Category Archives: The New York Times

Horse Power

cedarmountainfarm_0279sDrop me off on a farm with a camera and come back in eight hours; chances are I’ll be occupied and supremely content the whole time. After all, I am a country girl at heart. When the subject matter is something I am particularly drawn to, I can get completely lost in what I’m doing, enamored by all that is going on around me and hesitant to take that one final frame even after a full day of shooting. Such was the case at Cedar Mountain Farm in Hartland, Vermont, in late April. Twenty-one of the resulting images appeared in Anne Raver’s excellent story about the farm’s horse-powered component in the Home & Garden section of The New York Times recently.

Read the article for the back story on Stephen Leslie’s fascinating trajectory from artist to monk to organic farmer and horse whisperer. His calm, gentle, yet assured manner in dealing with the Norwegian Fjord horses was a wonder to witness. The 1,000-pound animals were decidedly non-threatening and obedient. After seeing him in action, I have no doubt his new book from Chelsea Green The New Horse-Powered Farm: Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale Sustainable Market Grower is bound to become the definitive book on the subject.

Having recently spent time in an intense environment where people are connected to the point of distraction—and getting sucked into it myself as a recent iPhone convert—I particularly appreciate Stephen’s desire to delve into the spiritual element of working so closely with these animals. In the article he says, “I think people are hungering for a kind of unplugged reality. That leads to a deeper self-understanding.” Coincidentally, I just read “The Art of Paying Attention” by James Fallows in this month’s The Atlantic about continuous partial attention and how to focus in this hyperconnected world. Linda Stone, the tech executive Fallows interviews, conjectures that “the generation that has been tethered to devices serves as a cautionary example to the next generation, which may decide this is not a satisfying way to live.” Let it be so. Below are some outtakes from this environment of “relaxed presence” where the only tethering is that of the horses to the plow, and where, as Stone says, “Mind and body are in the same place at the same time”—something we could all benefit from striving toward.

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The Norwegian Fjord horse has many distinct physical attributes including this dorsal stripe handsomely displayed by Tristan.

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Grooming the copiously shedding horses is a daily ritual.

Making short work of a field where a cover crop will be planted.

Making short work of a field where a cover crop will be planted.

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Never one to miss out on a party, the youngest Fjord horse on Cedar Mountain Farm, Isolde, gallops to catch up to her friends already out to pasture.

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The horses are so calm that even Charlie the barn cat feels comfortable walking underneath them!

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Stephen leads his 6-year-old daughter, Maeve, onto the farm when she arrives home from school.

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Charlie keeps Maeve company in a corner of the milking parlor while her parents tend to the 20 jersey cows that need milking.

Maeve occupies herself while her parents work.

A curious cow observes Maeve as she colors.

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First in line for dinner!

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Stephen’s wife, Kerry Gawalt, feeds the farm’s cows prior to milking. The cows’ manure is composted and turned into the fields by the draft horses.

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In regard to not letting your own stress affect the horses, Stephen says, “That’s the Zen practice you have to work on yourself: Take some deep breaths, create some sense of calm.”

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Living the Good Life

I look forward to most of the assignments I get from The New York Times. Naturally, they do stories on interesting things and people and because I shoot primarily for the Dining & Wine and Home & Garden sections, I’m almost always guaranteed to get gigs I’m interested in. But sometimes one comes along that I’m not just interested in, but really, really excited about. When the picture editor for the Home & Garden section contacted me last fall about a story in Harborside, Maine, I knew right away who the subjects were before she even told me. “Sounds like it must be Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch,” I wrote. “That’s exactly who it is!” she replied. Well, almost everyone who has been gardening, especially in Maine, for any length of time, has heard of this organic gardening powerhouse couple. Damrosch’s Garden Primer, a grower’s bible, sits tattered and soil-stained on many a bookshelf, including mine. And Coleman’s recent books on extending the growing season into the winter have changed the landscape of growing in colder climates. His contributions to organic gardening go on and on; just flip through a Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and see how many times his name is mentioned as a developer of ground-breaking (sometimes literally!) farming tools.

Coleman prepares a bed for seeding with one of the tools he invented, the tilther, which is powered by a rechargeable drill.

So, as an avid home gardener, and year-round supporter of organic farms, it was with great enthusiasm and anticipation that I drove down the long, windy road to Cape Rosier, about three hours northeast of Portland in early February to take the photos for this article on winter growing. This is storied territory; the legendary back-to-landers Helen and Scott Nearing lived here. Greatly influenced by their book Living the Good Life, Coleman sought them out in 1968 and purchased land from them on which to farm and live. Over the decades, what is now called Four Season Farm has grown into a tidy compound of greenhouses, barns, root cellars, a farmstand/art gallery and housing for Coleman, Damrosch and their seasonal workers.

In one of three root cellars on Four Season Farm, Coleman holds a mangold, which is a giant beet that they use as feed for the chickens.

Although Mother Nature did not cooperate by providing the snow cover Maine is so often associated with in this season, there were plenty of scenic shots to be had. Greenhouses filled with leeks, onions, carrots, spinach and other greens were a sight for storage-vegetable-saturated eyes (and bellies). Coleman told me that even after all these years of winter growing, he is still filled with child-like excitement when he unfurls a row cover and sees green in the middle of winter. I know the feeling, though on a much smaller scale. My husband and I put some spinach seeds in a small, covered raised bed in late fall one year and the next spring opened up the cover to find big, beautiful spinach leaves. We were truly amazed as we didn’t really think anything could survive the Maine winter outdoors! Now it is our practice to plant spinach in October for an early spring harvest of sweet, green leaves.

A bed of spinach that was planted in the fall continues to grow through the winter in an unheated greenhouse on the farm.

Damrosch harvests tatsoi, a hardy Asian green that is growing in a glasshouse attached to their home.

Damrosch is an accomplished cook (with a cookbook coming out next year) and after a couple of hours roaming around the farm happily photographing the winter bounty, I was lucky enough to partake in a lunch she prepared that was filling enough for a farmer plowing fields all day long. The highlight was a platter of Four Season Farm beets, carrots and spinach thinnings. And what a treat it was just to sit at a table with these two stalwarts of organic growing, eating beautiful food and enjoying good conversation, their love of their lives and work—which are really one in the same—readily apparent. Not that they aren’t incredibly busy and I’m sure, at times, stressed out, but they seem to be possessed of an energy more often found in people decades younger.

Lunch fit for a farmer.

Damrosch and Coleman: clearly a couple that was meant to be!

After lunch, Eliot, who is 73, got right back to work preparing a row in one greenhouse for seeding carrots and then sowing the seed. Then dozens of eggs needed to be collected, washed and packaged for sale. In peak growing season, I can only imagine how much more there is to keep track of. I left feeling completely impressed and inspired by how hard these two work and all they have accomplished. How they live their lives is laudable, but even more noteworthy is how they’ve empowered others to live the good life too. Not everyone can have multiple acres to grow food on, nor the time to tend to it, but certainly incorporating small bits of what Damrosch and Coleman do into one’s own life is possible in many cases. Despite living on tenth-of-an-acre plots in suburban South Portland, after this article came out, a neighbor and I started discussing how and where we could build a little greenhouse to extend our short growing season. Maybe by next spring our tiny winter spinach-growing project will have blossomed into one that can keep at least four people in fresh organic greens through the winter!

Heading towards the barn at day’s end.

Falling Far from the Tree

Gorgeous organic specimens: Black Oxfords and Golden Russet

A few weeks ago, shortly after that late October storm pummeled parts of the Northeast, I headed northwest across the state and into the mountains of New Hampshire to take photos for this piece on organic apple growing that recently ran in The New York Times. I always love seeing parts of the state that I’ve never been in. Since much of my work takes me up and down the coast, I don’t get inland very often. The drive was so lovely that the three hours actually went by quite quickly. The thick fog melding with a light layer of snow and punctuated by the occasional tree still dressed in its fall colors soon gave way to a bright, sunny day. It was mid-morning by the time I reached Groveton, N.H., home of Michael Phillips’ Lost Nation Orchard, and luckily, most of the snow in the orchard had melted. Phillips is well known and respected among organic growers (at least based on my random sampling of those here in Maine). His new book, The Holistic Orchard, which will be published in December, will no doubt add to his acclaim in this field.

Organic-apple-growing guru Michael Phillips

Only a few trees in the orchard still had apples on them at this late date, including this lovely GoldRush variety.

Growing fruit organically is still rare enough that a sign seen recently at my local farmers’ market next to a bin of sad, beat-up looking apples read “as close to organic as you’re going to get.” Well, it turns out, this is not the case! There are organic apples out there and they are not only gorgeous, but out-of-this-world delicious (and I mean so tasty that you can easily envision being totally satisfied having one for dessert). However, you have to work hard to find them. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this was not the case? Apples routinely top the list of pesticide-tainted fruits and vegetables, and while most apples tested are below the EPA’s levels of concern, call me crazy, but I have a hard time imagining that consuming trace amounts of pesticides is good for you (not to mention what they do to the environment). You can help encourage more orchards to grow organically with your purchasing power. Seek out organically grown apples whenever possible. (There’s a good list of orchards who emphasize health in their farming practices here). Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

As part of the process of organically nourishing his apple trees, Michael Phillips lightly spreads a compost of manure and deciduous wood chips under the drip line of the tree (the circular area at the outer ends of the branches) each fall.

I had the pleasure of seeing the loving care Phillips puts into his trees, as well as tasting a selection of the more than 80 varieties of organic apples he grows. I have honestly never tasted such incredible apples. They all had such distinctive flavors, but my favorite on this day was also possibly the most beautiful one—the Black Oxford. At once sweet and tart, this dramatic purpley-black fruit is satisfyingly crisp. As if that weren’t enough to make it my new favorite apple, I then learned it originated in West Paris, Maine, in the late 1700s! Oh, if only I had a stockpile of these for the winter, I’d be one happy organic apple convert.

Among the 80 varieties of organic apples that Michael Phillips grows are (clockwise from upper left) Golden Russet, Erwin Bauer, Rhode Island Greening, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Black Oxford.

GoldRush apples are considered a great holiday dessert and cider apple because of their high sugar content.

Beauteous Bovines

Tim Huppe, farm manager at Sanborn Mills Farm in Loudon, N.H., driving a team of oxen as they haul lumber.


The New York Times
ran an article last week about a rising interest in using animal power on small farms as an alternative to gas-powered machinery. I had the pleasure of photographing two oxen experts on a farm in central New Hampshire for this piece. Tim Huppe, farm manager at Sanborn Mills Farm, and Drew Conroy, professor of applied animals sciences at the University of New Hampshire, demonstrated for me how well-trained oxen can haul lumber and plow fields.

Tim has spent years training Joe and Jake, and other teams like them, including one that was used in the John Adams miniseries.

Drew Conroy wrote the definitive guide to working with oxen.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these incredible creatures, who, despite weighing a ton (literally!) and sporting some seriously pointy horns, were as gentle as could be. Okay, so the fact that they’re castrated may have just a little something to do with that. Did you know that an ox is simply any castrated bovine that is used in a work capacity? I didn’t. Other interesting oxen facts I learned on the bright, warm April day that I visited the picturesque farm included that oxen who are injured while they are growing get what are called misery rings in their horns. One of the oxen at the farm, Joe, has a circular mark on each horn due to a problem he had with his leg when he was younger. I also learned that oxen who work in teams for several years form an unusually close bond with each other, to the extent that if one dies or needs to be euthanized for some reason, it is often more humane to put the other one down at the same time.

"Misery rings" on an ox's horns indicate a past injury.

Tim was kind enough to let me try my hand at “driving” the oxen, which basically involves saying “gee,” “haw,” “whoa” and other universally used commands while raising or lowering a stick. This team was so well trained that I think they would have walked all the way back to Maine with me if I’d asked them to. While that was tempting given the short work they could make of overturning my garden beds, I decided they’d be happier on their 350-acre idyllic estate.

The boys, doing what they do best.

Busy Being Busy

Wow. It is OCTOBER. I can’t remember a stretch of time since I’ve had my own photography business when I’ve been this busy, which is why you haven’t heard from me in months. I really want to do a blog post about being busy, but well, I’m too busy. Seriously though, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Even when work is slow people say they are busy. Why is this? It’s because in this country it has become a virtue to always be busy and because even when work isn’t occupying our time, we fill it with a million other stupid, little things. You can’t say “I’m sitting around doing nothing, life is good!” That would just not be right. So the frequent answer to “how are you?” is “busy.” I’m going to pursue this topic further when I’m less busy, but since I have a rare, relatively light day of work I’m going to take advantage of it and post some photos from the past few months so you can see I have been busy!

A big chunk of my spring and summer was consumed with styling and shooting (and sometimes even baking the recipes for) a gluten-free cookie cookbook that will be published by Sellers Publishing in spring 2011. The cookbook author lives in New York, but the publisher, who was interested in working with me here in Maine, didn’t let that stop them. They arranged to have most of the cookies shipped! For the most part this went surprisingly well. On only a few occasions did it seem like FedEx must have run over the box of goods…repeatedly. In those cases, I would manage to rescue two or three undamaged ones out of a dozen and a half, or maybe show a “half-eaten” one in the shot. And the answer to everyone’s first question about this project is “Yes, I did get to eat them afterward.” (And I shared them when I was feeling generous…or had a dentist visit on the horizon.) The book will feature fifty recipes (and photos) organized into six chapters. Two of my favorites (both the photos and the taste) are below. Keep an eye out for this title next spring. It will make a great gift for your gluten-intolerant or gluten-sensitive friends, and those who can consume gluten safely will find several keeper recipes as well.

Walnut brownies and jam thumbprints, 2 of 50 photos I took for Gluten-Free Cookies, which will be published in spring 2011.

When not styling, shooting or eating cookies, I still surrounded myself with food, of course, including gardening, cooking and indulging in amazing meals made by others.

Ample sun and warmth this summer made for happy veggies—like these purple-top turnips—in our ever-expanding garden.

An alfresco dinner of food foraged from Maine waters, fields, shores and forests prepared by talented local cooks and chefs was a welcome respite on a sultry July evening.

And then it was back to work. For a New York Times article on the resurgence of locally grown wheat in the U.S., I shot at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine, and at a nearby farm.

Grassland Farm in Skowhegan is experimenting with growing wheat, while Jim Amaral of Borealis Breads uses 10-20% local wheat in his bakery's bread.

As August neared its steamy end, I revisited the gardens belonging to a Cape Elizabeth woman who grows and preserves copious amounts of vegetables and fruit. Earlier in the year, I photographed her and her delicious peach salsa, made from her very own peaches, hot peppers and honey, for this story in Yankee magazine. It was a treat to go back when the trees were laden with fruit.

Locally grown peaches enjoyed the summer heat.

Currently, in addition to day-long assignments here and there, I’m in the midst of two longer-term projects. I’m shooting for Maine College of Art’s student viewbook, which has so far brought me to more than a half dozen colorful and creative events, including one of my favorite places to shoot in Portland, the farmers’ market. More on this project—which, thanks to a great graphic designer has pushed my shooting in a new and good direction—later.

Rainbows of color provided by Fishbowl Farm (left) and Green Spark Farm at the Portland Farmers' Market, one event of many I shot for Maine College of Art's viewbook.

The other project is a resurrection of the well-loved Savoring Maine food calendar that I produced in 2009. This time Down East will be publishing it with recipes from their various cookbooks. It will be called Great Maine Food and will feature my photography. It’s for 2012 (yes, publishers work WAY in advance) so look for it in local bookstores mid next year!

Candidates for the 2012 Great Maine Food calendar being published by Down East.

For someone who is busy, that was one lengthy blog post! But, I owed you. I’ll aim for shorter, more frequent updates in the future. Now I must go get ready for tomorrow’s shoot, a fun assignment for the cheese magazine, Culture.

Capturing Corey

Artist Corey Daniels at his gallery.

It never ceases to amaze me what incredible people reside in the state of Maine. I am privileged in my job that I come into contact with lots of them. One of the most recent I met is a compulsively creative man by the name of Corey Daniels. It’s hard to describe what he does in a few words so you’ll just have to read the perceptive article in The New York Times about him that appeared this week. Because I was assigned to take photos for the story, I got to peek into his enchanting world, and I came away from it charged up and inspired, awestruck and impressed, filled with a desire to start making something, anything!

Multiple layers of art cover some spaces in Daniels' house, including here where he has drawn on the wall and then covered it with another piece of his art work.

This is someone I’d never heard of before who is quietly going about his business of creating and recreating all day long and into the night. Doing it out of some irrepressible urge. Doing it out of love for shape and form. Making compelling scenes by combining disparate found objects. Painting and drawing on canvases, walls and floors. Taking stunning large format photographs. Regularly reinventing himself and his vision. At a time in his life when most people would be content to curl up on the couch and watch TV in their spare time, Daniels is constantly occupied with crafting things that please his eye. And one of the most wonderful things about it all is he’s doing it without an ego. He’s humble, approachable, full of all the doubts most of the rest of us have. But that doesn’t stop him from getting up everyday and doing his thing, and doing it like no one else.

The juxtaposition between the 19th-century house and the contemporary passageway that connects the two older buildings of Daniels' gallery is indicative of his vision—a desire to meld old and new. Large-scale paintings by Daniels hang on the walls and chairs by Cleveland metalworker Doug Meyer are aligned in neat rows.

Daniels is currently transforming his well-established antique-dealing business housed in two 19th-century buildings connected by a recently renovated modern passageway into more of a contemporary art gallery. But it’s not your every day art gallery. He has a unique and exceptional eye for furniture as art for one thing. And he isn’t necessarily concerned with carrying artists who have already made a name for themselves. He’ll go out on a local art walk, find a piece of sculpture he loves and display it in the gallery. These works of contemporary art, which make their home among the wonderfully worn objects he finds at flea markets and antique shows make for an unusual combination of new and old, a blurring of the line between art and antiques.

Even Daniels' closets at the gallery are packed with artfully arranged objects that have caught his eye at flea markets and antique shows.

If you’re in the state and care about art, you owe yourself a visit to Daniels’ magical kingdom at 2208 Post Road in Wells. And if you’re out of state, I’d venture to say it’s more than worth a special trip.

The converted 19th-century barn that makes up part of Daniels' gallery is adorned with a stone sculpture from the 1960s by Tony Conway.

NYT Outtakes

The national food media has been giving little Portland, ME, a lot of attention lately, and for good reason! First, Bon Appetit’s October issue named Portland this year’s  “Foodiest Small Town in America.” And yesterday, the New York Times ran a long, photo-laden piece starting on the front page of the Dining & Wine section called “In Portland’s Restaurants, A Down East Banquet” that focuses on the collective nature of the burgeoning food scene here. As many of you already know, I was the lucky photographer who took the images for this article.

I spent two days with the reporter, Julia Moskin, visiting restaurants, markets and shops. We had a jam-packed schedule that usually allowed for about 30 minutes in each locale. This was an excellent test of my ability to get high-quality images in a short time period while working with available props and light. I sent in dozens of images and while the Times managed to run a large number (15 in the online slideshow, another 5 embedded in the online story, and 12 in the print version), there are, of course, some other images I really like that weren’t included. I thought I’d share some of those with you here. Hope you enjoy them!

(Full disclosure: the preponderance of Scratch Baking Co. images is because a) I had a lot of time there with unfettered access (the owners are my friends as I live a block away and worked there for a spell) and b) because I’m addicted to their bread and bagels!)

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Selecting a bunch of turnips from Freedom Farm’s stand at the Portland Farmers’ Market.

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Wild Maine blueberries from Beth’s Farm Market for sale by Wealden Farm in the parking lot of Rosemont Bakery & Market.

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Brian Pramick working in the bread baking area at Micucci Grocery.

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Allison Reid, co-owner and baker at Scratch Baking Company, sprinkling flour on dough that will be shaped into baguettes.

Bagels at Scratch ready for the oven (foreground) and to be boiled (background).

Bagels at Scratch ready for the oven (foreground) and to be boiled (background).

Lou Slingerland puts seeds on Scratch's highly sought after bagels.

Lou Slingerland puts seeds on Scratch’s highly sought after bagels.

The Ring Ding a Ling, Scratch's answer to the whoopie pie.

The Ring Ding a Ling, Scratch’s creative alternative to the traditional Maine whoopie pie.

Erik Desjarlais, chef and owner of Evangeline.

Erik Desjarlais, chef and owner of Evangeline.

Krista Kern Desjarlais, the owner of and chef at Bresca, with sous chef Courtney Loreg (watch out, she wields a mean knife!).

Krista Kern Desjarlais, the owner of and chef at Bresca, with sous chef Courtney Loreg (watch out, she wields a mean knife!).

Last but certainly not least, Raleigh, very possibly the best dog ever (sorry, Clara), at Rabelais, a cookbook store devoted to new, used and rare books on food, beverages and gardening.

Last but certainly not least, Raleigh, very possibly the best dog ever (sorry, Clara), at Rabelais, a cookbook store devoted to new, used and rare books on food, beverages and gardening.