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(Actually) Pastured pork

Our pigs are really living the life this year.  They are down at the bottom of the hill where they get access to fresh pasture every week.  We move the pigs before they do too much digging and and then we reseed the turned earth with new forage.  When we open up a new section of pasture, the pigs get right down to business, running around eating clover leaves and burying their snouts in the soil.  Other features of pig heaven include a 1-ton feeder full of non-GMO feed from Green Mountain Feed in Vermont and some nice muddy water holes to wallow in on hot days.  I think I’m going to move in…

If you like great pork and want to support good farming, head over to the Short Creek Farm and download a Pastured Pork CSA signup form.

The Potter Hill website is all up to date with the vegetables we have available this week.  The first squash and zukes are coming in, and the lettuce looks amazing.  Coming soon – carrots, beets, cukes.

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Never saw it coming

Wow.  If you had asked me a month ago where things would stand on the farm in the middle of May, I would have said that hopefully I’d actually be able to get some tillage started.  After a cold winter and tons of late-melting snow, I really thought we’d be spinning our wheels in the mud until June.  Thankfully, that’s not so.  After 2 weeks of summery weather all wrapped up in a July-style drought, the fields have dried out sufficiently for me to get some tillage done in even the wettest places.  Potatoes, onions, radishes, leeks, mesclun mix, arugula, carrots, and beets are all in the ground after a busy week of planting.  Now we just need a little rain to get those seeds germinating.  Just a little… I mean it, OK?

In spite of the droughty weather, our wet hillside pastures are green and growing like crazy.  The cows have just moved to the field at the very top of the hill.  Feel free to come up and take a look – it’s a nice view with the cows on green spring pasture, dotted with dandelions, and Wachusett in the distance.  Check out the pigs, too, for a different view (see above) while they are still in fence training boot camp.  Once they reliably respect the electric fence, we’ll move them down the hill where they can graze and root on pasture of their own.  And, yes, pigs do graze.  Even with a trough full of grain, they will choose to eat grass and clover in addition to digging for subterranean goodies.

If you like the idea of eating pork that was raised locally in an ecologically conscientious manner, with an eye towards animal welfare and good husbandry, then sign up for our 2015 Pastured Pork CSA!

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Falling behind

Gratuitous Barley picture is from this time last year.  Note the greening grass and distinct lack of snow.

They’ve been doing a series on WGBH radio this week called “What Winter Did.”  Some intrepid local reporter has been going around talking to experts about the effects of the extremely cold and snowy winter that just passed.  (Or has almost just passed – was not thrilled to find a good coating of snow and ice up on the hill this morning.)  There were pieces on the impact of the cold and snow on wildlife, and fishermen, and farmers.  It’s official, and has now been documented on public radio – this has been a tough winter, and we are weeks behind in the growing season.

Now, you can be forgiven if you’ve tuned out my sky-is-falling attitude about the weather, and if you’ve learned to just skip over the parts of the newsletter decrying the wet, heavy soil on our north-facing slope.  Especially for spring-time newsletters.  Every year, I just about give up hope that the soil will ever dry out enough that we might get out in the field and get to work.  This year, it seems real.  It’s mid-April, and it just barely feels like mid-March.  Normally, at this time of year, I’m contemplating turning the cows out into a cover crop of 6-inch-high winter rye to give them their first taste of spring.  This year, the rye hasn’t even begun it’s spring growth spurt.  It looks like a stretch of good weather is heading our way (finally!), but it’s going to take a lot more than a few seasonable days to get things back on track.  That said, as the sun gets stronger by the day, things can change in a hurry, and so we continue to hope for the best.

While the first harvest of spring greens may be a ways off yet, you can support the farm now by signing up for a Pastured Pork CSA Share.  If you were considering signing up for a share, please send in your deposit sooner rather than later.  Your deposits will really help the farm get through this frustratingly slow-to-start growing season.

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February homegrown dinner

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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.