Last Day at the Cottage

20110807-114342.jpgAll good things must come to an end and alas, today is the last day of my summer vacation here in Lodi.

It’s been a funny summer weather-wise with weeks of drought followed by some grey rainy days with a wicked heat wave thrown in for good measure. Enough perfect hot, hazy lake days to make my summer just right, however.

Another funny thing about this summer is the fact that we never did get our vegetable garden in. We weren’t in Lodi for the May long weekend and kind of lost our chance to get the plants in at the right time. Instead we concentrated on filling in the perennial garden which is looking better than ever. Lillies and coreopsis will not make for good canning, however so unless we pick up veg at the market we’ll have no fall canning projects.

Though I’m sad to leave today I can rejoice in the fact that I’ll be back in 2 short weeks, then again a few weeks later and a few weeks after that. More Lodi in my future–yay!

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Salt potatoes!

We in eastern Ontario are used to poutine being our favourite regional potato dish, but down here in the Finger Lakes there’s a tradition in potatoes that gives poutine a run for it’s
money in taste, calories and sodium content.

What could be simpler and more delicious that taking adorable new potatoes and boiling them in water with a crapload of salt in it? Nothing, I tell you, and it’s one of the surest signs of summer too.

It’s apparently a product of local salt miners getting creative/resourceful around the lunch hour. For a great article with more factual accuracies than you’re likely to get on this blog check out the latest issue of Edible Finger Lakes.

Many folks around here grew up eating this delicacy and in the last 2 weeks I’ve been here I can attest to their pervasiveness. I think I’ve had them at least 4 times, including an incredibly butter-drenched serving at the Lodi Library Fundraising chicken BBQ. My arteries are not pleased with me at all.

And folks, here’s a wee tip: it IS possible to have too much of a good thing (trust me. “put in a ton of salt and then just when you think you’ve put in too much, keep going” were the words that led to inedibly salty potatoes. So tragic; so, so salty).

Here’s the ratio discovered by making careful notes from consuming the last bag of salt potatoes: 5 pounds potatoes, boiled in 4 quarts of water with 1 cup of salt for 20 minutes.

Yum.

Putting in the Garden

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Well, it’s Victoria Day weekend here in Canada and that means many things. For those of us hoping to have fresh produce on our tables later in the summer it means that it’s time to put in the garden!

In *theory* and by general rule of thumb, the “risk of last frost” is the Victoria Day weekend.

So I’m about to make the trek down to Lodi (where they of course don’t celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Will someone remind me why we still do that in Canada?) for our first really big gardening weekend of the season.

We will have our work cut out for us.

We’ll need to fence up the new garden plots if we want our produce to be anything other than a woodchuck buffet.

We’ll need to head up to the Amish markets to buy our healthy little plants and then do the stoop labour of planting them in their tidy little rows.

This year we have some handy-dandy plant stakes that I will painstakingly and lovingly craft and apply in the appropriate areas.

I also have the feeling that there will be some prodigious weeding to do.

Things I will endeavour to do:
-wear sunscreen and a sun hat at all times
-not lose my gardening gloves 1.5 hours into the experience
-look better in the gardening process photos
-not get into monumental arguments about what we plant and where we plant it
-not be too hard on ourselves if we can’t get *everything* done this weekend

Getting Ready for the Season

Sitting on the dock

Sitting on the dock

Spring has definitely arrived and you know that means only one thing: summer is right around the corner. Lazy afternoons reading on the porch, thunderstorms rolling across the lake, corn on the cob, floating endlessly in the lake are all right around the corner.

But we’re not there quite yet and there’s work to do until we can enjoy the spoils of summer. Now is definitely the time to put in the hard work so that we can rest easy for the summer months.

Mum and Dad are heading down for the season shortly and will be living large in Lodi for the next six months or so. So when I say “we” in the above paragraph the majority of the work will be done by Mum and Dad until the next long weekend when us kids will be down to help out.

In the meantime though the first cottage rental coming up in a few weeks and so “we” have got to get the cottage opened up, aired out and spiffed up a bit. We’ll find out in the next week or so if there are any major repairs needed but usually all that’s required is some serious cleaning and the occasional spot of fresh paint.

So it’s time to start dreaming about what the summer will bring! New wineries to visit! New restaurants to try! New puzzles to master! New recipes for fresh tomatoes to try! New sunburns to nurse! New marshmallows to incinerate! New friends to introduce to the joys of life in Lodi!

Want to come and visit? Let me know when you’ll be arriving! Oh, and can you pick up a 12-pack of Yuengling and rolls from the Ovid Big M on your way?

On being far from home…

I’ve been missing Lodi the last few weeks after an intense spring and summer of work on the garden, the properties and of course visiting with friends and family. Now that I’m back into the city swing of things I feel far from the comfort of Lodi and the feelings of home.

I’ve never lived in Lodi though I consider it my home town as much as my real hometown, St. John’s Newfoundland where I was born and raised and Ottawa, my current home base. It’s a bit odd, but I guess in this scenario I’m always away from my Lodi home, which does make me feel nostalgic and wistful.

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

When I was little and for many years we used to drive from St. John’s to Lodi. Yes, drive. If you’re wondering what that was like, let me paint you a picture: a family of four + enough supplies for 2 summer months activities + a 1980s-era Ford fiesta (canary yellow). I know you’re picturing an overstuffed roof rack as well, and piles of baggage piled between the two children so they couldn’t possibly whack each other. Oh, and take that mental picture and stretch it over four travel days. Four days. Four people. Two ferries. One Ford Fiesta.

The Ambrose Shea

The Ambrose Shea

I remember loving those trips, though I’m sure I was miserable at some point if not for the entire four days. But certainly the highlights were the two ferry rides we had to take: one to get from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia which took 18 hours in those days. The other ferry took us from Nova Scotia to Maine and then we were in the home stretch. We used to take the sturdy and dependable Ambrose Shea to take us across the tumultuous Atlantic. The ferry was not glamourous but I loved it nonetheless. There was shuffleboard on the upper deck, James Bond movies in high rotation and a cafeteria that feautured endless combinations of things that could be smothered in gravy.

All of this travelling made the arrival in Lodi all the more sweet. We loved getting there but we loved being in Lodi for the whole summer much more. I’m much closer to Lodi now, only about 4.5 hours from Ottawa, but it still feels like a slog to get there. That feeling of arrival remains as sweet as ever.

Local Food and Farmers’ Markets




Tomatillos

Originally uploaded by j-co

Lodi could be considered a hub of the local food movement, only because there’s always been a local food movement in this area. It’s just never been cool before.

Of course I’m exaggerating: Lodi’s not really a hub of too much, to be honest, but there’s no exaggerating the vibrancy of local produce growers and farmers’ markets in the Finger Lakes.

There’s a lot of agriculture around Lodi, but the large industrial crops are almost exclusively soybeans and feed corn. In recent years small farms offering CSAs have boomed, and more farmers markets have developed offering people the chance to feel closer to the food they eat and who produces it.

Throughout my childhood during the summers in Lodi you could count on the farm stands that dot the country roads and highways providing much of your summer meals. With delicious sweet corn that explodes in your mouth to perfectly ripe peaches whose juice drips down your chin to the ubiquitous zucchini, there has never been a shortage of great local produce. It’s always one of the best things about being in Lodi in the summer.

The Ithaca Farmers Market has been around for years and never disappoints with the great variety of produce as well as the diverse international food vendors and live music. This summer I became enamored of the Trumansburg Farmers Market which is much smaller by comparison but is off the charts when it comes to friendliness. Almost all of the vendors, which range from a goat dairy to cinnamon buns to specialty garlic in addition to the requisite produce are happy to engage in conversation, offer advice to novice gardeners and actually want to know what you think of their food.

One of the best produce finds of the summer were the tomatillos from the Ithaca market pictured here. I had no clue what to do with them but the kind vendor offered me a salsa verde recipe which was to die for. Now I’m hooked on tomatillos and am determined to grow them in the garden next summer. Salsa verde for all!

Summer Visitors




Tomatoes from the garden for dinner

Originally uploaded by j-co

This summer has been the summer of visitors to Lodi. I don’t know why, but we’ve been lucky enough to have a steady stream of friends visiting Lodi for summer mini-breaks over the last month or so.

Most recently we had a house full of 8, including 2 kids, and we had a wonderful time lounging about the house, poking around in the barns, swimming in the lake and touring around the area.

My friends said they had no idea the Finger Lakes were so close, which I think is part of the reason people love coming here: it’s still a relatively unknown little hidden gem of a vacation spot. It’s odd because it is so close to many larger cities: only 5 hours from both NYC and Toronto, 4.5 hours from Ottawa, 6 or so hours from Boston.

I love to show my friends around Lodi and the area. There is so much family history that the stories are amazingly realistic when you can say “My grandfather’s Wallpaper store was right there, across the street”. I feel proud and happy to have the luxury of being so clearly connected to my ancestors and their lives.

Most fun, of course, is showing off the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes with the rolling hills, vineyards and amazing lake views. The wineries are always enjoyable to visit and so convenient with 20 or so within a 20-mile stretch of Route 414 near Lodi. There are fabulous restaurants featuring ingredients procured from local farmers. And there’s always the outlet mall for a little retail therapy, if that’s what you need.

But best of all is gathering together with friends and infusing this house that’s seen so much of my family history over 100 years with the laughter of children, the smells of great meals cooking with ingredients picked fresh from the garden and the enjoyment of warm, wonderful friendship.

So, when are you coming?