Friday, November 30, 2007

We've hit the big time!

At Touch the Earth Farm, that is. We're officially on the state's radar for turkey sales, which means that today, I received my first telephone call from a state inspector in the Weights and Measures department to schedule an appointment to test and register our scales. Because we've sold turkey and chicken by the pound (regardless of how much, mind you, which is far less than $1000 gross this year, never mind net, we are now in the same category as the resident big chain grocery stores, gas stations, and super stores.

So while our meager poultry sales are exempt from agribusiness butchering standards—i.e. concrete buildings with stainless steel, hot and cold running water, and employee lockers and bathrooms—due to a small farm poultry processing exemption, we are not, it seems, exempt from having to own a legal for trade scale, certified by NTEP and NIST, that is subject to annual licensing fees and inspections. Lovely. Just one more reason why small farms become economically inviable.

Just want to take a moment to plug Joel Salatin's latest book, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. Here's a link to his introductory essay, which first appeared in Acres, USA: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. You can read a bit about the book at this website and order it from Chelsea Green Publishing by clicking on the icon there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge: Week 7

Sunday night, we had delicious organic grass-fed beef fillet (from a farm 37 miles up the road) topped with crumbled bleu cheese, sautéed swiss chard and kale with caramelized onions, country potatoes with the last of our green peppers, herb foccacia and a delicious mixed green salad. Alas, the potatoes weren't local.

No photo, but we had some delicious turkey soup this Tuesday with homemade spatzen, or German drop noodles, along with pannini sandwhiches on homemade bread with local baby swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and swiss chard. Mmmmmm, tasty! So good, in fact, that I could eat another right now.

I'm laming out on my zero mile meals again, I know, though almost all our breakfasts really do fall into that category. But how many times can I post a photo of fried eggs, bacon, and homemade toast with grape jelly? Problem is a combination of a lousy potato harvest and the fact that I am a walking cheese commercial. I simply cannot cook without dairy of some sort, and I wouldn't even try. Seriously, I'd pout, and possibly refuse to eat out of sheer spite.

"Don't forget the cheese" is my motto.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From Foodie to Farmer, or Things I've Learned

Liz and Christy asked about turkey sales and general farm start up issues, and my response became unwieldy, begging for its own post. I've had something along these lines brewing in the back of my mind anyway with the new year looming as the inevitable task of taking stock ensues, so here goes...

The single biggest lesson I've learned is that with everything we try there will be both success and opportunity to learn and improve. What there won't be is perfection or a standard, predictable set of circumstances—farming is fluid and the ability to be flexible and roll with the current set of circumstances is crucial.

Other lessons:

  • Our first designs/ ideas almost always need to be tweaked, and what seemed like a great plan starting out, doesn't always remain a great plan as we grow and expand. Thinking in terms of the big picture at first rather than the smaller picture may be a better long term investment as long as it's not so big and so expensive as to make it seem impossible or be debt-dependent to pull off.

    For instance, fencing. Jim pulled fencing when we first moved because the existing horse tape wasn't good for either chickens or goats—both notoriously difficult to fence and our two starter animals. We didn't have many initially, so we focused on fencing just one pasture. But because our property borders neighbors on two sides, we soon needed to pull boundary fencing as well to try to keep our animals from wandering if they got beyond the first fence (which they will). This winter, we'll finish fencing the entire perimeter, and Jim will be yanking and reconfiguring one line of original fencing because he doesn't like its placement. In retrospect, hard fencing the perimeter first may have been a better expense of time and energy, and that would've given us time to grow a bit and see where and how we wanted to break up the different pastures and paddocks as we added animals. But don't be afraid to change things to make them work better in the moment, and most especially, don't be afraid of hard work—sometimes brutally hard work.

  • No amount of reading or research can replace actual experience, but it does give you something to do when you can't be working, as well as providing an arsenal of ideas to try as others fail. The learning is in the doing, so jump in with both feet on a scale small enough that your mistakes can't be too big.

    For instance, with the poultry in particular, I don't raise much more than I'd be willing to have in my own freezer in case sales don't materialize. Building a market base can take quite a while, especially when playing a niche market like I am with the organic-fed, free-range. Finding a market willing to pay premium prices on a regular basis for chicken, for example, is far more difficult than finding one willing to pay for a special occasion like Thanksgiving. Such are important considerations.

  • To avoid debt, it's helpful to begin with one or two enterprises that are likely to make a little bit of money that you can reinvest in infrastructure. (Of course, having an off-farm source of income doesn't hurt either.) Eggs are easy but not very lucrative on a small scale, in my experience. I have between 30 and 40 laying hens, which just about cover organic feed costs with the sales. The CSA and turkey sales have been my two biggest money makers thus far.

  • Have clear long-term goals. Because my goals are self-sufficiency and sustainability, that changes the way I'll farm. My land might be able to carry more animals (sometimes the stocking density I hear from others boggles my mind) but at what cost? Either I'll be paying for it in extra feed or in declining pasture quality, most likely both. Grass-based systems are tricky, and what works in a wet year won't work in a drought year, and what I've learned thus far is only a fraction of what I have left to learn.

    I'm not trying to make a living off my farm, but rather to have our farm support us, so that eases pressure a bit. My husband has no desire to quit his day job, which frees me considerably from household bills and expenses, which we'd be paying on or off the farm. If I can make the farm end of things self-supporting and provide most of our food, then the rest will take care of itself. If and when the other income dries up, well, hopefully we'll be in a solid position to up the stakes a bit in terms of farm income.

  • Have a solid ethical foundation and know what's important and why within those principles. Know what's involved in raising and harvesting livestock so as not to approach it cavalierly. We know exactly what's involved in butchering because we've done it here on the farm. While we send our sale animals out to experienced, USDA-inspected butchers, we have no delusions as to what goes into the slaughter of one of our animals, and we approach it as humanely as possible.

    Along those lines, too, we know how we want the animals to live, and confinement in any shape or form does not factor into that plan. We seek to provide our animals with free, happy, natural lives here on the farm, which means no chicken tractors for us and lower animal density to ensure quality pasture, browse, and instinct-fulfillment. We strive to work with our animals and the land rather than against them, meaning we beef up perimeter security to keep our animals safe rather than resorting to confinement, even at night; meaning we have redundant systems to help further secure our animals and factor in some lossses; meaning we use our pigs as plows to nurture their natural rooting tendency, and our chickens as natural bug and parasite control, our sheep as natural mowers, our goats as natural hedge and weed control, our geese as natural guardians and early warning system, and all our animals as natural fertilizer. Where ever possible, we have our animals do the job for us instead of relying on heavy machinery to do the work.

  • Be knowledgeable about your products. Good customers want to know what they're eating and how to prepare it, so be ready to offer that information. Know how many pounds of raw poultry a host(ess) should allot per guest, for example. Know the differences between your product and those typically available and be ready to proclaim (not justify!) the quality differences. Know the different cuts of meat and how each one works best on the table. With vegetables, especially, be sure to offer recipes and information when stepping outside the five or so readily recognizable ones. One of the biggest parts of my job has become consumer re-education, so I need first to know what I'm talking about and second to be able to convey that information quickly and convincingly. I'm still working on that, but I'm getting better each time I do it.

    I found easing into a market with a trial season to be really helpful towards building my own knowledge base. We started out with tamworth pork, for example, by buying some cuts our first year and trying them. That fall, we purchased two feeder pigs to get used to raising them before buying breeding stock. That gave us a chance to learn about raising pigs from start to finish and plenty of time to try cooking all the different cuts. This year we purchased breeding stock and hope to have our first litter in the spring. Patience is a virtue.

  • Be available and make things easy for the potential customer. Customers shouldn't have to work to find a phone number, address, or farm. Have bags and change on hand. Two things I'm considering for next year are a cell phone and paypal, to take advantage of impulse buys around the holidays. Even while I may be working to move away from technology and a consumer-based lifestyle, those folks are my customers, so I need to keep a foot in each camp to a certain extent.

  • Be neighborly and give stuff away. I don't try to make customers out of my neighbors, but I do try to share, be kind and considerate, and make amends for any perceived incursions. Maintaining good relations is important, as every person who comes in contact with the farm is part of our word-of-mouth network.

  • Stay small and focused. Don't just start small; stay small even as you grow. This has to do with knowing how much land, body, and finances will support and not growing beyond that just because there's customer interest. Getting swept away is easy but impractical if it means being stretched too thin or suffering declining quality—of life or of product. I'll be raising prices and expanding minimally, maximizing what I have without sacrificing quality.

  • Finally, know the laws and work within them as much as possible without driving yourself mad with the bureaucracy (that so often chases its own tail and contradicts itself between local, state, and federal levels and from one department to the next), and have good insurance.

Those are my general principles and observations after our first two years, though I'm sure those will change and evolve. Now to the specific questions, which you'll see are based upon the above generalities to a large extent.

Yes, Liz, there are egg regulations in Maryland; the degree to which I follow them is variable. I have an egg packer license number, which is clearly printed on our label, along with all requisite info except packing date, which I could hand write, but no one really cares since they've all been packaged within 1-3 days of landing in the customer's hands. I buy cartons with all the requisite nutritional and handling information preprinted—whether it adheres to the font-size regulations or not, I don't care. I don't grade or size my eggs, nor do I advertise them as such. Folks purchase farm fresh eggs in all their varying glory. This is a luxury of selling direct to the consumers; I imagine restaurant sales would demand more consistency. I do wash and nicely package all my eggs, and I use fresh cartons as required by law unless otherwise requested by the customer.

As far as turkey sales: this year we raised a total of about 30 turkeys in two off-farm batches and one on-farm hatch. We lost 2-3 early on and 2 more to our dog, who is no longer allowed even in adjoining pastures (which is how it happened). We butchered 23 birds total—6 ourselves and 17 by the processor. We sold a total of 12 birds fresh for Thanksgiving, reserving the Royal Palms to try ourselves since this was our first year raising them, and I'd read less-than-favorable reviews. We also gave away 2 of the Royal Palms.

I cooked 2 birds for Thanksgiving, have 2-3 more frozen to sell at Christmas time in addition to fresh goose, and the remaining 4-5 birds we'll eat over the next year. Some of the birds we reserved for ourselves had bruises or really prominent keel bones, making them inappropriate for sale, so definitely don't over sell. The palms, by the way, were delicious and had plenty of breast meat.

Christy, as far as control over the size of the birds, one could raise separate batches, though I don't think that works quite as well with heritage breeds because they take longer to grow out than the hybrids, and the mid-size breeds that I work with can take two years to reach the 20-30 lb range. My birds all ranged from about 7.5 lbs to 17 lbs. I roasted a 17 lb tom and that barely fit in my oven—they are long birds! These are the kinds of things I tell potential customers, and I often recommend buying two smaller birds as opposed to one large bird to ensure meat quality. Analogies work well: just like a bigger lobster may be impressive, it's also much less tender and sweet than the smaller ones. I recommend folks brine the birds at least overnight, and that makes a huge difference. Our birds were moist, flavorful, and delicious—hands down better than a commercial bird.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, or Dark Days Eat Local Challenge: Week 6

For Thanksgiving this year we managed to pull an almost totally local, nearly zero mile meal—if it weren't for the lousy potato harvest this year, we would've done it. As it was, however, dinner was pretty magnificent. I made two heritage turkeys this year, one for dinner and one for leftovers. (Remember that gluttony post?) This one is a 17lb Narragansett tom, and the other was an 11 lb Royal Palm hen, both of which I brined for about 36 hours. The heritage birds have such incredibly long legs that they're impossible to truss in the bird, and they hang over my largest roasting pan. Next year, I'll have some twine on hand at least.

For the stuffing, I made two loaves of country white bread (made with half whole wheat pastry flour), diced them into cubes and tossed them with several garden herbs—rosemary, thyme, oregano and Italian parsley—and crisped them in the oven for about an hour and let set out overnight. Thursday morning I browned our last package of sausage that I'd been saving together with green onions, garlic, and swiss chard stems, and of course fresh herbs then drenched it all with homemade turkey stock.

For sides, we enjoyed roasted butternut squash stuffed with onion and parsley; kale and chard wilted with olive oil and caramelized onions; sautéed mixed beans; our three Beauregard sweet potatoes baked with cinnamon and brown sugar; the requisite mashed potatoes and a beautiful deep brown gravy; and a lovely side salad with mixed greens, a red wine vinaigrette, onion, one of our last storage tomatoes, and crumbled gorgonzola.

For breads I made our standard ciabatta as well as mini Gruyère gougères—a small, light puff pastry. Dessert was a homemade pumpkin pie with puréed pumpkin from our freezer. I'd also planned to make apple crisp with local apples, but by the time dessert rolled around, we were all totally stuffed. So we limited ourselves to the pumpkin pie and the deserts my mother-in-law brought down, showing uncharacteristic restraint, considering we've been known to have one desert per person at the table.

Everything was homegrown or homemade. Non-local items: the flour, potatoes, olive oil, vinegar, Gorgonzola and some spices. The milk and Gruyère were both from our local creamery, and I could've had a bleu as well if I'd thought ahead.

The pièce de résistance...

Supermarket Mentality

We sold our turkeys this holiday season, which means that I've had far more public exposure than in the past, which in turn means dealing with the public far more than I have in the past. This has been an interesting experience on a number of levels, and while I had a sense of what to expect—I'd been one of those unwitting consumers myself for a number of years, after all—I wasn't prepared for the sheer level of ignorance now that I've moved to the other side of the great grocery divide.

Most consumers simply don't get that a) food comes in all shapes and sizes, and b) there's not an endless, controllable supply of food. That's how far we've come as a society from our food sources.

Consumers are so used to going to a grocery store and having a grand variety to choose from that they've come not only to expect that kind of food availability but also to feel entitled to it. I can hear the irritation in some of the voices as I tell them we'll do our best to honor preferences but cannot guarantee a particular size bird. Some folks want to know exactly what I have available and are surprised to learn that the birds are still out walking around in the pasture. . . even though they're calling to order a FRESH bird! One fella wanted to know if I included the little pop-up thingies that tell you when the turkey's done. With some, I could almost hear that lightbulb going off as they made the obvious connections; they're just so used to the supermarket norm.

Our eggs come in all shapes, colors and sizes—just the way the hens lay them. And it seems our customers love them for precisely that reason. Well that and because they taste so good. I don't grade them or size them. We just keep the stained or cracked ones and sell the rest.

Getting used to all the variations in real food is an interesting journey. Milk changes based on what the animals are eating, changing from farm to farm, from season to season. Even meat changes flavor from the feed, from the breed. But factory farms remove all the variables--feed never changes, seasons don't change in the carefully controlled environments, breeds most definitely don't change, and any variation is culled from the final product. Eggs that are too small, cracked, stained, funny shaped all get pulled for distribution to various other industries lest one dozen look different from another.

Perfect homogeneity is not our goal here at our farm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge: Week 5

Yes, I know, I'm a few days late, but we've been crazy busy heading up to Thanksgiving, what with the last of the broilers, the turkeys, and visitors. My apologies to fellow challengers. Since I never got around to posting my meal from last week, I figured I'd better get it up before posting about our Thanksgiving.

Last week, besides zero mile breakfasts, I made a 25 mile frittata—all zero mile but for the local cheddar. I just can't live without cheese! This frittata was made with leftover herb foccacia bread, salted bacon, chives, parsley, garlic, and caramelized onions. On the table it was joined by a delicious mixed green salad with a red wine vinaigrette.

Saturday, for our guests, we made a stunning meal of twin roast chickens stuffed with onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sorrel, drizzled with caramelized onions and the last of our fall carrots. As a side, I made potatoes roasted in goose fat, and although the Yukon golds were not ours, I did use in the mix one of our precious sweet potatoes, the rest of which are being reserved for Thanksgiving. We also had homemade ciabatta bread and a delicious mixed green salad topped with balsamic vinaigrette, homemade goat cheese, and non-local walnuts. Not to mention lots of great wine, and of course, no one thought to get a picture. For desert, we enjoyed a homemade apple crisp made with a mix of local apples both from our area and upstate New York where our friends live. Ooooh, and we pulled out a jar of the green tomato chutney I made for an appetizer, and it was yuuuummy!

Life has just been too filled with work, friends, laughter, and great food. Just one more reason I'm grateful to be alive!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Long Emergency

Surprisingly enough, I found the book rather more heartening than disheartening.

The way I read it, Kunstler's main argument is that current technology is not adequate to sustain our current level of energy consumption. Honestly, I thought his discussions on technology were interesting but also represent some of the weakest points of the book. His recourse to sarcasm when discussing the limitations of some alternative technologies betrays the shaky rational grounding of the arguments in those sections. I'd have to go back to the book to actually find the sections I'm thinking of here, but there are moments when he falls back on trying to make something look laughable rather than taking it apart logically.

I think, too, he fails to consider two really salient points when it comes to current technology: a) we don't necessarily know what potentials have already been discovered and are being suppressed by the oil industry, which let's face it, is a far more evil empire than Monsanto, a company that alone has managed to suppress all kinds of science; and b) these fields are notoriously underfunded, and not just kinda underfunded, but ridiculously underfunded when compared with research budgets for defense, for example, never mind direct military budgets. The 5% increase that Bush requested back in his State of the Union for alternative energy funding is pittance compared to what defense projects receive from the DOE and the DOD for research with even a slight potential somewhere in the distant future for military application.

None of that takes into account the idea that necessity is the mother of invention. As long as we can continue the cheap ride fossil fuels offer, there's little cultural incentive to develop and switch to alternative energy sources. I think as the oil dries up and becomes more expensive, corporations will begin pumping more money into research. Will that money be there to reallocate, or will big business be caught with its pants down? Well, that's an interesting question I think. Being the closet conspiracy theorist that I am, I don't think corporate greed is stupid enough not to cover its own a$$. Although neither do I think free market is a panacea, but I do think money will follow power in what ever way it can.

What Kunstler did seem to say that I found somewhat heartening is that electricity is not nearly the problem as oil currently is, as it accounts for only a small percentage of our culture's total energy use. His basic argument is that our lights will likely stay on, but we won't be able to drive. Of course, that's a gross oversimplification, but that's the general gist of it. That's not to say that the impossibility of driving, not to mention the impact of oil depletion on petroleum-dependent industries, won't have huge ramifications for life as we know it and potentially on the availability of electricity as well. Surely it will. The big question is how gradual that change will be and how able we are as a culture to adapt to those changes.

Kunstler describes some very interesting convergences of potential disasters, but personally I think much of what the doom and gloomers talk about depends on several converging worst-case scenarios. Sure a nexus of war, famine, and disease could happen on Katrina-disaster and worse proportions, but life tends to be somewhat less extreme than that. I do tend to believe that the changes will be gradual enough to allow people to adapt, and adaptability and problem-solving are two of our greatest strengths as a species. Will 6 billion people adapt? Probably not, and surely we'll see a rise in poverty as well as drastic decline in the standard of living as the true costs of living fall on the developed world like a ton of bricks. Other parts of the world are more likely to go on living as they have for hundreds of years.

At the moment, I'd argue that the single biggest problem we're facing in terms of adaptation is the American government's steadfast refusal to acknowledge there is a significant problem combined with the artificially low prices of gasoline in this country. Compare a US gallon of premium gasoline this month at the pump for $3.33 to the Netherland's $8.39 or Britain's $7.87 or Germany's $7.97 ( Add to that the insistence that biofuels like ethanol are the magic bullet, and there's an interesting shift of government subsidies for gmo corn as Monsanto climbs into bed with the fuel companies. What proponents of biofuels fail to consider is the vast petroleum input required to produce the ding dang corn in the first place. Sure the ethanol could conceivably be used to power all those big machines, but what about the vast amount of petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides needed for the corn fields, not to mention the petroleum necessary to produce all that big equipment in the first place. Why not consider producing ethanol from hemp, which is a cellulose-dense plant that takes fewer resources to grow and produces more per acre, potentially lowering the current disparity of energy in/ energy out of corn and other sources, which is highly controversial in the first place ( Because that would constitute a double-whammy against agribusiness and the Puritanical powers that be.

As far as climate changes, again I think that a lot of the gloom and doom is based on worst-case scenario kind of thinking and much of what I've read seems to indicate that Europe will be hardest hit by changes in the Gulf Stream. The way I figure it, Maryland could be the next Georgia or the next Vermont, neither of which is too drastic. Another ice age is pretty dramatic, and most sources say the loss of thermohaline circulation is likely to result in temperature variations of about 10-29° F based on past numbers, but even that would likely be offset by the overall effects of global warming thus mitigating those temps. We're also far enough inland where we live that we won't be affected directly by rising water levels, though that could improve our water tables. So that doomsday scenario doesn't trouble me all that much.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hard Frost

We've had several hard frosts this past week—significantly later than last year, when we were covering lettuces before Halloween. I still have lots still growing in the garden: several herbs, carrots, radishes, beets, lettuces, raab, kale, tatsoi, chard, green onions, and broccoli, in addition to several seedlings that I hope to be ready for an early spring crop. The parsley on the left fared fine without any cover, as did the carrots to the right and the beets even down by the lettuces in the market garden. Although they were weighed down by frost, they bounced back quickly during the day time temps that are still in the 40s and 50s.

I'm learning quite a bit this year about the microclimates down in the market garden, not surprising considering this is my first year planting down there. The lettuces are planted in a frost hollow, and they got zapped a bit the night of our first frost. I quickly covered them with old bed sheets, and that got them through a few more nights. Luckily I've had the greenhouse plastic on them for the hard frosts we've had this week, so they've gone untouched. Up in the kitchen garden, which sits atop an East facing hill, all the lettuces were fine with the first frost and have fared well since even with just a light covering of sheer curtains. The chard, sorrel, other herbs and all the seedlings already in the ground have been fine as well with no covering at all. This weekend, though, we're working on getting the high tunnel up, which will hopefully allow us to grow throughout the winter. More on that soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Red Wine and Poetry

Every so often, I get a hankerin' for some poetry, usually when I'm feeling introspective and enjoying red wine. So, here I am to subject you to one of the poems that's been on the forefront of my mind lately by W. B. Yeats.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge: Week 4

Once again, I'll be updating this post throughout the week rather than creating separate posts.

My beautiful zero mile meal Monday night, otherwise known as "Where's the Beef?"

Butternut squash soup: roast butternut squash with onion, garlic, chives, rosemary and thyme, pureed with homegrown chicken stock and a dash of nutmeg. Herb foccacia bread, and a delicious three lettuce salad with green and red salad bowl lettuces and thai oakleaf lettuce, oxheart heirloom carrots, second year green onions, and Brandywine heirloom tomatoes. Tasty and filling...unless of course, you happen to be my husband. Hence the dinner's name.

So, here's the meal we actually ate, which ended up including small twin fillets from a few miles up the road. Delicious, no doubt, but they definitely bumped my beautiful zero mile meal up to the 15 mile category. But, if I'm perfectly honest, I'll fess up to that lovely little swirl of sour cream in the soup that already knocked me out on a technicality.

Tuesday night: zero mile

Chicken stuffed with herbs and roasted with carrots and green onion. Roasted baby acorn and butternut squash stuffed with sauteed green zebra, Brandywine, Amish paste, and San Marzano tomatoes, green pepper, delicate spring garlic greens, minced garlic cloves, onions, basil, and parsley. Two-green salad with tomatoes, onion, and a balsamic vinaigrette, and a braided loaf of French bread with sesame seeds, dipped in olive oil, garlic, and basil. Everything from Touch the Earth Farm but the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Wednesday Night: 25 mile taco salad

Wednesday night for dinner I made tortillas, which disappear almost as quickly as I can make them. Having spent two years out in Albuquerque, we grew accustomed to light, tasty tortillas, which East coast tortillas resemble in name only. So, I learned to make my own, and I really need to start doubling the recipe because the kids eat them so fast. For this salad I fried my tortillas, topped them with rice, local ground beef, green chili brought by friends from New Mexico, cheddar cheese from our local dairy, and vegetables and herbs from our garden. So simple, so tasty!

Thursday Night: 25 mile meal

"Nothing goes better with cabbage than cabbage." So says a character in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I always think of as I use Tuesday's roast chicken for a meal of chicken soup later in the week—two meals for the price of one. The weather has finally cooled enough to relish soups and salads as meals that feed body and soul. The chicken soup is entirely homegrown, from chicken to stock to herbs, and Jim made drop noodles to add, which were quite tasty. We had salad from veggies grown here on the farm, topped with our very own goat cheese that I made the night before. What bumps us up to 25 mile are the grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, made with cheddar cheese from our creamery.

You Make Me Smile Award

I was surprised the other day with a You Make Me Smile Award from Julia's Chicken Scratch, and she was so sweet about it that I feel the need to participate in the tag with nary a moan or groan. So, after giving it some thought—because there are several blogs that make me think—I've finally settled on those that make me smile.

Madeline over at Barn-Raising always makes me smile, and I'm so pleased to have her in my blogosphere. It's hard to believe she's the blogger who never used to post! Here's to high speed cable!

Woody over at Rocky Ridge has brought many a smile to my face, and not just with his skivvy story. So he, too, was an obvious choice.

Farmgirl Fare often makes me smile, often makes me hungry, and even occasionally makes me want to cry.

And, finally, photos like this over at Sugar Creek Farm are some of my favorites. I'm often smiling when I leave her blog—when I'm not feeling envious that is.

I guess the idea is that folks are now supposed to go tag their own set of blogs that make them smile. Somewhere along the line, I think the number was 10, but that's just too much to ask. So, I say go ahead and tag whatever blogs make you smile without worrying about rules and numbers.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge: Week 3

This week was a blur, with a visit from my in-laws, a Halloween party on Tuesday, and Halloween on Wednesday, so I have to beg, borrow, and steal my zero mile meals from breakfasts this week.

Here's a photo of a mostly zero mile meal but for the baby swiss, which was store bought. We enjoyed a caramelized onion and herb frittata, baked with grated baby swiss cheese and our own bread, eggs, onion, herbs, and garlic. It's paired with a delicious salad of black seeded simpson and red salad bowl lettuces, onion, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Although it would seem that I was slacking on the zero mile front this week, I was busy preparing for a Halloween Harvest Farm Day we hosted for our homeschool group. I made mini pumpkin muffins from our own Little Pam pie pumpkins, carrot cupcakes from our own red core chantenay and oxheart heirloom carrots, and our very own deviled eggs. The pumpkin muffins were delicious, but would be very much improved with nuts, which I'd left out to keep them available for those with nut allergies. The deviled eggs go without saying, and I'm embarrassed to admit how many I ate! Of course we also had the requisite homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

Also on tap this week was picking and processing our green tomatoes, as we had our first killing frost Sunday night. That evening, I harvested the last of our basil, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes in time to preserve them all. I washed
and froze the basil, put the zucchini in the fridge, and processed an entire bushel of green tomatoes and a half bushel of peppers over the week, resulting in 14 pints of green tomato salsa, 13 pints of pickled green tomatoes using Ed's recipe over at The Slow Cook, and 7 pints of green tomato chutney, seen coming to a boil above. My one regret was that our onion crop did so poorly in this year's drought that I didn't get to use all homegrown ingredients in my salsa and pickles. But there's always next year, and next year, we'll have hard irrigation lines in the market garden.