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Another “it seemed like a good idea at the time” farm lesson

29 Aug

We’re going to do some Before and After pictures here so that when Spring comes around next year we can refer back to our “lesson” lest we forget.

BEFORE – BEFORE: Nothing fun here, just work, work, work. The door to the hoop house in the back? Yeah, there’s an example of measure once, cut – never mind.

Springtime 2013: Pre-weeding, Pre-raised bed preparation and Pre-planting.

Springtime 2013: Pre-weeding, Pre-raised bed preparation and Pre-planting.

BEFORE: Weeded, planted and off to a nice start! However, our folly this year (and every year) is over crowding the beds. We just get so excited for our summer fruits!!! And the plant starts and seeds are so small…

Can't you just taste those ripe tomatoes and squash already?  Can hardly wait!!!

Can’t you just taste those ripe tomatoes and squash already? Can hardly wait!!!

We even gussied up the front of the greenhouse area and painted the old door, so we could just hang out and relax. Cuz that’s what farmers who milk goats and work full-time do, they hang out and relax.

Almost like, a destination!

Almost like, a destination!

AFTER:

image

Since we are no longer pig farmers, this is not really what we would consider a wildly fortuitous, fabulously abundant crop. More of a pain in the neck, really. Although the smaller zuchettas taste great sliced thin and cooked as the pasta in a pork sausage lasagna with chèvre, goat mozzarella and marinara (marinara from last year, mind you as this years crop of tomatoes had a little – ahem, competition for sunlight).

Squash lasagna with pork sausage, chèvre,  goat mozzarella and marinara.

Squash lasagna with pork sausage, chèvre, goat mozzarella and marinara. Prior to cooking.

So what to do, what to do. The goats are NOT interested in eating this forage. did I mention there are no pigs around?

A  local artist's impression of the fact that there are no more pigs on the property.

A local artist’s impression of the fact that there are no more pigs on the property.

One of my good friends who I actually met through Craigslist (bartering goats for pigs, what else?) has pigs. He, and his pigs are the lucky beneficiaries of this forest of Zuchetta in addition to numerous buckets of whey from cheese making.

The other day, I was talking to the artist who rendered the pig picture above and she told me that when she grows up and purchases her own farm, she is going to raise pastured pigs. Wow. I guess dairy goats might be too much work for our budding farmer who is calculating having stout fencing in place, lots of silly greenery abundance and gallons of whey (read: free pig food) at her disposal from her parents that don’t do a very good job of remembering “lessons” on the farm. Momma didn’t raise no fool.

Sunflowers, planted by goats.  Who tossed their dinner bucket on the ground, which included black oil sunflower seeds.  Maybe they are more work than pigs.

Sunflowers, planted by goats. Goats who tossed their dinner bucket on the ground, which included black oil sunflower seeds. Maybe they ARE more work than pigs.

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Follow your heart and intuition

4 May

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
~Steve Jobs

goat edition

Farming chores and animals wait for no-one, for if we are the least bit off schedule it gets LOUD around here! The chores must be done whether it’s raining, if it’s too hot, if it’s too cold, if we don’t feel well or even if we want to “pretend” we are suburbanite’s again with lazy unscheduled weekends.

We did that the other weekend actually – pretended that we had an unscheduled stretch of about 8 hours on a Sunday. We had Brunch at 55 South and then back to Puckett’s in the Fork to hang out with friends, then back to our place to hang out with more friends…

Then we SCRAMBLED to finish our chores, including the evening goat milking, the feeding, the waters, the nightly animal welfare checks, dinner had to be made, lunches for school and work the next day, the laundry, the dishes…

Every once in a while we steal a day away from the farm and though fun and carefree, it brings us back to the purpose, serenity, beauty and balance we derive from being home with the animals on our farm, our retreat – where we have followed our hearts and intuition.

Tiramisu and Macchiato with kids

We are phasing out the porcine element and bringing in the Dairy Caprine element! Now that takes COURAGE! Something we would never attempt without Dr. Woordard’s oversight and expertise.  We have taken our time adding the right goats, searching for the best milking bloodlines we can find.  Although we love all breeds of dairy goats and cherish our Saanen and Oberhasli does (amazing milkers as first fresheners giving us a gallon+ each, daily), our hearts are with the Nubian breed.  Our search for Nubian bloodlines has brought us to the Saada, Goldthwaite, Six-M-Galaxy, POTF and Pruittville herd names.  We will strive for large capacious, elegant does that are gorgeous and have long level lactation’s with milk, milk and more milk!

Dr. Jamie Woodard, DVM may be reached at Woodard Equine Services, (615) 512-3557.

Three. Day. Pate.

15 Sep

When the charcuterie challenge was announced for September, I immediately went on-line to check out the fancy hinge-bottom pate pans. Then I saw the price, so I went to a local antique store in search of a hinged pan or something with similar dimensions that might be modified or engineered to work, in lieu of said expensive pan. You see, the trick of the pate en croute and the reason for the fancy pan, is that before baking, it must be flipped: allowing the seamless bottom of the pastry-encased pate to become the top (without tearing the dough) and exist as a perfect little package of browned smooth crust with spiced meaty goodness surrounding a little seasoned and seared tenderloin surprise.

The local antique store (mall) has multiple dealers and in one booth, I found this cute little bread-pan.

It was $8.00 and I was willing to pay that. When I went to purchase it, I was informed of the deal I’d gotten, it was a remarkable 75% off, so I owed two bucks. Well, heck yeah! I stopped the transaction and ran back to see what else I could find. Who doesn’t love a bargain? When the kids got home from school, I showed them my loot. Turns out, I’d been shopping at my son’s elementary school teachers’ booth. I informed Jack of this fact and what cool stuff his teacher had for sale. The next day at school, Jack told his teacher all about the deals I’d gotten (how his wacky mother cleaned out her booth). News travels fast when you’ve got an eight-year-old, huh?

I’d wanted to ask my hay guy to weld a hinge on it (he’s also a welder and blacksmith in addition to holding down a day-job AND cutting hay) but hay season is in full swing so I had to figure out other ways to MacGyver the pan.

After a few sleepless nights (yeah, kinda embarrassing, really) I was inspired by wax paper, which did the trick…well, for the most part. I’d like to get the “real” pan at some point in the future. Wax paper works for the flip, but gets stuck on the bottom so it has to be tediously peeled off the crust prior to serving.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, because what I REALLY wanted, was to share the charcuterie experience with some friends who were visiting from California and had been following the challenge through my monthly posts. I cannot think of a better way to make a tough recipe (that is quite INVOLVED), than to delegate tasks to willing, kitchen-savvy friends. Truth is, when you come to visit Pinkguitarfarm, we’ll put you to work; either in the kitchen or on the farm and if there was ever a recipe you’d want to delegate, this is IT.

I have the best friends in the world, however, making this pate with them just didn’t work out like I’d hoped. We made other things that involved fewer steps and could be eaten right away. Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The food we ate over the long weekend visit included a spicy Thai pork/sweet potato/coconut milk dish over brown rice, pulled pork in a Louisiana style sauce with homemade stone-ground corn biscuits and a Napa cabbage slaw, then, the last day, some soulful greens with macaroni and cheese and a skinless fried chicken. It was a three-day eating festival of goodness and friendship, recipes to follow soon. All meat from Pinkguitarfarm! Did I say that we love having visitors? Especially when they cook every meal AND play with the livestock!

After the long weekend, our friends traveled north to Louisville before heading back to Cali, and I assessed the pate situation. I re-read the recipe for the nth time and decided to develop a flow chart (too ambitious – not enough time!) opting instead for a detailed list, to help prioritize the tasks required in pulling this dish together.

1. List, and procure ingredients
2. Thaw meat. Prep and keep in semi-frozen state
3. Freeze blades and grinding tools.
4. Sear tenderloin(s)- mine came from a smaller pig so I used both.

5. Make pastry dough

6. Make garlic/shallot mixture
7. Make pate spice

8. Make panada
9. Grind meat
10. Prep garnish, if any

11. Prep pate pan if you don’t have the hinged type
12. Roll out dough
13. Assemble ingredients into pan

14. Make egg wash
15. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
16. Flip assembled, encased pate with COURAGE!
17. Administer egg wash
18. Pinch yourself, you are almost there!
19. Calibrate meat thermometer
20. Bake pate, the first of two times

21. Allow pate to rest, turn oven down to 325 degrees
22. Bake the second of two times
23. Check internal temperature
24. Allow pate to cool to room temp.
25. Aspic? No aspic for ME.
26. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
27. Plate (if you’ve been disciplined enough to wait, it smells like a dream while cooking!)

I believe all of this prep, etc., took MORE than 3 days, but all told, give yourself at least that much time – unless you are a pro, that is.

I asked my daughter Sophie what she would like to eat with the pate. This was while it was cooling out of the oven after the first baking (of two). The kids could hardly hold themselves back from the smell of rich, cooked pork and browned pastry mingling with aromas of cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. It was just too much to look at the pate in the pan cooling, it was way too tempting, even for me! And what a let-down to be informed that, for dinner, they would be eating boring old pasta with tomato sauce. They protested that the smell should match the dinner and they are correct. My bad.

With the pate BACK in the oven for its second baking, I suggested a lentil salad and Sophie stated that she wanted it WARM. Okay then. Warm lentil salad would accompany the cold meat pate and the pate would also be externally garnished with minted peaches to compliment the internal garnish of “pit-smoked pecans” from the Loveless Café (a gift from our friend Cam). Thank you, Cam!

Here is the recipe for the warm lentil salad we prepared:

Warm Lentil, Goat Cheese and Tomato Salad

2 Cups lentils, cooked
1 red onion chopped
3 ripe home-grown tomatoes, chopped (we used a red and two yellow Roma tomatoes)
1 bunch parsley, chopped
4 oz goat cheese

Mix the first four ingredients together in a saute pan with the vinaigrette (see recipe below) and cook over low heat until just heated through. Dot the lentils with goat cheese and stir until goat cheese melts into lentils. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Vinaigrette:

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up.
¾ Cup olive oil
¼ Cup apple cider vinegar
¼ Cup honey
¼ Cup stone-ground mustard
Fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste

Minted Peaches were made using a recipe from the “Putting Up” book by Stephen Palmer Dowdney. We made them earlier this summer from a bulk order of peaches purchased through a local food coop; and the mint came from our garden.

Pink Guitar Farm Minted Peach Preserves

When I think of a pate like this I wonder if it was something originally created in a rural farm kitchen with extra ingredients and leftovers or did a talented chef conjure it up in a famous restaurant? The more I cook food from the farm, the more some of these French and Italian recipes make sense to me. In other words, unless I raised pork I wouldn’t have the tenderloin, shoulder and back-fat on-hand just sitting in my freezer waiting for the alchemy of such a recipe. Also, I doubt I could afford to purchase these items (or if I could find them humanely-raised) and would be reluctant to put tenderloin in a meatloaf covered in dough. I would simply cook it to stand alone as tenderloin by ITSELF. One of the things I realize about European cooking is that recipes with mixtures of meat types and varieties are commonplace and must have originated from having access to many parts of the animal, different kinds of animals, and creatively using them…up. Bon Appetit, indeed!

pork pate en croute with a warm lentil tomato goat-cheese salad

Meanwhile, I’m off to visit the antique store again to see what other treasures I can find to make and serve my farm food with!

Shabalabashingo…aka Head Cheese, Brawn, Souse, Fromage de Tete, Testa in Cassetta, Coppa, etc., etc.

15 Aug

This thing needs a new name!  I told the kids and my friend Cam the day they were to be my kitchen tasters of the August Charcuterie Challenge: Head Cheese.  My son said “call it Shabalabashingo!” with eight-year-old flourish and bravado.  We all turned to look at him with amused interest and tried it on for size, hmmm.  Let’s write that down.  So in our household we now call Head Cheese or Souse, (as it is referred to here in Tennessee) Shabalabashingo.

But before we got into the tasting part there was the prep part, like brining.  Then cooking.  Luckily, I had already completed these tasks.

Initially, there was the issue of the head and 4 trotters to deal with which I had been avoiding for a while now – sitting wrapped in plastic and a white garbage bag in my kitchen freezer.  Awkward.  Awkward to move around and awkward to store.  Not to mention how awkward it was when a guest at the house opened the freezer door and rooted around it, ignorant to the contents of the giant frozen “brawn in a bag”.  I had saved it when I’d butchered a pig raised on the farm into primal cuts.  The head and trotters likely a little past due on their “use by” date but what the heck?  I do believe in using all parts of the hog even if it means there may be a little freezer burn on an item while I’m out looking for my courage to make it.

So, already thawed out, (out of sheer necessity due to limited freezer space) I was thrilled when the Head Cheese challenge was announced; my timing was perfect if not telepathic.  Here it is in the stock pot.  If you are squeamish, look really fast or simply move on.

I followed the head cheese recipe in The Ruhlman Charcuterie book.  Everything went according to plan except my “terrine” was cube shaped and I had to use a zip-lock bag instead of plastic wrap.  This made for a blocky less than smooth presentation, but did the job.

Well, it is a peasant dish, yes?  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  I thought it would be tasty with crusty bread.  So I bought a baguette and had my friend Cam slice it on the diagonal.  Then we drizzled some olive oil and spread it with seasoned goat cheese and broiled it until just crunchy and a little brown.

I didn’t really have a recipe, I was just going by what I thought would set off the “Shabalabashingo” in its best light, texture and flavor.  The tomatoes have been obscenely tasty this year – my best year growing tomatoes…EVER.  So I sliced a few heirloom Italian tomatoes over the goat cheese and then turned to my daughter  to see if she would be willing to pick some fresh flat leaf parsley from the garden.

We pulled off the parsley stems and asked over or under?  We settled with under the Shabalabashingo.  Then we took a picture of the final product:

My daughter loved it.  She has now requested it numerous times and that’s a good thing because I think this recipe could make about 100,000 little crusty goat cheese, tomato, parsley, peasanty Shabalabashingos!  I froze it.  So actually, it’s back in the freezer just in a smaller, denser less shocking and now edible format.  It really was a hit, even my friend Cam said she liked it… come to think of it though, she hasn’t been out to visit the farm since.  😦 We were all pretty brave that day, even my son, who dropped his on the floor and promptly instituted  the 5-second rule.  He liked it but only had one while the rest of us finished off the plate.  I suppose for my son, it was enough to come up with a new marketing strategy for Head Cheese by changing the name for us.  There are undoubtedly some more dishes out there that he could “modernize” in hip, eight-year-old parlance.

Charcuterie Challenge July: Emulsified Sausage – Black or White?

15 Jul

“Stop singing!” I said to my son, exasperated, calling from the office over the raucous (false) tenor bouncing and echoing off of the pine ceiling obliterating all semblance of creativity or rational thought, for those of us forced to listen to Jack, anyway. Was he an opera singer in a past life? I’ve never met anyone with such a call to wail indecipherable words out with such abdominal abandon. He also sings to annoy his sister, which was the case today so I felt somewhat justified in cutting off the “music” even with the nagging irony that we ENCOURAGE singing most of the time. Parenting…always a new challenge – and the issues are never black or white.

Which brings me to the Charcuterie challenge, black or white? Though I did not follow the apprentice or charcuterie challenges, I was compelled to ask blanc or noir regarding boudin. After some quiet time away from the “opera”, I decided I really wanted to try both of the boudins. The choice though for today was obvious, blanc, as in Boudin Blanc. Why? Because I have eggs, lots of free range eggs, even with a hungry fox out there chasing hens this morning right past the LGD’s. The fox, skinny and desperate was not afraid of the LGD’s or me, until I turned the Dane out. Funny that Lucy, the Dane scared the fox away just by her presence but didn’t see the fox, as she was otherwise too busy chasing doves, again,…sigh. At least she leaves the chickens alone.

Boudin Blanc would also work since I had pork shoulder from the farm, chicken breast from the farm, and spices and milk (local) on hand for this intriguing recipe. Though I also have that elusive ingredient for the Boudin Noir as in “Boudin Noir with Apples and Onions” the ingredient that makes the sausage distinctively noir “on hand” on the farm… no one around here is up to procuring said ingredient right now. Nuff said.

We got home mid-day after some local shopping, ready to start up our fabulous sausages. But before we eat, our farm eats. So as we walked the farm, doing the regular afternoon water and welfare checks prior to feeding, we heard a strange noise from the woods where some of the pigs are kept. A baby piglet noise… As Sophie and I got closer, we noticed that there was a strange looking but very small, very dark animal in the pen with Wally, Roselle, Willow and Dixie. Hmmm. It squealed again, jet-black and wobbly, raising a ruckus with Dixie (the alpha) who was investigating, this little newborn piglet caused Dixie to promptly direct the other pigs away, leaving Willow, the momma, alone to labor on.

Goodness, more piglets! These were a surprise… 6 born today, 4 boys 2 girls. The little black piglet is a girl. She was obviously the first-born and most sassy! I sense trouble with this one… she’s already been investigating OUTSIDE the enclosure only hours old, she’s got attitude.

With an unexpected piglet delivery crowding out our evening (we wanted to be there, just in case) we started sausages late but we were ready this time, we had organized and prepped, and all of our machine parts were pre-assembled with our grinder, and our food processor (which gets used daily) was sparkling clean and ready for action.

Here is how my little Pavarotti and I made Boudin Blanc:

We ground the 1 inch cubes of pork and chicken breast through the meat grinder, then added the ground meat, salt, pepper and Quatre Epices into the food processor. We added the remaining ingredients per the instructions in the Ruhlman Charcuterie book. After a quenelle check, we added a wee bit more salt, stuffed the meat into the casings and poached the sausages. They were ready to partake in this evenings entrée.

Boudin Blanc with a Beet, Amaranth, Cucumber Chopped Salad and Yellow Squash with Red Onion, Basil and Garlic.

It’s summertime so we’re trying to balance out this rich sausage with a light, beautiful purple salad and fresh yellow squash sauteed with onions, basil and garlic.

Beet, Amaranth and Cucumber Salad:

1 Cup Purple/Red Amaranth leaves roughly chopped (use only the smallest leaves)
1 large bunch or 8 small peeled finely chopped beets and beet greens (process with metal blade)
2 medium sized pickling cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley chopped.
½ Cup Walnuts chopped

Dressing:
1 heaping tablespoon of good quality stone ground mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Splash of apple cider vinegar
Fresh Thyme, leaves only, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or shake up in a mason jar. Add dressing to the salad and serve (this salad can be made a few hours ahead of time, the flavors will develop).

Yellow Squash with Red Onion, Basil and Garlic.

4-5 meduim yellow straight neck squash sliced
½ Red Onion Sliced
1/3 Cup packed Basil sliced into very thin ribbons
3 cloves of garlic minced.

Sautee red onions with yellow squash until al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Finish the dish by stirring the basil and garlic into the hot squash. Serve immediately.

Brown Boudin Blanc sausages until re-heated (they have already been poached to an internal temp of 160).

This meal was delicious.  All of the produce  ingredients in the salad and squash were picked the same day and were bright and sweet tasting, a perfect compliment to the nutmeg and cinnamon in the sausages.  If I were to serve this in the winter, I would serve the sausage with mashed sweet potatoes and a simple radish salad.  This recipe is a keeper, the kids loved it!

I have fond memories of “Blood Pudding” (similar to Boudin Noir) a cow or pig blood pancake that I used to enjoy a long time ago served up as an entrée during elementary school lunch – in Stockholm Sweden, while my family lived there on sabbatical.

When evaluating recipes for the challenge, I was tempted to go for it with the Boudin Noir, it has been on my mind because of my childhood experience. My courage was bolstered after a chance meeting with a woman from Sweden, named Maria during a gig downtown when my husband played with Todd Bolton a few Sundays ago. We started talking after the show and the discussion quite quickly turned to Blood Pudding. I had been interested in researching the dish and thought she might have some insight regarding the name, etc. She was very helpful. Perhaps if I see her again downtown I can enlist her help in making some, they have just moved here from Austin and her husband is a singer…

Nothing around here is always either black or white. Parenting, cooking, animals – except maybe today when it comes to sausage and newborn piglets… Thank goodness for shades of gray!  And the Boudin Blanc was fantastic…I mean really, look at the ingredients, how could it not be?

Range chicken garlic scape cilantro pesto sausage with chickpeas and beet greens

15 Jun

A friend of mine from high school contacted me via facebook back in February about moving to Nashville. She had several places in mind in North Carolina but was also considering Tennessee. She was interested in hearing our thoughts on Nashville since we had recently relocated here.

After a few e-mails and phone calls we reunited downtown at Tootsies over a few cold drinks and some good music and caught up over the past two decades (ahem, +). After visiting North Carolina and looking at employment options, etc., our new/old friend e-mailed to let us know she had decided to move to Nashville. We were thrilled!

Once she got here, I showed her some of the sights in Nashville. Since I had to pick up hog casings for sausage so I could make my June Charcutepalooza submission, one of the places we visited was the Butcher Supply store. It was quite the adventure.

Our new/old friend has read our blog and was intrigued by the Charcuterie challenge along with the recipes and the farm food. Since the sausage stuffing challenge was due on the 15th, we invited her to help us with the sausage making last Sunday, June 12th.

We started the afternoon off with a farm fresh shaved (we used a potato peeler but a mandolin would be better) beet salad, mixed with fresh squeezed lemon (or lime) juice and chopped parsley, a palate cleanser and supposedly a precursor to the evening. This salad is simple and delicious. A customer who bought some beets from our farm gave me this recipe last summer. It’s one of our favorite starters.

We had all kinds of plans including making pesto (which we accomplished) and subsequently the chicken pesto sausage (left for later), having a light lunch at home and then heading out to one of our favorite people watching venue’s, Puckett’s in Leipers Fork then back to the farm for dinner.

Well, the conversation and people watching was incredible and the day got away from us. When we finally got back to the farm from Puckett’s we had not started the chicken part of the sausage and dinner was not (even close to being) ready. However, we all pooled our skills and rolled back our sleeves to stuff sausage for the first time (even with a key component missing on the stuffer). This was a big mistake and the end product was a colossal failure. Instead we made a pasta sauce with the ground chicken and pesto mixture and had a late chicken pesto pasta dinner. It had wonderful flavor.

And we learned what NOT to do in our trial sausage making run. First, have ALL the parts for your meat grinder/sausage stuffer ready and re-read your instructions. Here’s how to do it right:

Cut the white and dark meat off of 2 (*humanely raised) chickens leaving the wings on the carcasses(save the carcasses for making soup later) put the boneless meat in a plastic bag in the freezer for at least a half an hour, you will want it almost frozen.

Prepare pesto

Soak casings for the amount of time specified on the package.

Run the chicken meat through the meat grinder and mix with the pesto. Run the meat/pesto mixture through the grinder again to make sure it is completely mixed with the pesto.

Remove the extruding piece from the grinder and add the stuffing arm (we have a manual grinder).

Make sure the stuffing arm has been sprayed with oil per Mrs. Wheelbarrows post about stuffing sausage…very important. Stuff sausages and cook or freeze, they will keep in the fridge, but only for a few days.

We decided to cook our sausages on a roasting pan in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes (or until done).

To accompany our sausages, we looked to the garden. Garlic, beet greens and parsley appeared gorgeous and tasty, all perfectly fresh. We also had some left over cooked chickpeas from making homemade hummus a few days ago.

Beet greens and chick peas.

2 cans or 3 cups pre-cooked chickpeas
Large bunch of beet greens, chopped
5-8 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
bunch parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
2 Tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Saute greens, garlic and parsley over medium high heat  in oil until wilted (about 3-5 minutes) add chickpeas, mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sausages and chickpea/greens with a dollop of whole grain dijon mustard and if there is any leftover pesto, add that to the plate as well. Though the pictures don’t do it justice, it was incredible.

Our new/old  friend was not with us to enjoy the successfully completed chicken pesto sausages… however, there are some in the freezer for next time we see her!

*We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these chickens enjoyed life in all the chicken ways that chickens will – given the opportunity to range completely without constraint on pasture and in the woods (with the protection of Livestock Guard Dogs). And when it came time to grace our table, the end was quiet, calm and a sincere apology was offered. This is the most humane end we currently know of. If there is a better way, we’ll find it, as the processing of a chicken is no fun for anyone. How do we know these chickens enjoyed this life and met this described end? We raised them and we processed them ourselves.

A ripe tomato and the dog days of summer.

4 Jun

Our first ripe tomato of the 2011 growing season! Never mind that it was started indoors in November and the variety is called “Glacier”.

Glacier is a smaller tomato that packs good flavor and is a fine producer.

Although there are many more tomatoes planted in the ground here at the farm (last count 192), Glacier is always the first to produce (well, since we started growing it last year, anyway).

Our rescued Dane, Lucy witnessed our first ripe red tomato of the season too, but really doesn’t care much about tomatoes…

She’d rather just hang out in the shade with her human pal Sophie, getting lots of pets and attention.

Which makes it difficult to do things like weed and tend the garden…

On farm, all farm breakfast…

15 May

This morning we rushed to finish chores and make breakfast in order to get downtown for a Mr. Pink Guitar gig on Broadway with Todd Bolton. We’d originally planned an obligation free Sunday for our breakfast sausage-making for the Charcuterie Challenge/Charcutepalooza the apprentice challenge this month (due today – nothing like waiting until the last minute…). However, Mr. Pink Guitar got a call late last night to fill in for the Sunday show, as the other drummer had canceled. So suddenly our Sunday was wiped out. Ruh, roh.

Waking early, we opted to divide and conquer. Mr. Pink Guitar and Jack finished the morning feeding chores while Sophie and I harvested tatsoi and collected eggs.

Oh, and herbs,

Tatsoi on the right, Napa cabbage on the left, onion “companions” interspersed:

We’d hoped to harvest our February planted fingerling potatoes…but alas they were not ready. So, no starch today for breakfast. With feedings done, we cubed our pork, chopped herbs and sprinkled seasonings;

ground our sausage;

Cooked the patties; wilted the chopped greens in sausage drippings (yes, the tatsoi has a few bug nibbles, we don’t spray insecticides).

fried up some farm fresh eggs;

And ate the most delicious, satisfying and nourishing breakfast ever. No kidding.

All of the ingredients came from our farm except the balsamic vinegar, butter (local) salt and pepper. That, my friends , feels like quite the accomplishment. Mr. Pink Guitar wants me to do a post on how hard the work is on a farm, how it is every day work that is a labor of love and costs a fortune. He’s correct but that stuff is boring.

So as I sit downtown at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Broadway, writing this post, worlds away from the farm, my gratitude for the animals, vegetables, hard work and time it took to bring this incredible food to the table is a bit overwhelming. The brick walls of the venue, the worn plywood floors, the tiny front window stage and music reverberating around my head and through my core inspires me; but the farm food sustains me.

My friend Farmer Joe always shares words of wisdom whenever he delivers hay to the barn or when I see him at the elementary school where both our kids attend. He tells me stories about hog killin’, making lard, the design of their scalder (it was set in a hill) how it was an event for multiple families and brought the community together. He says… “we ate really good for being such poor people”. Joe is one of the smartest farmers around, we’re lucky he shares his stories, insight and wisdom with us.

And he’s right, the food is so undeniably delicious, it doesn’t seem fair. If you want access to the freshest ingredients, meet your farmer, lend a hand, help out, the rewards are immeasurable.

Sausage recipe: (Adapted from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s breakfast sausage recipe)

1 Pound Chopped pork (we used what would be pork chops along the back bone from a primal cut) so there was already a lot of fat on the meat
1/4 Pound Pork fat (see primal cut reference)
1 small bunch sage
1 small bunch oregano
1 small bunch parsley
1 small bunch thyme (no stems)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Generous shake of kosher salt (be liberal if you like salt)
Many grinds from the pepper grinder (you decide)

Mix all ingredients together and grind into sausage. We used a manual meat grinder.

Form patties and fry in lard until browned, flip and repeat. Wilt the greens in the sausage drippings, remove and then fry about 6-8 farm fresh eggs in a little butter.

Enjoy!

More Piglets!

7 May

Born last night, they are less than 12 hours old. Out of 8, 6 made it. 5 females and 1 male.

This piglet (mini)  documentary was filmed and produced by Jack Matthews.

Like a,…a bull in a china shop?

4 May

Our steer is currently living in our back yard (Roselle kicked him out of his stall in the barn) and he’s now paired with the goats, of whom he’s reluctantly beginning to acknowledge as his current herd. He thinks goats are weird and stinky. He’s right.

We keep them in a rotational grazing pattern to mow our lawn because it’s free food and well, the real reason is that our mower is broken. While necessity may be the mother of invention, lack of a new mower is the mother of cow plops in the yard. We’re going “green” in our lawn care operation and did I mention it’s free cow/goat food? Never mind, it’s a big yard.

However, “Cowie”, our once bull-calf, now steer who we refer to using endearments of female bovine terminology (immediately belying our city roots to county folk) is allowed to roam around while we relocate our goat/steer tractor, (the goats stand tied, they cannot be trusted – they eat fruit trees). We took a lunch break and Cowie decided to check out the kitchen garden “greenhouse”.

YIKES! Nobody panicked except me, a completely normal reaction after being trained in the unexpected/unpredictable flight response of and by equines, I s.l.o.w.l.y walked over to the doorway (well it will be one someday, anyway) and…got no reaction. He didn’t even eat or trample the vast array of lettuces, chicories, chards, Bulls Blood beets (ahem) or radishes. No bull in a china shop here.

We love our Cowie. His name is T-bone. I wish he were a heifer, because then he would get to “stay” and give us milk. Mr. Pink Guitar is adamant that we have to eat him. I want to train him to pull a plow, in which case he would be considered an “ox”. He is 7/8 Simmental, very gentle and easily trained. I will have to work on this topic with Mr. Pink Guitar.

When we told Farmer Joe about our bottle calf, he just shook his head and reminded us of what we already knew; that this calf will be with us for a very long time, until he dies of natural causes – right here at Pinkguitarfarm…

One day we will be “real” farmers, until then, our motto is: fake it ‘til you make it. Or not, we really like our brisket…

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