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Monday, December 31, 2012

Ring Out the Old

I've dubbed 2012 the Year of the Kitchen, because of the refinishing and remodeling I did, and because of all the new food experiments -- what will 2013 bring?

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

What a Treat! -- Holiday Dining

I've had some bum experiences with holiday and special occasion dining, but this year for our pre-Christmas celebratory dinner, Mr. Madley and I made reservations at the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland.  We had enjoyed a New Year's Eve dinner there before, and when deciding on the right holiday restaurant for this year, the Blue Heron came immediately to mind.

If you've never been to the Blue Heron, it's a wonder to see.  The restaurant is in the renovated old town hall; the building has housed town offices and a school, and has been the site for plays, meetings, and community groups.  Tin ceiling, tall windows, beautiful chandeliers, high ceilings, strong rich colors, and old wood create a comfortable atmosphere to sit and talk and sit and eat and talk and eat.
The wait-staff is well trained -- attentive without being overly familiar.
And then, of course, there's the food.  The Blue Heron supports local farms/farmers (a list can be found on their menu), buying local seasonal produce when available, and uses meat from pasture-raised, grass-fed, antibiotic-free animals.  (Read their philosophy here.)  Entree options, as well as appetizers and desserts, are eclectic but always well-thought-out and creative, with a variety of flavours to please the palate.

Dinner for us started with the Blue Heron Salad and continued with the Pan Roasted Breast of Pekin Duck, which was just about divine.  The duck was crispy and juicy and well-seasoned; the fennel and compote and potatoes complemented the duck; the green beans were as good as any I've ever eaten.  For dessert we enjoyed the Chocolate Truffle Torte, which was a rich confection accompanied by gelato, cream, and cherries.  A positively delicious dinner -- it left me completely satisfied and happily content.  I honestly can't say that I've had a better dining experience anywhere in the Valley.

I recommend a visit to the Blue Heron -- it's a class operation with delicious food.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Ride to Mineral Hills Winery

Mr. Madley here, faithful readers, with a cross-post from my bicycle-related blog, Velophoria. Emily asked me to share my report of a ride to a lovely winery, run by a lovely guy. Here's an excerpt, to whet your appetite (or sharpen your thirst, as the case may be):

...As I pulled up, I saw a big "Open" flag on the porch, so, out of neighborly curiosity, I lifted my bike against a post so that I might see what was what inside. A man came hustling out of the fields to the right of the building and introduced himself as Larry Godard, co-owner of the place. Did I want to be shown around? When a guy as transparently nice as Larry asks to show you around his winery, there's only one right answer...
For more fun and photos, shoot on over here. And a joyous season to all!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Valley Gives 12.12.12

12.12.12 -- That's a single day for one very special event to celebrate and support giving to local nonprofits through Valley Gives.  And it's tomorrow -- all 24 hours.

One of those deserving nonprofits is the Kestrel Land Trust.  The Kestrel Land Trust works to create conservation areas throughout the Valley, and if you donate tomorrow (Wed, Dec 12) through Valley Gives, you can help the Trust become eligible for grants of up to $15,000.
Two more favourite charities of mine on the list: The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Pioneer Valley Red Cross.

Interested in other nonprofits that might benefit from Valley Gives giving?  A whole list of them can be found here.  This looks like a great way to donate to local nonprofit organizations -- you can bet I'll be visiting this site often.

Happy giving!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Local Grain CSAs

Yesterday was the pickup day for my local grain csa out of Wheatberry Bakery in Amherst -- and what delights there were!  Arapahoe red winter wheat, red llamas red winter wheat, emmer, spelt, barley, pinto beans, black turtle beans (I love their name), mandan bride corn, nothstine dent corn, plymouth flint corn, and popcorn (on the cob). 

The corn all needs to dry for another couple of months, so it is remaining in its paper bags until February (when I'll do another post to highlight those beauties), but I packed the grains and beans in mason jars for long-term storage.

After packing up my 1/2 share, I ground (with my hand-crank mill) 3 cups of arapahoe wheat for bread baking, and for the first time ever I made whole wheat bread that is strictly whole wheat -- no white flour at all.  Local wheat, local honey, local milk... all kneaded together to make some delicious bread -- soft, flavourful, with a good crumb and super nutrition.
I'm looking forward to much baking, yummy hot cereals, sprouting, and then more baking.

I've never done a grain share before, but I certainly hope to do one again.  Having only 1-2 pickup dates is extremely convenient, and supporting a different kind of local agriculture makes me feel like I'm helping Valley farming remain sustainable.  Plus, it's all so tasty!
The Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA is one of two local grain CSAs that I've discovered in the Valley; the other is the White Oak Farm CSA. (White Oak Farm CSA often sells at the Amherst Farmer's Market and, I've heard, sometimes shows up at the winter market, also.)

Know of another grain share or have opinions about one?  Please feel free to comment below!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving of Thanks

I haven't seen the local turkey families yet this year.  They're not crossing the street at the same time I head off for work.  But this week on PBS Nature, there was a story about a man who raised and mothered 16 baby turkeys.  A wonderful story -- full of charm and joy, but not without sorrow.  If you're in need of a different kind of turkey fix this Thanksgiving, you can watch the video online (My Life as a Turkey).

I hope you really do set aside time today to reflect on what you are thankful for.  When I actually take the time, I realize there is so much (even on a bad day, which this isn't).  So, a few things to start off the day -- I'm thankful for:
  • Mr. Madley
  • my cozy home
  • my darling neurotic cat
  • sunshine
  • family & friends
  • indoor plumbing
  • native birds
  • my job
  • locally-grown food
  • books
  • homemade bread
  • pie

Have a delightful Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Cat Friday -- or -- Black Friday Felines

If you've been wondering how to fill that hole in your life, you may not need to look any further -- this Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) the Dakin Humane Society is sending cats (6 months and older) to happy new homes for only $5!  It's Black Friday $5 Felines!  Visit one of the Dakin adoption centers Friday, November 23, between 12:00 & 5:30 to find your new friend.  Dakin is working with other animal shelters in the region to house and find homes for animals left homeless after Sandy struck the East Coast.

Take this opportunity to help pets in need of homes and give them (and yourself) something to be thankful for this season.

Adopted cats come spayed/neutered and with their shots.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Money + Mouth + March

The day is almost here -- have you heard?  This Thursday is Monte's March III -- a march from Northampton, through Hadley and Amherst, all the way to Greenfield, pushing an empty shopping cart along the way.  You may be asking yourself or the person sitting beside you why someone would do such a perfectly ridiculous thing.  There's a simple answer to that -- it's to bring awareness to and support the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

I'm a huge fan of the FBoWM -- I think they do a great service to residents in Western MA as a food bank and as a place for people to help others.

Take a little time this Thursday to donate to the food bank during Monte's March -- or take it a step or two further by raising money and joining him on his trek.  Details and more information can be found on the Food Bank's website or at The River.

Walk on, Monte!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vote/Ballot Update

On our ballot there will also be a nonbinding vote for Congress to overturn the Citizen's United decision (I updated yesterday's post to include this, too), which basically states that corporations have the same rights as individual human beings in politics.

The text of that question will read:
Shall the state senator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?
For a commentary on this, see this MassLive article.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Preparing to Vote!

It's obvious (and true) that I have been a blogging-slacker through the month of October.  It happens.  But in case you haven't noticed it's election season, and I thought I would take at least one more opportunity to blog this month by sharing a little election information with you -- just in case you need to know where to vote, or you want to gather a little more information about all the candidates, or you're confused about the other issues on the ballot.

Where to vote: the Secretary of State has a great website that allows you to enter your address and pull up your voting location (with map), your current elected officials, and what will be on the ballot.  Just visit and fill in the blanks.  It's not just the where, but it's also the who.

Looking for information on the ballot questions?  Try these links (they include the question and arguments for and against):
Question 1: Motor Vehicle Repair Information
Question 2: End-of-Life Prescription Medication
Question 3: Medical Marijuana
*Update 10/28* Question 4: Nonbinding vote for Congress to overturn the Citizens United decision

The best way to know how to vote is to get educated about the issues and people on the ballot -- something that sounds great in a title might not seem so great when fully explained -- and vice versa.

Who's in the vote (I'm only including here those with opponents on the ballot -- and you may notice that there are indeed more than two choices in the Electors of President and Vice President section, though you wouldn't know it from the debates and media...):




SCOTT P. BROWN    70 Hayden Woods, Wrentham
Candidate for re-election
ELIZABETH A. WARREN    24 Linnaean St., Cambridge DEMOCRAT


MICHAEL J. ALBANO    403 Maple Rd., Longmeadow DEMOCRAT
MICHAEL FRANCO    7 Primrose Ln., Holyoke REPUBLICAN


MARY K. OLBERDING    272 Aldrich St., Belchertown DEMOCRAT
GEORGE R. ZIMMERMAN    7 Hampton Ter., Northampton INDEPENDENT

Just as a parting commentary on our current political process -- it seems like ads and campaigns and such become more and more negative every election cycle.  Aren't we trying to teach our children to show civility and respect (there are all kinds of new laws about bullying, after all)?  How can we expect them to even begin to understand when even those vying for the highest and most public offices of our nation can't demonstrate it?  How lovely it would be if public discourse became a little more civil.

And that's enough of my personal politics.   Hope to see you at the polls on Nov 6!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wanna Buy a Diner?

Mr. Madley forwarded this ad to me from Craigslist this week.  An interesting piece of news -- the Route 9 Diner is for sale.

Eating at the Route 9 Diner is a classic diner experience -- a large menu with salads, burgers, sandwiches, dinners, appetizers, desserts, and an all-day breakfast; jukeboxes on the tables; a dessert spinner; booths and a nice long counter with view of the t.v. -- just in case you need to watch the ballgame or the news.  It's a good place to meet up with friends or just chill over a milkshake; plus, it's one of the few places in the Valley open 24/7 in such a convenient location with copious parking.

I don't know what this listing will mean to the current diner once it sells, but keep it in mind if you know anyone who wants to buy a diner.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sun + Rain

The light played brilliantly against the turning leaves and falling raindrops this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It was a beautiful day...

... for a walk in the woods...

... and a honey festival...

... and just about anything else.

Saturday was just a beautiful day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chilifest 2012!

For a wider glimpse into The Kitchen Garden on Rocky Hill Road, take a look at the visit I made in June or visit their website.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Too Much Zucchini?

So far, I have not had to deal with an overabundance of zucchini.  And even when my garden does actually grow plenty of it (not the case this year), I keep finding great recipes (zucchini marmalade!).  Tonight, on a whim, and because I was looking for a different way to serve vegetables for dinner, I decided the make zucchini fritters.

I'm not sure where the idea came from; I wasn't looking for recipes, but maybe the simple image of a partial grated zucchini in the fridge was enough to trigger the thought (I had used part of the zucchini earlier for zucchini bread).
I don't have exact amounts for you, but here's a list of ingredients and a pseudo-recipe -- these fritters were quite tasty and very easy, and the recipe can easily be cut in half.
2 medium grated zucchini
2 eggs
Mix zucchini and egg; add flour to reach a batter consistency; salt and pepper to taste.  Heat vegetable/canola oil in frying pan.  Drop by spoonful or 1/4 cupful into frying pan, turning when browned on one side.  Makes about 8 fritters, depending on size.

These are a lot like pancakes or latkes and are good with salt or with syrup.  Delicious for dinner, probably pretty good for breakfast, too.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dining at the Church on the Lake

Last May I posted about a delightful dinner served up at the First Congregational Church of Hadley, with the recommendation to blog readers (and others) to make time to attend such church suppers.  Last night Mr Madley and I took our own advice and attended the Chicken BBQ and Corn Fest at the North Hadley Congregational Church.
We arrived after the start and without reservations, which nearly lost us the opportunity to participate.  But after the chickens were counted and found to still be sufficient in numbers, we were admitted to dinner.  And what a delicious dinner it was -- barbecued chicken halves, corn on the cob, baked potato, salad, cherry jello pickles, lemonade, and watermelon.  Yummy.
The dinner was held outside at picnic tables behind the church, where there is a beautiful view of Lake Warner and the mountain.  We gathered our food and made our way to a table where we discovered a small group of new friends from our neighborhood.  We chatted about schools and a proposed project to clear some waterways, experiences car-camping and living in the West, and other good neighborly things.  One of the best things about these church dinners is the community-building they provide.  Don't get me wrong -- the food is delicious; but the people are what really make it worthwhile.

After dinner we were taken on a tour of the old church and some of its history was shared.
The Asparagus Testing Fork of Dot Russell.
Original foundation, exposed when the basement was dug out -- by hand.
The memorial plaque inside the church.
The chapel from the front.
The pipe organ (I hear they have a wonderful organist).
Original chandelier inside the chapel.
Chapel, congregation-view.
Isn't it lovely inside?
After dinner and the tour, we grabbed a program of upcoming events and traveled down Rt 47 to Creamy Delights for some ice cream.  A lovely time was had by all.

Now a question for the Hadley citizenry: what would it take to get you to attend one of these community church dinners?  Music, activities, more publicity...?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grains & Fresh Flours

I've been a fan of and fed on fresh-milled grain products since I was just a tot.  My mother had a big stone-grind Magic Mill that she used every week to grind whole wheat flour for the bread she made.  (She also added that whole wheat flour to brownies and cookies, which gave them a super-delicious nutty flavour.)  I never gave much thought to having a mill myself until I recently remembered how satisfying bread making can be and got into a huge bread-baking kick.  Then I discovered and joined a local grain share (I have since discovered another, and they sell at the Amherst farmer's market sometimes), and my search for a mill began. (I've also been reading a lot of homesteading blogs, and I suppose they may have influenced me a little, too.)

I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on a mill and I don't have a large family I'm baking for on a regular basis, so I don't need anything too fancy or large.  Plus, Mr Madley is wheat free, so my mill won't just be about wheat and wheat flour -- I want to be able to make grits and cracked wheat and steel cut oats, quinoa flour and rice flour and corn flour.  My first mill will need to be adaptable.

Since I've been refinishing my kitchen this summer, I have spent a lot of time online researching kitchen items, including grain mills.  I'm still not sure if there's one mill that would satisfy all my desires, but I did purchase a second-hand Victorio hand-crank mill that just arrived.  So excited was I that I tore open the packaging, put it together, and immediately set to grinding any kind of whole grains we had in the house.  I milled 1/4 cup each of brown basmati rice, rolled oats (not the ideal oats to mill by hand), quinoa, toasted buckwheat groats, all on the finest grind available; and then I also ground 1/4 cup buckwheat groats on the coarsest setting for cracked cereal.  You can see the results in the picture below.
Clockwise from the top: coarse-ground buckwheat, buckwheat, brown rice, oat, quinoa.

Even used, I like this mill.  The fine flour seems very fine, and I'm excited that when I purchase oat groats I'll be able to coarse-grind for hot cereal.  It's not super fast, but if I'm only grinding a cup or so, it's easy enough -- plus, I'll get to keep my arms toned.

Anyway, it's all great -- the high flavour and nutrition of freshly-milled local grain.  A loaf of homemade bread with homemade almond-flax butter and peach butter (both of which I learned to make this summer).  Can't get much better than that.  I'm not going to want to grind all my flour by hand, but all in all, it should be a very satisfactory starter mill.
Garden flowers, cracked oatmeal, zucchini bread from fresh-ground oats and quinoa and brown rice (with local zucchini and maple syrup), and peach butter from local peaches.
(1.5 days later: I've already made steel-cut oatmeal, gluten-free pizza crust, gluten-free zucchini bread from hand-milled grains.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pollinator Insect ID

Have you ever seen this before?  It's been buzzing around my butterfly bush for the better part of the summer.  Fuzzy pollinator, like a bee, but so large and shaped differently than most bees I've seen.  Can you help identify it?  (Sorry the picture isn't super clear.)


Friday, August 17, 2012

Celebrate -- Attend a Fall Festival!

It's the end of the summer, and with that comes the barrage of fun and fantastic fall festivals -- starting today with the Heath Fair.  The Valley and surrounding locales fill up the autumn season with fairs and festivals -- you can find a listing on the calendar.  If you know of a fair I haven't posted, please let me know -- just add a comment below.

This is one of the best seasons to live in Western MA -- don't miss out on the fun!  Coming up next week -- the Cummington Fair and the Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Town Notices

Notice of Public Meeting

Notice is hereby given that the Hadley Select Board will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in the Hadley Town Hall upstairs Meeting Room 203 for a discussion regarding the future of Town Buildings. 

Town of Hadley
Special Town Meeting
Thursday, October 25, 2012
7:00 pm  Hopkins Academy

The Select Board of the the Town of Hadley have opened the Warrant for Special Town Meeting.  The Warrant will remain open until the deadline of 4:00 pm on Wednesday, September 5, 2012.  Deliver all warrant articles to the the Office of the Select Board, 100 Middle Street, Hadley, MA  01035.

More notices and/or details found here:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

It's the end of July and we've just finished our third week of the Cape Cod Fish Share.  Mr Madley and I split the fish share with another family who split the Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA with us.  The grain share isn't collected until December, but we are enjoying the fruits of the sea now.

The goal of the fish share is to provide the freshest local fish in a sustainable manner.  Fish is delivered to CSAs/farms in the Valley on Saturdays in Amherst, Easthampton, and Northampton.

On our first week of the fish share, we delighted in monkfish tail -- a soft, sweet fish that we roasted with garlic, salt, and pepper.  This was a first for us and monkfish, but it was delicious; it had a definite similarity to scallops.  Also received were filets of sole, which we have yet to partake of (they're wrapped and frozen).

For our second week, we were delighted with fresh scallops and swordfish.  These we skewered and grilled with local vegetables.  We brushed a Dijon mixture onto the fish for a little extra kick.  Seriously delicious -- one of my favourite fish dinners yet.

This weekend we received lobster.  Our split share consisted of 2 lobsters -- just enough for us.  We steamed them up in a steamer pot of sea-salt water.  Unfortunately, we don't have any handy lobster-eating utensils, so we broke out the hammer and pliers; they actually worked pretty well.  We paired the lobster with fresh corn on the cob -- a tasty summer dinner.  We felt like we were on a seaside vacation.

We're looking forward to three more weeks of interesting, yummy fish (don't know what we'll get -- it's almost always a surprise), and we certainly enjoy eating so well on summer Sundays.  You, too, can participate in the Cape Cod fish share -- registration is currently available online for the late-summer share, which is slated to begin in late August.  There is also an autumn share.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to enjoy fish from our eastern shores!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Saturday Events

Lots of big local Saturday events this week:

Barstow Burger Fest (Hadley)
Grand Re-opening of War Memorial Pool (Amherst)
Mo Willems @ the Eric Carle Museum (Amherst)
Perfect Spot of Tea (Hadley)

For details, check the calendar page and click on the event links.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Butterfly in the Bush

This is the butterfly that visited my butterfly bush today.  Isn't it a beauty?  (Click on the picture to expand the view.)

(Photo taken through the window.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barstow's Burger Fest 2012

Just a few weekends ago, Mr Madley and I enjoyed participation in the Barstow Longview Farm's 4th anniversary celebration.  It was a hot day, so we got ourselves a nice cold milkshake (the milkshake of the month was strawberry cake batter) and then hitched a ride on the wagon to tour the farm.  Barstow's is a dairy and beef farm -- thus, they have lots of cows.  The farm tour began in one of the cow barns, with the pampered mothers-to-be; through that barn to the amazing compost piles and the corn silage, down to the milking-cows barn (where we saw some adorable day-old calves), out to the methane digester (which will provide lots of electricity by the time it's finished), and on to the new red young-calf barn.  Along the way questions were answered and stories were told, and I'm pretty sure everyone along for the tour enjoyed themselves.  After the tour we taste-tested Cabot cheeses, visited two of the ambassador cows (that's what I call them -- they're the friendly cows that frolic out in front of the farm), and enjoyed music by Appalachian Still.  There were also games and face painting and bubbles for the littler ones.

If you missed the birthday celebration and/or the weekly tours at the farm last month, don't despair!  Barstow's is having a big Burger Fest next week (Saturday, July 21) -- with their own beef, which is absolutely delicious -- and with more farm tours.  Plan to go; it will be worth it.

Hope to see you there!

For a wonderful short history and commentary on local farms, check out this quick video interview from Keep Local Farms with one of the Barstows .

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Colour of Sky

For those of you who don't know, I'm renovating my kitchen, mostly myself, and that takes up a good deal of time.  Thus, blog posting has taken a bit of a back seat until the majority of the kitchen work is complete.  And so, to hold the gap in the blog postings until I can pull something together, here is the beautiful sunset from the other night.
Enjoy.  Sweet summer dreams.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Neighbours

Our local turkey family came calling yesterday afternoon -- mama, papa, and six little ones.  They spent some time picking through the back yard, visiting the garden fence, and dining around the bird feeder.
(Photos taken through my old dirty windows are usually less than satisfactory, but you get the general idea.)

It was so fun watching them hang out at our house, taking advantage of our hospitality.  Made my day!