The Vermont Homesteader

Local Food: Peanut Butter Style

A photo of Melissa Brooks SenesacI have fond memories of my childhood. It was a great time, I had the best parents ever (still do, in fact). I remember hanging out at home when I was really little eating a peanut butter and fluff sandwich with some chicken noodle soup while watching The Price is Right. Rubbing my little toes into the shag carpet (ok, not sure if it was really shag, but you know, it was that beautiful, shag-like, orange carpet) I’d munch away on some serious comfort food.

I don’t watch The Price is Right anymore; it just isn’t the same without Bob Barker (no offense Drew). But anytime I hear the theme music or any reference to it I have an instant craving for a PB & fluff sandwich with chicken noodle soup. To me, peanut butter is the key to some seriously hearty, easy meals and snacks: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and honey on toast, peanut sauce and noodles, peanut butter cookies, buckeyes (peanut butter balls covered in chocolate), peanut butter on a spoon. Yum.

Peanut butter is right up there with eggs as being a super-food. Full of great stuff like protein, fiber, vitamin E, iron, calcium, and potassium (though not as great a source as bananas, still pretty darned good), it’s my favorite thing to bring on a day hike or bike ride up here in the mountains of Northern Vermont.

If you buy what I call “traditional” peanut butter, you could be outweighing these healthy aspects with negative things like additional trans-fatty acids and carcinogenic mold. So, buy all-natural, organic peanut butter. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I have to say that I am one lucky gal that we’ve got a local company that makes up their very own peanut butter (as well as almond butter). The Vermont Peanut Butter Company is situated right in the heart of Stowe, Vermont. You can get everything from plain creamy or chunky peanut butter to my favorite: Champlain Cherry, which is a combination almond butter with chocolate and dried cherries mixed in. Just thinking about it makes me drool all over my keyboard. The Vermont Peanut Butter Company very well could be the biggest Vermont thing to hit the globe since Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Although, currently, they’re not nearly as large-scale as B & J’s, that is one of the things that is most important. The Vermont Peanut Butter Company isn’t owned by any big corporations (like Ben and Jerry’s Unilever), run from a distance by people in business suits in a highrise. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream who, I hear, is going fully Fair Trade!) It is owned and operated by a handful of local folks (one of which happens to be a very dear friend of mine) who you could easily happen upon during an outing here in the Green Mountains.

Now, you can’t find their peanut butter just anywhere. No, they don’t supply the big chain stores like Price Chopper and Hannafords (trust me, I’ve looked), but you can get your very own jar of delicious goodness (or Karma, or Harvest) shipped straight to your house. “How?” might you ask. Well, my dear friends, they’ve got a nice little website where you can check out their story and maybe pick up a jar or two of anything that strikes your fancy. I’ll make a suggestion: get at least two jars. Kyle and I went through a jar of Champlain Cherry in a week.

**I should note that I have not been paid or otherwise compensated for this endorsement – I’m just a girl loving her locally-produced products.**

After the Storm: Livestock Bring Peace

A photo of Melissa Brooks SenesacAs I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been ready for spring for over a month now. We started some seeds, which are doing remakably well compared to previous attempts at seed-starting (don’t get too excited, mostly just herbs, some hot peppers, and some tomatos to grow in the house). The little snow we had was melting fast, and I would say that half of our land was grass or spotty snow. Just last week I saw the first of the spring flowers popping up through the ground. I was getting excited for the girls who must be really looking forward to some nice fresh grass after all these months of hay and grain.

But, alas, we suffered a major set-back in this department yesterday when I awoke to a foot of wet snow on the ground and plenty more falling. We donned our winter gear and headed out to see if we could get the snowblower going. After ten minutes of frustration in the realization that the auger wouldn’t be able to handle the heavy, wet snow, we gave in, and I called in to work.

Though I wasn’t exactly psyched to get such a significant snowfall, I have to admit it was truly beautiful. After giving up on the snowblower and its deafening noise as it choked through the snow back to its parking spot, we headed to the barn to feed everyone an early breakfast. The sun hadn’t yet come up, and we enjoyed some quiet time before the world awoke.

The girls happily munched away at their breakfast of grain and some nice second-cut hay that we found at Guys Farm and Yard over in Morrisville a few days ago. The chickens scratched away at the ground, finding grain and bits of stuff we unearthed after cleaning out half of the old straw this past weekend. The pigs, in their own shed, grunted and squeeked through their mix of grain and food scraps.

There is something just so pleasant about the sound of contently eating farm animals. I think it is partially due to the frantic moments before everyone is fed, while everyone is demanding their breakfast, that we come to really appreciate the quiet afterwards. We rush to feed the pigs before their squealing could bother the neighbors, and we quickly feed the goats before we’re covered in hoof prints, then finally cast out grain for the chickens before they start trying to steal from the pigs and the goats. Once its all said and done, and everyone has fresh, clean water, we can sit back and enjoy the peace.

Our life doesn’t seem to lend itself to too many moments of peace. There is always laundry to do, dishes to wash, dogs to exercise, animals to feed, pigs to move from the barn to their shed, water buckets to fill, eggs to collect, reading/studying to do, goats to check on, home renovations to tackle, not to mention our full-time jobs. So, during these quiet moments before the sun comes up and the sense of urgency to get to work (in one sense or another) arises, we find a second to stand still, hold hands, and breathe deep.