Family Birthdays Honor the Seasons

Here on the farm, our life revolves around the seasons. Our work attire, job list and even what is on our supper plate is determined by the weather and the time of year. Even the way we celebrate birthdays is dictated by the seasons.

Our family doesn’t give birthday presents but our tradition is to serve a birthday supper where the honoree chooses the menu. Most of the food for these birthday feasts comes right from the farm and our children dream and plan their menus months in advance.

For Grandma’s May birthday, we baked a dessert using fresh picked rhubarb served with homemade ice-cream churned in our White Mountain ice-cream maker. A wedding gift when we were married 20 years ago, we use the ice-cream maker for just about everyone’s birthday celebrations.

In June, our oldest son typically requests a steak dinner from our grass-fed beef cattle, and strawberries are the focus of his dessert. Late in June my husband’s favorite birthday treat is a cheesecake made with homemade cream cheese compliments of our Jersey cows. The topping is either cherries or raspberries, depending on what is most abundant from our orchard and berry patch that year. My birthday in mid-July brings our first meal of sweet corn. Since I don’t hurry to get my corn planted early, I always visit my Amish produce neighbors who now expect me to show up for my birthday corn.

Three of our boys have fall birthdays so for their cakes they can choose from flavors like chocolate zucchini, apple and pumpkin, with homemade ice cream. I’m often amazed at what these youngsters choose on their menus and there have been requests for red beets, blue mashed potatoes, rosemary chicken and even lacto-fermented dill pickles.

Come January, our lone daughter celebrates her winter birthday. Since pickings are slim outdoors that time of year, she plans ahead to save a package of frozen blueberries or other goodie in the freezer for her dessert. This year she wanted to make snow ice cream but our unusual winter weather surprised us with a 50-degree day on her birthday. We substituted tapioca pudding and everyone was happy.

Yes, it does take extra time to create a fancy meal at home especially during the busy gardening season but it would also take quite a bit of time to get everyone cleaned up and off to a restaurant or to plan a party for young guests if we chose to celebrate that way. Sometimes for fun, we estimate what our home-cooked meal using fresh “gourmet” ingredients for our family of seven might cost at a restaurant. But most of all, it has become a special tradition where we can bless the birthday person and share a special meal together as a family (even if we are still slightly dirty from the garden!)