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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.

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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…

Heritage piglets, heirloom seeds. Happy Easter!

24 Apr

Though we have not slept in for eleven years (kids) our morning started more gradually than it should have. Mr. Pink Guitar ran a hay/mulch errand, meeting up with Farmer Joe, one of our kindest farmer friends who offered to give us rotten hay rolls for the garden. Free mulch, what’s not to love about that?

Mr. Pink Guitar indicated that he would do chores when he got back, so the rest of us drifted around sleepily making breakfast, reading and starting seeds. Mr. Pink Guitar must have spent a lot of time shooting the breeze with Joe (who is a wonderful conversationalist and oozes wisdom) because it seemed like hours before he got back. We’d finally decided to start chores just as the big ranch truck rumbled up the drive, trailer laden with hay in various states of decomposition.

Sophie left the house and wandered off to the barn right after the truck pulled up. Soon after I heard her scream, when I looked out the window she was running, arms flailing towards the truck. I got my muck boots on quickly, mentally prepared to face something terrible.

Roselle had farrowed, but what should have been a joyous occasion became somber as the situation revealed itself. Roselle was not showing interest in her piglets and had crushed two. Two more had not made it through the birthing process. We counted six tiny piglets skinny and shivering huddled in the corner, ignored. We tried to put a heat lamp on them and Roselle freaked. Well, at least she was being protective.

There were a lot of hushed comments about letting nature take its course and leaving the new mom alone. Because it was Roselle’s maiden voyage into motherhood, we needed to give her a break, and the birthing conditions were not ideal. We had wanted her to farrow out in the woods separated, but comfortably close to her herd the best way for a gilt/sow to farrow in our humble opinion.

But Roselle had become Houdini and would be held in by NO pen, maybe she wanted to range with the chickens, but with babies on the way, we didn’t want her nesting in the woods somewhere – way out there. We put her in the barn (well, actually she walked right in because that’s where she was hanging around) two weeks ago, in a horse stall, ousting our calf; and with fasteners, clips, hog panels, power tools and stall mats, we were able to keep her contained.

The critical time for piglets or any newborn is the first 24 hours, the piglets needed colostrum and warmth and if they made it three days we figured we could announce with confidence the arrival of 6 purebred heritage Red Wattle piglets.

Update: Roselle has calmed down and is taking wonderful care of her babies, they are all fat and sassy. She just needed some time to figure things out and get used to the idea that it is not all about her right now. She does still like her “me” time a little more than the other sows seemed to. However, all is well in piglet world with 5 females and 1 sturdy male, who nurses at first position.

One piglet had an injured foot, so we had to do a little doctoring, which gave us an opportunity to cuddle (!) with her. This piglet is a runt and her name is Zinnia.

Heirloom seeds are one of the greatest gifts on the planet, at least to me. Great things come in small packages and I love seed packets. I collect them like a pre-pubescent baseball card junkie of olden days hoarding them in boxes and containers; I even turned my wine fridge into a seed vault.

So when we got an Easter care-package in the mail from our wonderful friends Bob and Kathy a few days ago we carefully cut the tape and opened the box with rapt anticipation. Care-packages are always exciting. Among the goodies, plastic Easter eggs filled with treats and treasure as well as several thought provoking books “Harvest for Hope, A Guide to Mindful Eating” by Jane Goodall and “The Good Good Pig, the extraordinary life of Christopher Hogwood” by Sy Montgomery. Both authors are vegetarian, one – Vegan.

Interesting how I had just come across this article and was pondering the debate about humanely raising animals for food versus the Vegan perspective – all this after watching Food, Inc.

I find it’s important to look at all sides of an issue with an open mind. Research and contemplation of an issue so close to home is a much better alternative than ignorance.

So what else was in the box? Some nice Easter cards and news clippings with great information about farming and food, mentoring us further along this journey, and last but far from least, was a small innocuous looking bag from the gift shop at the venerable Monticello Estate. I carefully unfolded the small sack to reveal the most marvelous selections of Heirloom seeds!

A cache of 12 historic plant varieties! Cardoon, Prudens Purple tomato, Bloody Butcher corn, Lemon Balm, Early Curled Siberian Kale, Purple Calabash tomato, Fish Pepper, Brown Dutch Lettuce, Sesame, Red Calico Lima Bean, Cow’s Horn Okra, Balsam Apple. WOW! Hey, what’s Balsam Apple?

From Packet: “Jefferson planted this tender annual vine along the winding walk flower border on Monticello’s West Lawn in the spring of 1812. The Balsam Apple’s glossy, delicate foliage, small yellow flowers, and bursting orangish red fruit are a curious and unusual addition to the summer flower border. Plant the seed after the last spring frost and provide support with a fence of trellis. The vines will twine to ten feet in a sunny, fertile site”.

This year will be the year for cardoons and artichokes, multiple varieties of purple tomatoes, herbs and pink corn, unique peppers, amazing lettuces, beans of all shapes and sizes, several types of okra and Balsam Apple! What am I forgetting? Oh, I need more land…

What a wonderful Easter Sunday: heritage piglets and heirloom seeds, it doesn’t get any better than this. We also planted a mini-orchard with 10 fruit trees (orchard now totals 50), moved the chicken coop so our 27 new chicks could be closer to the house and to make room for our 7 Bantams and 6 Pekin ducklings.

Reflecting back two years ago exactly, the enormity of our move away from friends and family was sinking in. We had just lost a favorite uncle with no opportunity to say good-bye. We were alone on the holiday and phone calls to loved-ones made the distance more painfully clear. We did the only thing we knew to do, face the future and embrace it, and plant an apple tree in honor of Uncle Wayne.

Pinkguitarfarm is in its infant stages. We keep on keeping on against various odds because we have cherished friends who have lent us huge amounts of emotional support, not to mention gifts, seeds, rotten hay, fencing, green house supplies, free pig and bull-calf castrations, community endorsements, wagon rides, songs and music, wisdom, social invitations, articles, links, books, mentoring, care packages, a skype camera, visits, wine and late night conversations. We have farmers market customers that try our vegetables and recipes even though the vegetables and recipes might seem weird, and those that buy our fabulous pork. Thank you for being a part of this crazy adventure!

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.
~Thomas Jefferson~

Peas, Favas and Garbanzo’s

26 Mar

Spring is here!

The Eastern Redbud and Dogwood flowers are blooming, reminding us (nagging us prettily) that it is time to plant crops!

Here in Middle Tennessee the change of the seasons is so dramatic and definitive I’m awed and humbled each time it happens and in every unique season.  Spring must be my favorite where the bleak brown/gray landscape pops verdant green seemingly overnight.  Of course this has everything to do with the warmer temps, longer days and frequent rains.

Jewelweed, good for that poison ivy outbreak that also comes with spring!

Phenology is the art of observing seasonal changes in a manner that provides clues, reminders or nudges; multiple road signs along the annual gardening loop with hints of what to do and what’s to come.  Though Mother Nature is brilliant, you know she’s also facetious because a killing frost does surprise the too early to flower fruit tree as well as those overzealous, impatient gardeners.  I would know.

Old timers around here might tell you to heed the calendar instead of planting by the moon or using methods of phenology.  Plant peas when the buttercups bloom certainly sounds great, but I would have had a little problem had I heeded that advice this year.

Old timers keep records and journals of the planting seasons for reference and future planning that go several years out.  This blog is my record, so for now, spring means planting around the thunderstorms and hoping seedlings don’t get washed away or rot in the ground.  Getting the crops in around the weeds and the bugs is a challenge and to do so immediately following the last frost is more luck than art, forget science (we’ll leave the science in the soil for now).

Phenology is interesting and valuable in that it reminds me to pay attention to the details provided by nature.  Phenology hints that I should feel the rhythm of the anticipated within an awareness of the unanticipated.  It’s a dance to a familiar tune performed by unknown musicians.  I just want to get the moves right, ya know?

This is a fava bean flower.  We grow favas in the spring and the fall (if I’m organized enough and the weather cooperates).  I am also attempting garbanzo beans (for the first time) and peas of the shelling, snow and snap varieties, a few of the exciting crops here this spring.  Driven by the longing for tantalizingly fresh produce, I envision grilled favas, hummus dip and fresh from the vine peas savoring these flavors even before the seeds have germinated.  No doubt, a passion for the best ingredients drives my efforts in the dirt.  And these dreams do sometimes disappoint with such lofty expectations prior to harvest!

Anything can go wrong.  Every year is different; luckily something always seems to do well to compensate for what doesn’t.  Growing multiple crops in rotation through four seasons and taking precautions with some (transplants) while sowing other seeds with abandon is the best way to guarantee food production on our small farm.  Tomatoes and green beans didn’t do very well last year but our peppers and eggplants were amazing.  Who knows what this year will bring?  Hopefully gorgeous tomatoes!

Cousin Itt? Nah, just onion seedlings.

16 Jan

Farm seedlings for January: Onions

I went a little crazy with the onions this year. I’m told that onion seeds lose a large percentage of viability after the first year so I gathered up all of my old (and new seeds) and planted them. They all germinated! Now the challenge is to figure out where to put them all when spring planting time comes.

I believe that all great meals start with something from the allium genus. Good for companion planting with cabbages and in helping to deter rabbits, onions are a must in any garden.

Here’s a little preview of what we’re growing this year at Pinkguitarfarm.

Rear, left to right:
Scotland Leeks – an heirloom variety from Scotland this leek is described as “hardy, short-shanked, (with) excellent flavor and texture.” Seeds of Change. I bought this because it is a good variety to overwinter or keep in the greenhouse. I immediately envision a creamy potato leek soup when I see the picture on the package. However, this spring I’ll be indulging in some roasted baby leeks with an herb marinade and baby leeks with fennel braised in cream, hmmm, I wonder if they will all make it to winter.

Shimonita Negi – Japanese Bunching Onion Single Stalk Type. From the packet: “(365 days) King of the Negi, this single stalk Japanese bunching onion is worth the wait in seed to harvest time. It doesn’t get better than this for flavor which only gets sweeter with cooking! The short and fat white root makes the Shimonita Negi look more like a leek than a scallion. The chunky shape means this variety does not need deep soil mulching and a lot of extra work around harvest time. From the sowing to harvest (typically December)this is a one-year crop….The Shimonita Negi is popular throughout Japan, but particularly so in its place of origin, Shimonita Town, famous for its produce. Tourists are advised not to miss a particular Shimonita rest stop where the onions are sold during their season.” Kitazawa Seed Co. I’m a sucker for this kind of marketing, what can I say? Hope it’s worth an entire year of raised-bed real estate!

Mini Purplette Bunching Onion. From the packet: “The first purple red-skinned mini onion. Early maturing with delicate, mild flavor. Attractive either topped or bunched and can be harvested very young as baby bunching onions with purple pearl ends. Turns pastel pink when cooked or pickled”. Seeds of Change. Mmmm pickled!

Ed’s Red Shallot. From the packet: “Red skin with red interior. One bulb will produce up to 30 bulbs. Unique flavor is great for flavoring soups, salad dressings, vegetables and grain dishes”. Seeds of change. Cool! No more buying shallots at the grocery store…

Garlic chives. From the packet: “Heirloom, medicinal…Popular in 16th century European gardens for adding garlicky flavor to soups and salads. Hung inside homes to ward off malevolent spirits. Green seeds impart rich flavor to cooking oils. Leaves and flowers add spice. Also used in Chinese medicine to warm the kidneys and treat lower back and knee pain”. Seeds of Change. This one is indispensable for the garden, kitchen, household and body! Don’t you love the word “garlicky”?

Center, left to right:
Red Beard – Japanese Red Bunching Onion Splitting Type. From the packet: “This popular specialty red-stalked bunching onion has a mild pungent flavor and tender leaves…The red color is stimulated by cold temperatures. Mature plants can reach 26” tall. Used in stir-fries, salads and as a garnish. Red Beard makes an unusual and attractive addition to the garden”. Kitazawa Seed Co. Hmm. Wonder if it will be a big seller at the local farmers market, I may have to bring some recipes with this one. Can’t wait to see how it looks at maturity.

Texas Early Grano. From the web-site: “Texas heirloom, ‘The Mother of All Sweet Onions’ This Vidalia-type onion is a good choice for the Mid-Atlantic and the South. Best started in the fall or winter and transplanted in early spring. Large top-shaped bulbs, thin skin, soft white flesh, with sweet mild flavor. Good resistance to splitting. Short keeper”. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Sweet onions are my fave, French onion soup anyone?

Japanese Bunching Onion Splitting Type – Menegi. From the packet: “This delicate white green onion is a young shoot of the wakegi scallion. Specially cultivated to produce young shoots that are used as a sashimi and sushi garnish. Menegi are harvested very soon after planting when the scallion has grown to a height of only 3”-4”. Because they are harvested when they are young and thin, Menegi need heavy planting”. Got the garnish, need the sashimi! Oishii desu ne!

Front, left to right:
More Scotland Leeks, see description above.

Cipolla/Long of Florence. From web-site: “Long (4 inch) narrow red onion. Wider in middle than the ends. Mild sweet taste. Beautiful. Medium/long day type. Mid season harvest. Use in salads but stunning grilled or on skewers”. GrowItalian.com I LOVE, love, love ALL my Franchi seeds!

More Cipolla/Long of Florence, see directly above.

More Texas Early Grano, see above.

Bunching, Deep purple. From the web-site: “A new development in bunching onions. This reddish-purple variety develops and retains its color throughout its growth period and through high and low temperatures”. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I like purple.

Here’s to a great year of onions! Onions are easy to start and grow. From quickie chives to large bulbs there are enough varieties to keep you in onions year round in your own garden, so people, please start your onions!

Roselle the Red Wattle Gilt

12 Sep

We are convinced that the Red Wattle Hog is the right heritage breed hog for our family farm. Docile, gentle, hardy and disease resistant, they need little intervention to maintain a healthy herd with proper management. So, was it the time to add a gilt to the “herd”? We had 15 piglets, so we knew that our boar could do his job. However, there were concerns about how to find one. They are critically endangered according to the ALBC.

Our Yorkshire gilts were about to farrow, so we contacted the very helpful and knowledgeable farmers at Ecotonefarm, they had recently gone through a “farrowing” and were the only people we knew of with recent experience. I had contacted C.J. to find out if he had any advice prior to the birth of our piglets. He was generous with his time and provided excellent information. We also happened to find out that he had a gilt left from his first RWH litter and when we ran the inbreeding coefficient, we found that his gilt would be a good match with our boar

She is home with us now at PGF and doing very, very well. She is a playful, affectionate, talkative gilt with a lot of personality!

See C.J.’s post regarding the match.

Why the name “Roselle”?

We grew the plant “roselle” this year with excellent results. We feel that there is potential for the flower and the gilt to become a very important elements on our farm in the future!

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