I had the pleasant opportunity to take a walk recently along a mountain ridge. The area had many rock formations with dry, shallow soil. Here’s a little of what I saw growing in these harsh conditions. I was reminded that even when life is difficult, or my spirit is dry, God surprises me with beauty.
J.I. Rodale is considered the father of the organic farming movement in the U.S. I’ve read Organic Gardening Magazine for many years and many Rodale Press books are included in my library. But I had never visited the Rodale Institute until recently, despite the fact that it is only an hour and a half away in Kutztown, PA. While there, Mike and I took a 2 hour workshop on growing apples organically. And we spent several hours roaming the apple orchards, fields, and gardens. Despite the fact that spring has not yet arrived, we found the farm to be interesting and inspiring.
For over 60 years, the Rodale Institute has been researching the best practices of organic agriculture. A thirty year “Farming Systems Trial” compared conventional, chemical agriculture with organic methods and found that organic farming yields match conventional methods. And in years of drought, organic farming outperforms conventional methods since organic methods build, rather than deplete the soil. This is encouraging news, as I often hear that “organic farming cannot feed the world”. I do not believe this to be true, and research is now supporting that. In addition, the trial showed that organic systems are more profitable than conventional systems!
As a Penn State Master Gardener, I am required to take 8 hours of continuing education each year. I wanted to take the opportunity to visit a farm just outside of NYC called Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, so I chose a day that a class that interested me was being held. I traveled with my husband, Mike, and my daughter, Jessi, on a cold, winter day through the beautiful Hudson River Valley and over the 3+ mile long Tappan Zee Bridge to the former Rockefeller estate.
We took the class Intensive Home Growing Techniques for Homegrown Edibles taught by James Carr of the NY Botanical Gardens and author of Gardening and Landscaping the Natural Way. The 3 hour class was informative and inspiring and I am especially anxious to begin using what I learned to extend the gardening season in my PA garden. I’ll try to keep you up to date in future posts.
Both before and after the class we enjoyed the 80 acre, four-season farm. We found much life for the middle of winter. Stone Barns raises over 200 varieties of organic crops in their fields and greenhouse beds. Many of those crops are growing right now, and not just in the greenhouses. It is also home to cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, ducks and turkeys – all pasture raised. The farm also maintains a number of bee hives.
Two exciting things we found are a cafe and a restaurant which are sourced from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the cafe which included parsnip soup, homemade bologna sandwiches on freshly baked bread (I could genuinely learn to like bologna if this is what it’s meant to be like), and parsnip cake with cream cheese icing (not surprisingly, they harvested parsnips this week). The cake tasted very much like carrot cake and inspired me to consider growing parsnips.
Crisp. Rich. Not too sweet. They have more than a taste. They have a feel that I couldn’t begin to describe. And they are beautiful. THIS is the cookie of my childhood. A special part of my Polish heritage. We made them every year. And I yearn for a life where time for such things exists. Making Kruschiki takes hours. It’s been 2 years since I’ve made them, and it was probably 15 years before that.
My friend Cristina loves to hear people’s stories. She wants to know who you are, where you came from, what makes you tick. She wants to know your heritage, your traditions, your food. She is why I made Kruschiki 2 years ago. I don’t know when I’ll make them again, but today I can’t stop thinking about them, and so I can at least tell you about them.
How to Make Kruschiki
Ingredients: 2 eggs, plus 4 egg yokes, at room temperature, 1/2 t. salt, 2 c. flour, 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1/4 c. softened butter, 1 shot of brandy, oil for frying.
Directions: Beat eggs, egg yolks, salt and butter until thick and lemon colored. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and brandy. Slowly mix in flour. Knead the dough for 3 – 5 minutes. The dough should be thick and will be a bit sticky. To roll, you will be working with small balls of dough. Keep the rest of the dough in the bowl, covered with a clean, damp dishtowel. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out very thin – 1/8th of an inch. Take a sharp knife and cut the dough into strips about 2″ wide. Then cut the other way on a diagonal to make pieces of dough that are about 2″ x 4″. Cut a small slit (1″ or less) in the center of each piece. To form the cookie, take one end and place it through the slit. Very gently pull the end of the dough through the slit to form a bow shaped cookie. In a large pot or deep skillet heat about 3 – 4 inches of oil until very hot. Test the oil by putting in a small scrap of dough; it should sink to the bottom and then immediately float to the top. When this happens your oil is ready. Fry the cookies in small batches. Fry for about 30 seconds and then use tongs to gently turn the cookies over. The cookies should be barely golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Cool. Dust liberally with powdered sugar. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
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