The Summer Farm Stand. We’ve been barking on about it forever, like boring uncles at a wedding. Its incipient arrival has been dangling off the bottom of the Producers page since triceratops was chased up Webster Brook by a pack of teenage weed-smoking velociraptors. We said it was coming. And we said it again. But the Plague of Water came first. Followed hard upon by frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts and darkness. But these – the routine vicissitudes of a Catskills spring – are behind us since Steve Burnett parted the headwaters of the Little Delaware and we all shuffled across with our Tilsit & Pickled Onion sandwiches. He was last seen storming up Mount Utsayantha muttering something about a planet populated exclusively by monkeys.
This Saturday, 22nd June will mark the unveiling of the Last Harvest Farm Stand at Table on Ten. Yet another sparkling collaboration, on this occasion involving our cherished friends and neighbours Katrin and Jamie Stelmashuck, who have been doggedly tossing seed into the teeth of horizontal tempests all May. There’ll be clusters of their windblown pirat butterheads readily available on the shores of Western Ireland all summer.
Katrin and Jamie live on Bloomville Hill with their kids, Mya and Hans, just up the road from Katrin’s mum and dad Annemarie and Walter Schmid who moved to Valley View Farm from Switzerland 43 years ago; verifiable latterday Bloomville pioneers. Continuing a farming tradition, Katrin and Jamie run their own small vegetable farm – Last Harvest – so close to Table on Ten that that a well-furnished zip-line would see them hurtling through the front door like Navy Seals, their arms burgeoning with russian kale. We’ve sung their praises before, on the subject of egg production on the frost-encrusted tundra. And now we’re taking matters a beautiful step further. Every Saturday morning Jamie will be manning the stand at Table on Ten sharing the the fruits of Last Harvest’s labours, while Katrin is upstairs putting Eggs in their Nests, chipotle into the Almost Guacamole. In a nod to Victorian values, Mya will be featured as chirpy-cockney flower girl and Hans is the perfect size for sending up chimneys. Truly a family affair, straight out of Oliver Twist.
This weekend expect greens. Red russian and curly kale, ruby streaks mustard, mesclun mix, butterhead lettuce, sorrel. Plus rhubarb from a century-old heirloom patch, radishes, dandelion roots. As the summer flourishes, so too will the offerings. A visit to the farm this week saw the first shoots of an abundance that’ll grace the stand in weeks to come. Red and golden beets, carrots, cucumbers, leeks, garlic, red cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, sugar snap peas, green beans, red, white and blue potatoes. And always, always greens.
But no mention of Last Harvest would be complete without a little reflection upon Katrin.
Katrin appeared to us last summer, shortly after we’d opened. She came, like all good things, bearing children and flowers. Within a few weeks she was indispensable. As handy with a mop as with a spatula, she is our Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest, our Liberty at the Barricades, Jean d’Arc, Florence Nightingale, Joan Jett, our Gioconda and our Beatrix Potter. She’s functionally Table on Ten’s Rock of Gibraltar, which is not to say she’s windswept, facing Morocco and covered in primates; rather, she grounds the kitchen with her clarity, artful dodger smarts and boundless work-ethic. She brings a baritone note of common-sense to the symphony when the rest of us are anguishing over the virtues of sow thistle greens over oxeye daisy buds. She samples the chilled milkweed thistle soup and tells us it tastes like mulched grass clippings. And those stories; the ones that begin mysteriously, meander haphazardly and finish dangling in mid-sentence. Heavy on the Marmite and light on the anguish, she educates us on the arcane ‘who’s who and with who’ details of small town life with the empirical tenderness of an indulgent schoolteacher. It is impossible and unnerving to imagine Table on Ten without Katrin. She is woven into the very fabric of the place, each move we’ve made, everything we have been and become. And now I’m starting to cry. Huge tears, like christmas baubles are falling like rain. The ‘u’ and ‘h’ on my keyboard have stopped working and my dog just brought me a squeaky plastic pork chop to make me feel better. It must be love.
Where’s Zev Rovine when you need him?