My little home in Southern Wisconsin (and much of the Great Lakes basin) is experiencing a crazy arctic blast of beyond sub-zero temperatures right now. The temps are to stay below zero for the next 48 hours peaking tomorrow evening at a chilling -30 degrees. That’s before windchill.
As a farmer, I am of course thinking of all my fellow farmers during this cold spell. My heart is with all of our friends (and my parents) who are still actively farming during this chilly month. Taking care of animals only gets harder when the temperatures drop below zero. Keeping them alive and warm becomes the only priority. In these increasingly frequent “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events, there’s no debating that it is a difficult time to be trying to earn a living off the land.
For my band of organic produce farmers, the cold weather is actually pretty wonderful. The numbing cold is sure to reduce pest populations which have been surging in recent years of mild winter after mild winter. Sure, our greenhouses are slouching under the weight of a couple feet of snow, but cleaning the snow off greenhouses in winter is the very best kind of workout: an opportunity to use our restless bodies outdoors doing something deeply physical.
Since I don’t have animals to care for and winter is my time of rest, I must admit I do deeply love this space of arctic cold, feet of snow, and canceled plans. I love deep winter for its unburdening of the non-essential, and the ways it sets all my regular rhythms askew. Suddenly there is space left open to read and journal, to call dear friends and clean out cluttered spaces making room for the things yet to come. I finally have space to sink into the quiet– something that almost never exists in the bustling life of a young entrepreneur.
I even love the way deep winter affects my physical routines. There are days I can’t run or hike outdoors, especially with pups. With shortened days and temps this chilling, it feels irresponsible. My movement moves indoors and I’m forced to get creative. When I do venture out to run in freshly fallen snow, my legs scream at the resistance. I grind forward more slowly. I remember that slow can still be meaningful.
Before the bitter cold began, my husband and I cleaned out our garage fridge. Our garage is not connected to our house and therefore not heated in anyway. We’ve learned that a refrigerator just can’t keep up in subzero temperatures and whatever was left in there would soon freeze (and then rot).
We cleaned, sorted, trimmed and composted the remains of our 2018 season until everything from the three large storage crates fit into our home fridge. It felt gratifying to touch the fruits of summer and to see so much remain into late January.
I discovered a bag of still perfect Brussels sprouts at the bottom of one bin and immediately began to thinly slice them into a salad. The last thing I want right now is anything roasted. We’ve been devouring roasted turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes for weeks. I’m craving greens. I’m craving something fresh, bright and light. This salad is just that: a burst of sunshine and warmth in a cold week. Tossed with a simple, quick vinaigrette of fish sauce, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, tamari, and sesame oil before being topped with fresh apple and crunchy peanuts, this salad is effortless. Slicing the Brussels sprouts will be the hardest part.
Stay safe and warm my dear ones. Take these bitter cold moments and let them expand your soul.
SPICY BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PEANUTS & APPLES
Serves 2-4 for dinner
Takes 30 minutes
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1-2 tart apples, cored and diced
- Place sliced Brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, tamari, fish sauce, syrup and red pepper flakes. Add vinaigrette to Brussels and toss to combine.
- Serve with peanuts and apples.