Posted on

Freeeeeeedom!

The snow finally melted enough that Paul and I could get out in the barn pasture and fix the electric fence.  So much snow had buried the line, pulled it to the ground in many places, and broken a bunch of the plastic clips that secure the fence wire to the posts.  Paul tells me that the cows were very happy to be free of their winter quarters.  He opened the gate and the whole herd did their spring ritual of galloping around the pasture, with even the old girls bucking and kicking like heifers.  Sadly I missed one of my favorite sights – as I was clearing Phragmites from one corner of the fence, a shard of reed buried itself deep in my thumb, deep enough that a trip to the ER seemed like a good idea.  Talk about an invasive species!  Yukyukyuk.

Thanks to all who came out on Monday to get sausage.  There’s plenty left, but it’s going fast.

Finally, I’m finalizing the details this week for this year’s Potter Hill Pastured Pork CSA.  Please let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send you an order form as soon as it’s finished.

Posted on

More sausage

The time has come to make another batch of sausages.  We’re sticking with the hits – Hot Italian, Bratwurst, and Maple Breakfast.  The recipes come from friend and meat magician Dave V, and Dave and I make the sausages ourselves from our own pork and other high-quality ingredients.  I’ve been making it a point to taste sausages from other farms and meat processors, and I have yet to find anything that compares to ours.  And I’m not biased, or anything.  Sausages will be available for pickup this Monday, so please place your order as usual through the website.

In the veg department, pickings are getting slim.  Basically….. it’s beets!  Plenty of beets to go around, with the Cylindra having held up especially well in storage.  As for carrots, this is REALLY the last week.  Whatever’s left at the end of the day on Monday are going in the private stash.

Posted on

Still, snow

Spring is here!  Wait… spring is here??  Could have fooled me.  May not be much more snow in the forecast, but there’s too much on the ground for my liking.  Even with all the melting, there’s still too much snow in the pasture behind the barn for us to get out and fix the electric fence.  Looks like the cows will be cooped up for a little while longer.

I think it was two years ago that we had an incredibly mild winter, almost no snow.  I was out in the fields on the tractor in the last week of March, turning the soil.  This year, we’ll still have snow on the ground in April, and who knows when the ground will firm up enough for tillage.  The good news is that our first leeks and onions are sprouting in the greenhouse.  Let’s hope for some heat so that we can get a home ready for them in the garden.

As long as winter intends to stick around for at least another week, you may as well do some more roasting and braising.  We have several different cuts of beef and pork that would be great in the oven or crock-pot.

We should have some carrots this week, but the supply may be limited.  Either way this will be the last week for carrots, still just $0.75 / lb on account of their rough outside appearance.  Also, note that pickup will be at the Brigham Hill Community Barn FROM 3PM TO 6PM through the end of April.

Posted on

Human cost

IMG_20150306_095133149

I read a very impactful piece of reporting last night, and I am ashamed that my eyes are only now opened to this particular dark side of modern agriculture.  The series of stories in the LA Times was about the workers who pick and pack the produce grown on giant corporate farms in Mexico.  The long and short of it is that these people are horribly taken advantage of – minimal pay (often withheld until the end of their contract), company stores that leave many workers in debt, poor living conditions, child labor.  These people are working on farms that export their goods to the USA.  To Walmart.  To Subway.  One bit of irony that hit me pretty hard was the fact that US concern for food safety has meant that these farms have state-of-the-art greenhouses and packing facilities.  And yet the field workers live in squalid camps.

Clearly, this isn’t OK.  I don’t know what the answer is – if we stopped importing produce from giant farms in Mexico, the supermarket shelves would be bare of fresh produce at many times of the year.  I don’t think that the local farming infrastructure could really pick up the slack in production anyway.  And the fact is that we live in a fast-food culture.  As an American, it’s hard to completely step outside of the agri-industrial complex that rules our food system.  Maybe it’s time to focus on Fair Trade being just as important as organic.  Why isn’t there such a thing as a Fair Trade organic tomato?

It strikes me that a lot of emphasis is placed on food animal welfare in the local food “scene”.  We decry the fact that beef cows must live in horrible conditions as they are fattened in the feedlot.  And, god forbid, pigs might live in barns, on slatted floors, above their own manure.  These are not good things – it’s not good for the animals, and it’s not the way to produce high-quality nutritious meats. And we recognize that the decision as a society to invest in factory farming bears environmental and even cultural costs.  But what about the human cost, the social cost?  We yearn to see cows on pretty green pastures, pigs rooting in the dirt, but what of the workers?  Where is the concern for the people who picked that “ripe” tomato found on shelves year-round at the supermarket?

Well, isn’t that a cheery way to start your weekend….

You can read a short summary of the LA Times story from Harvest Public Media.  Or read the entire four-part series here.

Back here in Grafton, we are finally reaching the end of carrot season.  We still have plenty left to sell, for now, but they are starting to show their age.  Still great for soups.  And horses.  75 cents / lb.  The beets and celeriac have held up incredibly well.  Tons of beets left, but we nearing the end of our celeriac supply.  Anyone have a good borscht recipe?

Posted on

February homegrown dinner

IMG_20130329_115452_026

Made dinner last weekend, looked at the plate, and realized that everything was home-grown. Even at the end of February.  Skillet pork chops, oven-steamed balsamic beets, mashed celeriac and carrots, sauerkraut.  For the beets, I used one very large Cylindra beet that yielded dinner for two with plenty of leftovers for a cold beet salad.  Seems to me that the Cylindra beets take a bit longer to soften up, and are even good with just a bit of crunch left to them.  Great flavor.  If crazy big long beets aren’t your thing, the Detroit Dark Red round beets will do just as well.

Nothing fancy, not more than two or three ingredients per dish.  But so good.  And it’s taken me longer to write this than to actually do all the cooking.

Do the beets first, then the chops so you can just turn down the heat in the oven when the beets finish.

Oven-steamed Balsamic Beets:  Heat oven to 450F.  Peel and chop beets.  Place beets into some kind of baking dish that can be covered.  Add salt, pepper, a few tablespoons of olive oil,  and a lot of balsamic vinegar.  Add enough vinegar to get to the point where you think to yourself, “Man, I think that’s too much vinegar.”  Cover the beets and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.  Stir them around a couple of times during baking.

Mashed Celeriac and Carrots:  Peel and chop 1 medium celeriac and 3 large carrots, so that you have about equal amounts of each.  Bring a pot of slated water to a boil, add chopped roots, cook until tender.  Pour out the water and then mash roots with a couple tablespoons of butter (or a few, but several might be overdoing it), and enough milk (or cream, or half and half) to get the consostency you want.

Perfect Pork Chops: Heat oven to 350F. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of a couple of chops. Really, don’t be shy with the salt. In a hot skillet, sear one side of the chops for 1 minute. Flip them over, and sear the other side for another minute. Put about a teaspoon of coconut oil on top of each and finish them in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from oven, move to plate or platter, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Posted on

Oh, Betty Rose

IMG_20150225_154546467_HDR

Ah, just look at that pretty girl, lounging in a pile of food.  That there heifer in repose be the beeeeyootiful Betty Rose.  So much sass and just enough class.  She’s Abigail’s girl, hence the good looks – you know she doesn’t belong to Lois.  Her daddy was a Dexter bull, so that means she will probably be petite her whole life.

I’m really interested in what good might come from crossing the small breeds (i.e. Dexters, Lowline Angus) with hearty Scottish and English breeds like Galloways and Devons.  With grass-fed beef, we want animals with good carcass yields that efficiently convert grass to mass.  We don’t really need to hang the biggest steer on the block.  (One of the USDA auction reports down in PA last week listed a slaughter steer that weighed over 1700 lbs on the hoof.  Holy what?!?!  Looks like someone decided to take Paul Bunyan’s ox to the abattoir.)  The proof is in the pudding, of course, but these very intriguing numbers come from the Lowline Angus website.

lowline-tableTwo things to note: 1) Stocking rate is almost double the average of 6 other large/medium-framed cattle breeds.  2)  Retail Meat Yield for small cattle is 66% higher than the average of the 6 other breeds.  Also consider that these small cattle have 1/3 the nutritional requirements of larger animals, although that seems like a very low number and might be Lowline voodoo.  Maybe someone can do the math for me, but 66% more yield per acre seems like a good thing, even if you’re feeding twice the number of animals one-third of the feed.

Posted on

Hey, hay buffet

IMG_20150220_121459618

Busy morning today.  Up to Tufts to grab a round bale for the cows, but now they are all set for the next few days, at least.  Paul and I spent some time trying to rake the snow drift off of the barn roof, to make room for more coming.  Looks like some snow – just a bit – this weekend, but hey, at least it will be mixed with some rain.  And then possibly some more mid-week, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.  One thing is certain – this year, we’re going to have one heck of a mud season.  Might have to invest in a pair of bog waders just to get anything done during the month of April.  But spring will come, one way or another, and we better get ready.  Time to get the seed order finished, and to start tracking down some animals to stock our pastures.

More snow may be in the forecast, but it looks like we are in the clear for Monday.  Plenty of carrots, beets, and celeriac to go around, and still a decent selection of beef and pork.

Posted on

Back in Business

IMG_20150127_113859215

Just before the first big storm in this completely unholy string of snowstorms, the John Deere tractor decided that it was not going to start.  And so, in spite of the kind efforts of some neighbors and a mysterious stranger with a very large machine, the snow has really been piling up in front of the barn.  Well, after a lot of head-scratching and a full complement of scraped knuckles, I finally got the tractor running again.  Starter motor had finally given up the ghost after 40 years of service – a relatively simple and inexpensive fix once I finally figured out what the problem was.  There’s really nothing like the sound of an old diesel motor turning over and roaring to life on a cold winter afternoon.  And those fumes, those incredible fumes!  That is the smell of victory, my friends.  And just in time to get things cleared up a little bit before we get whacked with another foot of powder.  Let’s hope that the old tractor can push through the accumulated snow drifts deposited in front of the barn by a very crotchety Old Man Winter.

Looks like we’ll finally have a snow free Monday, so we’ll be back in business at the Brigham Hill Community Barn.  Hit the website to place your orders.

Thanks!!

Posted on

Mo’ snow

IMG_20140214_065850_417

It looks like more snow in the forecast, but we will have pickup this Monday, no matter the weather.  We just wouldn’t be proper New Englanders if we let a little snow shut us down 2 weeks in a row.  No way, not now, not never.

See you Monday!