By Danielle French

Greetings From the Hills of Bethany

After nearly two years of welcoming you with “Greetings from Pontpool!”, my friends have suggested that I change my salutation to “Greetings from the hills of Bethany!”, as that is indeed where we are.

So, then… greetings from the hills of Bethany! We are getting ready for winter here at South Pond Farms. Note the fully stocked woodshed—it is a thing of beauty. Those three cords of wood, supplied by the hard-working Dana Wellman from Port Hope, stand ready to heat the house. We figure the supply will last only about nine weeks! I will have Dana on my speed dial! I made the change to heating with wood last year—much to the chagrin of my girls, who get asked to bring in armloads of it every day—in an effort to combat crazy energy costs. Who knows what those costs will be like over the next few years? All I know is that even though I compost, grow as much food as I can and try to live a somewhat sustainable life, costs will continue to go through my roof and no doubt everyone else’s.

I listened to an interview with Jeremy Rifkin and honestly, it changed my life. His new book, The Third Industrial Revolution, talks about a plan for long-term economic sustainability to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security and climate change. If you are wondering what the next step is and how we all can personally make some changes, check it out—it may change your life, too, or at least your thinking.

Back on the farm, life is starting to hunker down. It’s getting cold, there’s frost at night, the vegetables that didn’t get inside in time look forlorn. I do have a huge crop of kale that is still green and fresh, chard, some herbs, edible flowers, kohlrabi and onions hanging on. I’ve made some very hearty vegetable stews, but that’s not the kind of recipe I’m going to leave you with.

I just returned from a “magical mystery tour” of my home state of Vermont, where I was inspired by all the wonderful food-related things that Vermonters do. My very dear girlfriend, Andrea Darrow, who with her husband owns Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, has a full-time job planting, caring for and harvesting apples on 125 acres representing one of Vermont’s oldest orchards. She also creates amazing apple products. When I dropped by for a visit, I surprised her wearing knee-high rubber boots, earphones and a rubber apron while making hundreds of gallons of cider from an old-fashioned press. It smelled heavenly.

This recipe from Vermont Life magazine reminds me of her. It’s a wholesome apple cake that is delicious any time of day.

Putney’s Food Co-op Apple Pecan Cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 small apples, unpeeled, diced into 1/3 inch cubes, measuring 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a deep 9-inch spring-form pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into oil mixture and then fold in apples, raisins, pecans, mixing just until no pockets of flour remain. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Batter will be very thick. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until cake is golden brown on top and cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack before removing.

(Vermont Life, Autumn 2011)

– Danielle

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