in waking up every single person in the house. Upon seeing a member of my family exit the house, the goats always greet their guest with happy bleats and cute jumps of excitement. When I feed in the morning, the goats run up to the fence, lick my hands and arms, searching for more food. I give each goat a quick kiss on the mouth and a loving hug to let in the day.

Dumb Frank, or Frangutz, and I

Due to the extremely hot weather this week, I spent the rest of my time either floating in my family's pool or baking up a storm in the kitchen. This week I made a variety of pies; lemon meringue, key lime, and blueberry. I used the extra blueberries to make a cobbler with a biscuit topping (yum). In addition, using the large amount of basil grown on my farm (pictured below), my mom made her iconic pesto pasta. I'm talking pine nuts, garlic, fresh basil, high quality oil, and pink Himalayan salt...It's absolutely delicious. Don't worry, a recipe is soon to come. While the pungent smell and taste of basil is for sure the main flavor in the dish, the added pine nuts elevate the dish with a hint of sweetness. And of course, what's fresh pesto without homemade pasta? Simply mix staple pantry ingredients like flour, oil, and egg for a delicious fresh dough. The best part? You don't even need a pasta maker, (although they can be very handy: ) all that's necessary is a sharp knife and a rolling pin!

Although I had a busy week, I was able to sit back, relax, and spend quality time with my family. On Wednesday, in the afternoon, I picked raspberries on our farm with my brothers, Jacob and Etan. We searched for the ripest of the lot, only picking the ones completely ready for consumption. During this activity, I realized two things. 1. My raspberries are much better than the ones from the store, as they have no pesticides and fertilizers, and 2. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to experience even these small, seemingly mundane moments.

Jacob and I, as well as our dog, Max, also admired the growing corn, which is slowly but surely becoming taller.

Laughing while picking raspberries

Jacob looking for ripe berries

As the sun set, I made my way over to say goodnight to my little furry friends. I frolicked with the younger bottle fed goats, Frenchie, Pavo, and Vincent, and sat with Teaspoon and Teapot as they played together in the wheelbarrow. Every goat demanded a long rub and a scratch behind the ears as we watched the sun go down together. Thanks for reading :)


Elie and Vincent Van Goat

Vincent and I

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