Just over the hill from the farm—local to the sheep—is Quaker Creek a maker of fine charcuterie.
It's a family business that has been in the same roadhouse building on Pulaski Highway since 1947 and situated next to a creek running through Orange County's Black Dirt Region that gives the establishment its name.
Tradition and innovation.
Bobby's grandfather who came from Poland and worked as a garde manger in the 1939 New York Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows was the founder of the enterprise. Bobby, following his dream and following in the footsteps of his grandfather, was trained at the Culinary Institute of America as a chef garde manger too. At Quaker Creek he has state-of-the-art kitchen equipment: the spice mixers, the meat grinders, the computer-controlled smokers, etc. and the personnel who know how to use this equipment.
I have a NYS Ag and Markets 20-C license at Quaker Creek which authorizes me to produce for retail sale Lamb Bacon, Lamb Pastrami, Lamb Jerky, Lamb Liverwurst and over 20 varieties of Lamb Sausage in a sheep casing. Our products are 100% lamb—no pork—plus they are nitrate-free and have no synthetic preservatives in them.
Working with Quaker Creek is a way to honor my flock—their qualities are complementary. "It's not food, it's sheep."
Now Dominique has a week to ready the barn for our scheduled lambing and the slew of babies coming; almost all the ewes are expecting.
I'm in New York at the Union Square Greenmarket and will break the market day at the Met seeing 19th century French photographs of Paris in the early afternoon.
For her break, Dominique will coddle the dozen or so unexpected lambs that arrived last week sired by a Saxon Merino ram who jumped the fence and was with the ewes for less than a day.
At 7 PM, after a Greenmarket Saturday that began when we got to Union Square that morning at 7 AM, after we'd broken down the stand and after we'd loaded the unsold lamb, yarn and sheepskins (garlic too) in the truck, we headed home.
One of my favorite quotes is "Home is where they can't throw you out," but I've forgotten who said it first, anyway...
Last Saturday was snowing when Dominique and I left New York to head West then North. Just before the Lincoln Tunnel I had to brake suddenly and skidded a bit. "Good," I said, "the roads in the city are slippery," and I slowed down. New Jersey 17 was salted, the New York Thruway was too, but New York 17 required more caution as parts of it were icy.
Because of traffic on New York 17, I took Exit 126 at Chester to take the side roads to the farm— what a mistake! The road conditions were worse than on the Quickway; the snow was blowing and drifting across Route 94 and portions of Pulaski Highway were a white-out blizzard of blowing snow—I couldn't see anything, I felt like I'd closed my eyes—all I could see was white—then as quick as we were in the white-out we were out of it, I was into the darkness again, I could see the road, I could see the dark fading shapes along the roadside, I could see the blackness around me and it was welcome...but then we hit another white-out caused by snow blowing across hayfields next to the road: you're blind, you brake a little, you hold the wheel tightly, you steer straight ahead and you hope there is nothing in front of you like a stopped car. Then you're through it and you can see again. It's maddening.
I turned on Cross Road. The wind howled. The farm is gotten to by a one lane dirt-road driveway about a quarter mile long then it turns at a right angle and this is where the snow can drift waist high—you can't see what's ahead until you make the turn. Stuck in a snow drift in the driveway in the dead of night with the 2 wheel drive market truck was a problem I didn't want to have; besides Dominique and I would have been stuck at the farm too: we couldn't get our four wheel drive pickup trucks passed the market truck to go home.
It was cold, we were wet, it was late, we were tired.
Getting nearer to the farm we discussed several scenarios: we could walk in from the road and see how deep the drifts at the curve were, or we could drive in to see if the market truck would go through the snow; if not, I could hopefully back out if I didn't get stuck going in.
I slowed as I approached the farm driveway and overcome by a foolish courage due to having had enough of the day, I said, "Fuck it!" I turned in, the snow was about 4" deep on the driveway as I went along (I felt buoyant, like I was skating or ballooning, not under my own power) and when I came to the turn I stopped and peered like a deer into headlights: the drifts looked passable—I gunned the truck and barreled through them with a smile in my heart. We made it, we were at the farm, the home of the sheep, here to unload the lamb and the garlic. I was almost giddy; I felt like I'd won the Lottery after having had an off market day in the snow and rain but Ulysses was home to Penelope.
Once unloaded at the farm, we both had to go to our respective homes; the roads were bad but foreseeable if one drives slowly and they—the gods, nature, fate or whatever you believe in—weren't throwing us out this time.
It looks like it will rain and snow plus be partially sunny on Saturday with a 50% chance of precipitation...hmm, 50% they say.
Saturday Union Square: "A chance of rain and snow before 1pm, then a slight chance of rain between 1pm and 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 43. Light and variable wind becoming west 12 to 17 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected."
Issued by: National Weather Service New York, NY
Last Update: 12:58 pm EST Jan 17, 2014
I could do as well as the National Weather Service with the flip of a coin.
Now at 6:09 pm...
Saturday Union Square: "A chance of rain and snow showers before 10am, then a slight chance of rain showers between 10am and 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 42. Breezy, with a southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 40%."
Issued by: National Weather Service New York, NY
Last Update: 6:09 pm EST Jan 17, 2014
Saturday's forecast is getting better; yet tomorrow, I'm afraid, the damage has been already done by the previous forecasts...but ever and always, better pleasant damage than not.
Saturday Union Square: "A chance of rain and snow before 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 40. West wind 9 to 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%."
Issued by: National Weather Service New York, NY
Last Update: 6:01 am EST Jan 16, 2014
And 12 hours later,
Saturday Union Square: "A chance of rain and snow before noon, then a slight chance of snow between noon and 2pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 39. Breezy, with a south wind 6 to 11 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected."
Issued by: National Weather Service New York, NY
Last Update: 5:59 pm EST Jan 16, 2014
What has meaning is not only the rain, snow or wind on Saturday (that is a factor) but an unpleasant weather forecast will keep people from shopping the out-of-doors Greenmarket. Our business will diminish; people are planners. They will plan to do inside things on their Saturday free rather than brave the threatened inclement weather; they will call Fresh Direct or go to Whole Foods or arrange for a meal delivery from a take-out restaurant and let the delivery bicyclist, clad in plastic bags to protect his body from the rain, deal with the foul weather.
It's happening now, plans are being made; but Friday's forecast will be the final stroke and seal our indoor fate or, if favorable weather is predicted, free us to scurry out in the sun to buy produce from a smiling farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket.
Even though it comes every Saturday, all the other days of the week relate to market day; Friday we load the truck, taking the lamb cuts, the lamb sausage and all the lamb charcuterie: the bacon, the jerky, the pastrami, the liverwurst and all the multicolored Saxon Merino yarn. But after, and only after, we make sure that the sheep will have enough hay to eat, that they will have plenty of water and that they will be safe from predators on the day away from them.
Every market Saturday begins the Saturday before it. At Union Square Greenmarket, near closing, I weigh by estimating the poundage of the lamb sausage and the charcuterie I have unsold to determine what must be made for the forthcoming Saturday; and I look for yarn colors, actually for their absence, those that must be dyed during the coming week to replenish the stock. The wheel goes round and round—cerulean skies and sunset oranges and herb greens and the white of snow and of pure wool too—it spins in the eyes, it's pretty, kaleidoscopic.
Composition V (1911)
Neue Galerie New York at 86th Street and 5th Avenue presents Vasily Kandinsky: From the Blaue Reiter to the Bauhaus, 1910-1925 (through February 10th 2014), "an exhibition of masterworks that explores the development of Kandinsky’s art over a crucial period of time: from Der Blaue Reiter period into the pure abstraction and total environments of his Bauhaus years. Connecting art, music, and theater, this gathering of loans from private and public collections traces the evolution of Kandinsky’s concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art."
I've not liked, because I didn't know this formative period, Kandinsky's work and I went to Neue Galerie on Saturday more to see the exhibition of The Modern Poster in Germany which "traces the emergence of the poster as an art form in Germany in the early twentieth century." But to see Vasily Kandinsky's progression from Der Blaue Reiter was 'eye opening' to say the least. When in New York, I do New York: a museum, then lunch somewhere, is a perfect break from the Greenmarket at Union Square where I find myself every Saturday.
Post Marcel Proust what could I read but the even more syntactically difficult Walter Pater—some of his essays again—and I started his fiction, Marius the Epicurean (1885) which is an ongoing read about a young man in the classical time of the Romans:
His entire rearing hitherto had lent itself to an imaginative exaltation of the past; but now the spectacle actually afforded to his untired and freely open senses, suggested the reflection that the present had, it might be, really advanced beyond the past, and he was ready to boast in the very fact that it was modern.
After making sure the sheep are all right, Sunday found me back at home before the fire with the January 9th NYRB in my lap open to The Beautiful Sounds of Jimi Hendrix a film and book review by Adam Shatz. Inspired, I went to YouTube to listen.
What I heard was Kandinsky.
And I had to think of Walter Pater's essay on The School of Giorgione (1877) which contains his much-quoted maxim "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music."
We've moved. For the Winter and Spring of 2011 you'll find us in Saturday's Greenmarket next to Hawthorne Valley between 16th St & 17th St.
Instead on Christmas Eve we will be at the Union Sq. Greenmarket, from 8 AM until 4 PM.
Joanna recently joined us in the Union Square Greenmarket to help you.
Get a boneless leg of lamb from me along with a stalk of green garlic and get a bunch of parsley from Alex Paffenroth across the way in Greenmarket; then get a lemon and some olive oil from Florida and Florence respectivly.
Pre heat your oven to 375 F, then click the Minimalist and 45 minutes later you will delight anyone who's lucky enough to dine with you. Invite Mark over too; he deserves to be fed for the simplicity of this fine lamb recipe published in the Times.
Jack, the son of Liza and David who attended the wedding of Andrea and Matt at Windfall Farms on Memorial Day Sunday. We all met at Greenmarket.
People were out but business was off at market—who could think of food, much less wool—it was hot enough to keep the lids closed on the dry-iced lamb coolers which shuts down business even further.
At noon, a May Day rally for immigration reform began. People were angered by the passing of an Arizona state law that permits profiling. The loud speakers were so loud in the south plaza that it was hard to hear customers at the stand in the north plaza, almost 3 blocks away. Demonstrations for or against something change little but I like them because they are the community of an idea, a public meditation, a TAZ.
Obreros si! Hey, I'll hire anyone who wants to keep immigrants out of the US to clean my barn and I'll even pay them the minimum wage plus a couple of bucks an hour and furnish gloves to boot. Now, why don't I have a line of pink faced, card carrying citizens at my barn door willing to work.
Mario Batali was at the market manager's tent shod in orange Crocs, sweating like a sous chef in the kitchen of Babbo, signing copies of his new cookbook. D said the publisher brought in 250 copies and he told me he was sorry he didn't take one, "Mario's recipes always come out..." which means his book is a '3 T of this stirred into 1/2 cup of that sautéed for 4 minutes' kind of cookbook. As Amanda Hesser said on Twitter about cookbooks of this ilk, "I compare them to sex manuals. (They) can only teach you so much, then you have to give it a try."
Oh, Amanda I do like you; you're so my kind of cook.
The feast begins. In April the vegetable growers start to come back with Spring greens and other cool weather vegetables. The cornucopia continues through the warm Summer months with peppers and tomatoes culminating with the abundant Fall harvest of Winter squash in frosty November.
Visit us from 8 AM to 6 PM every Saturday of the year.
The flagship Greenmarket in Union Square is world-famous. What began with just a few farmers in 1976 has grown exponentially over the past 33 years, transforming this once dangerous, crime-ridden area and into a dynamic and vibrant public space.
The Union Square Greenmarket currently operates on approximately 2 acres of parkland and hosts over 140 Producers each week: these two acres of market have directly preserved over 12,500 acres of regional farmland.
As our biggest market, the seasonal bounty is unparalleled with hundreds of varieties to choose from during any given season. From just-picked fresh fruits and vegetables, to heritage meats and award-winning farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, jams, pickles, a profusion of cut flowers and plants, wine, ciders, maple syrup and much more.
Located in one of New York City’s great public spaces, Union Square is a wonderful place for people watching too – catch local chefs from the city’s top restaurants shopping early in the morning for the freshest ingredients; take some time to chat with your local farmer and learn about their growing practices; taste what's cooking during one of our many cooking demos; and don't be surprised if you rub shoulders with the odd celebrity as you reach for those garlic scapes!
Sara and her farm are our winter neighbors in Union Square. I'm always flattered when a fellow farmer trades here and look at the hat she knit from the wool.
If the truth be told, I don't shop at every stand in the market but I do have my vices; Hawthorne Valley sells one of them: a "Luscious Lemon Cupcake" made with corn meal and frosted with a sugared quark that will teach you how to read and write Dutch by the 2nd bite. And it's biodynamic too.
New York City's annual Dance Parade (2009), so proclaimed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, came down Broadway and passed Union Square last Saturday. This year there were 5,291 dancers in 60 dance styles from Algerian to Zydeco. I kept my eye on the belly dancers.
I worried that Fatima from Astoria would be in the parade still nursing a grudge—awhile back, Tasting Table NYC had proclaimed a new "hottest belly in town": lamb bacon—and I feared she might hold my sheep responsible for such disrespect and try to get even by terrorizing my customers with her "nihilistic belly rampage" in and around the stand. Stranger things have happened in Union Square.
In 1916 anarchist Emma Goldman rallied a crowd of garment workers for birth control in the North Plaza of the Square, long set aside for political gatherings, and now where Greenmarket farmers unpack their produce 4 days a week.
Behind Emma, in the very rear of the photo, you can see the Decker Building (2nd from the left) where, in the 70's, Andy Warhol made art inspired by tomato soup cans in The Factory which was located on the 6th floor. The building is directly across the street (which the dancers paraded down) from where I set up my stand on Saturdays. Ghosts are everywhere in Union Square.
In the juvescence of the year came Christ the tiger --T. S. Eliot
The winter was cold and long; taking coats off, our limbs were innocent of sun. Sunday was Orthodox Easter and lamb came on strong. New York springs are short, days between extremes, too perfect for business, days when you feel you don't have to buy anything.
But it finished early. Light rain began to fall about 3 PM—this emptied the market—the rain came down harder and soaked us as we loaded the truck. Now it was a race to get out of town and through Jersey before Rte. 17 was deluged. But when I got to Mahwah the rain was coming down in sheets, traffic crawled and made waves across the flooded roadway, the wipers were helpless, "cant you see the tears roll down the street." Stevie Ray Vaughn was on my iPod, Hanna was here, I was halfway home. Secretly, I like the rain, it soothes me.
But contrary to the forecast—Hanna stalled—the rain stopped around 5:30 AM as I sped toward New York through the wealthiest bedroom communities of New Jersey: Saddle River, where Richard Nixon slept after his White House years; and Ho-Ho-Kus where John McCain should doze instead of in the White House. As far as I know George Washington never slept in New Jersey.
Zoe, Monica and I set the stand up, we put the yarn and lamb out, and we waited for the rain or for the people to come—usually it’s one or the other—but neither came. It wasn't the weather that kept people home, it was the forecast. I guess New Yorkers were sleeping-in and dreaming of pleasant indoor distractions to keep them out of the rain.
Bad weather forecasts are as bad as bad weather. Everybody blames the weatherman for them, but a forecast with a chance of rain of 30% means that it will rain in 30% of the forecast area. So if it rains on you, don't blame the weatherman, it might be sunny on the other side of town—you'll never know—you can’t be in two places at the same time.
There have been few really bad Saturdays days so far this year, but this looks to be a zero-sum day. Rain won't hurt the wool as it dries out and unsold lamb comes back frozen; but vegetable growers lose sales and their harvest too—vegetables are perishable—when they're ripe and ready, you pick'em or lose'em, raindrops to come or not.
"Gonna take a walk down to Union Square, you never know who you're gonna find there..." Run, Run, Run The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Saturday at market was warm with a high of 43, good weather for selling wool. My cell phone rang about 1 PM; it was Clara back at the farm telling me that ewes from the breeding group were walking out on the frozen pond. When I heard this I saw sheep plunging through the thin ice like children. The horrific thing about frozen pond rescues is that more often than not the rescuer falls in and dies too, or this tragic aspect is what makes it news.
Clara said she shook a feed bucket at the sheep and they came off the pond, but when they realized the ruse, several walked back on the ice again. Clara didn't know what to do. I knew what to do, but I couldn't fence them back from the pond until tomorrow. I wouldn't get back to the farm until after dark.
But what to do now?
Then it hit me, "Break the ice!" around the edge of the pond, I told her, and that should keep the sheep on shore. Use heavy stones, a sledge hammer... She said she would try; I went back to my market customers preoccupied with visions of foundering sheep.
I called Clara back at 3 PM; she said the ice was too thick to break but she was keeping an eye on the sheep and so far they were all well. I thanked her. When night fell, Dominique and I packed up. It had been a good day at market. We got back to the farm about 8 PM detouring around a maddening traffic jam in Jersey.
On the way to the barn we drove past the pond. Dominique gasped, "Look, the ice is broken." My heart sank like a sheep. But when we got closer what we thought to be broken ice was thinner, darker ice near the pond's overflow. The ice on the pond was intact. The ewes were safe. We looked at each other and shook our heads in either belief or disbelief, I'm not sure which.
The day had begun at 3 AM but it wasn't over yet, we had to feed grain to the sheep. We carried pails of oats to the ewes illuminated by the headlights of the truck. When we stepped over the net fence the hungry sheep swarmed around. Their long shadows flashed across the yard disorienting us like a disco strobe.
Sheep being fed are loud and cacophonous; with a pail in hand they will rush you, bang into your knees, knock you off balance then sometimes push you face first into a trough feeder all the while desperately telling you how hungry they are, and butt in the air you will cuss them. It was good to be home.
The farm stand in Union Square, New York City on a Saturday in October. Many 1000's of people will pass by on a nice day. Greenmarket is one of the oldest modern farmers' markets in the country having been there for 31 years and it is probably the busiest. But of course farmers' markets have been around for centuries; wherever you found a town square you might find a farmer and his produce.