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A perfect winter day


By Loni Kemp

Fri, Jan 31st, 2014
Posted in All Columnists

I rose early to make scones and prepare an egg bake. Our company was coming at midmorning and our brunch must be ready to serve. It pleased me to realize that the eggs came from the neighbors, the uncured ham from over near Rushford, the milk from Chatfield, the oyster mushrooms from Harmony, and the exquisite cheese from Wisconsin, via Lanesboro Local. Our own apple cider tasted as fresh as the day it was pressed and tucked into the freezer. How lucky we are to have the tastiest and most natural foods grown right in the neighborhood.

We had planned this gathering many weeks earlier, before multiple snowstorms and cold snaps hit one after the other. I had been warning myself that our plans might not work out after all. Yet the day brought sunshine and 30 degrees, easily the nicest day in over a month.

Our lifelong friends arrived from Rochester, bringing their sister and brother-in-law who were visiting from Baltimore, and bearing a lovely fig and nut bread to add to the spread. After coffee was poured, we sat down to our light brunch and caught up on news of families and jobs.

When the meal had digested a bit, everyone was gung-ho to go snowshoeing. After some wrestling with gaiters and bindings, we were off. While hiking or skiing in untracked woods is certainly possible, modern light-weight snowshoes make winter excursions more enjoyable. The snow was a perfect combination of a bottom layer of hard packed snow hiding the logs and sticks, topped off with a fluffy foot of powder.

We tromped single file through the woods. With no plans to do anything to this land except to continue enjoying it in all seasons, I am reminded that we don’t really own the land, the land owns us. The trees, birds and wildlife could not care less whether we think we own it. Life goes on here, with or without humans, as long as we are good stewards like all the Native American, pioneer and farmer “owners” who have come before us.

Snowshoeing out onto a cornfield, we felt a cold wind, and realized how comfortable it was in the sheltered woodland. Turning back in, we swished our way deeper into the forest, marching up hills and down, as we made our way to the broad wooded floodplain along the creek. Meandering along the serpentine waterway, we saw its frozen and snow-covered surface dotted with tell-tale tracks of deer and squirrels who stay active all winter long.

Suddenly we came upon a section of the creek with a beautiful blue-green sheen of ice. Since it had snowed several inches the day before, we were mystified why this particular section had no snow on the water surface, yet was frozen solid. Further along there were some wet areas, so we surmised that spring-fed waters must wash over the ice frequently, building up the ice as it freezes, yet melting any snow that falls.

Our friends needed a little convincing that the creek is only a foot deep under the ice, and then we all dropped down and crossed over the ice and clambered up the other bank. After exploring more woodlands and the snug little hayfield, we slogged up a long hill and returned to the house.

Our day was rounded out by a wine and food pairing class at Quarter/quarter Restaurant and Wine Bar in Harmony, where we tasted Spanish wines and foods that were the equal of fine European dining. Our guests hit the road for home, and we returned home for a nice afternoon nap.

The next day turned wildly wintery again, resulting in a four-day period snowbound at home. I have ventured out a few times to try to trace our snowshoe tracks, but they were brushed over by howling winds and new snow.

Egg Bake

3 slices bread, cubed

1 pound cubed ham or cooked pork sausage

1 cup grated cheese

I cup mushrooms, lightly sautéed in pork drippings

6 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard

1 teaspoon salt

herbs to taste - parsley, rosemary or thyme

Put bread, meat, cheese and mushrooms in a 9 or 10 inch square baking dish. Mix the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and herbs and pour over. This can be prepared the night before and refrigerated. Bake at 350 degrees until set, about 45-60 minutes. Serves 6.

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5113

3:59:06, Feb 1st 2014

Sally Keating says:
Loni! PERFECT in every way. The article. That day. Our friendship. The egg bake.