Lisa Thibodeau works hard—dirt-under-her-nails, dog-tired hard—as a flower grower, but right around the time that her sunflowers have grown sky-high, she slows down to savor the beauty surrounding her. “Farming is a busy job and it’s hard sometimes to pause and take it all in,” she says. “But it’s important to me to take at least one day to reflect and enjoy the flowers for myself.”
It’s also the time when Lisa and her husband, Marc, host a farm dinner on the backyard patio of their Loomis home, just steps from the farm’s lush spectacle of zinnias and dahlias. “It’s our way of giving thanks to family, friends and neighbors who have supported us throughout the year,” says Lisa, who founded Happy Road Farm as a “midlife-crisis job” to free her from a career spent in a cubicle. “We thank them for helping out and we celebrate the harvest of the flowers.”
While her husband fires up the wood-burning oven that he built by hand, Lisa sets up communal dining tables. On the menu: California-style pizzas (Marc makes the dough a couple of days in advance) and salads made with greens from a local farm. “I like to put squash blossoms on the pizzas so that everyone can eat a flower,” she says. Youngsters gulp down homemade lemonade, while adults sip local beer, wine and spritzers made with Lisa’s blueberry hooch.
Kids are fed first at the family-style meal “so that they can go run around.” The adults, meanwhile, kick back in the shade. “The whole party is very easygoing. We call it California casual,” says Lisa. Because not all the guests know one another, Lisa helps them get acquainted by having them share where they were born or their middle name. “We have a lot of fun.”
As guests mingle, Lisa soaks it all in— the beauty, the togetherness. “It’s a satisfied feeling of enjoying all the fruits of our labor, enjoying our friends and family,” she says. “We don’t entertain too often, so having everybody together is really special. I feel like there are so few things in life that are really magical, and that’s kind of a magical night for us. It just makes you happy to be alive and grateful to live where we live.”
2 cups fresh blueberries (or mixture of blueberries and blackberries)
2 large strips lemon zest
2 cups applejack brandy (buy the best quality you can find)
1 cup simple syrup
Club soda or Prosecco
In a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix berries, lemon zest and brandy. Place in a cupboard for a month or so, shaking daily. When ready to use, strain liquid through a cheesecloth (do not press) into a clean jar and add simple syrup. Place in fridge until ready to make cocktails.
To serve: Ladle about 1/2 cup of hooch into a glass or small Mason jar and top with club soda or sparkling wine. Have fun garnishing with fresh herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary) and edible flowers.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.