Monday, November 29, 2010

Let's Eat Pie and Pigs

The turkeys, ducks, and chickens have been processed for the winter.  The farm is quiet except for the pigs fighting over the pumpkins.  Thanksgiving has come and gone but left us with a few extra rolls around the waist from eating too much pie.  But really, except for the added calories, how can anyone eat too much pie?  Hungry? Eat Pie. Depressed? Eat Pie. Bored? Eat Pie. Stressed? Eat Pie. Angry? Eat Pie. Ecstactic? Eat Pie. Lonely? Eat Pie.  Feeling Svelt and Beautiful? Eat Two Pies.

WIOX Radio in Roxbury's Farm Chatter features me and Tara Collins the first Wednesday of every month at 1 pm. On December 1 we will be chatting about pigs and pie and local and seasonal holiday gift ideas.

Farmer Tom Warren will be the guest this week to talk about how pigs get to be pork on a platter. He will chat about raising pigs and feeding pigs alternative crops such as pumpkins. He spends way too much time watching the pigs chasing pumpkins in the fields.  You can imagine what a riot it is watch big fat pigs frolicking after giant orange marbles rolling about the field.

I will talk about Colonial Minced Meat Pie.  This is a pie filling recipe from an old colonial Willambsburg recipe book that I used in my Perfectly Pie Gift baskets.  The gift basket included filling for minced meat pie, cherry pie, apple and cranberry pie, ready made crusts (just add water) and pie plates and servers.  Two of my favorite relatives are getting this for Christmas.   This recipe is sweet and savory and conjures up memories of fireside cooking and cozy Colonial suppers.

Colonial Minced Meat (real) Pie

1 1/4 pounds of beef round or leftover roast
1/4 pound suet
1 1/2 pounds apples
1 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon clove
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups cider or apple juice

Double recipe for Pie Crust

1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. If uncooked meat is used, simmer beef 2-3 hours or until very tender, adding suet for last 1/2 hour of cooking.

2. When cooked, chop beef and suet very fine, into about 1/4-inch pieces. 3. Pare, core, and chop apples to make 3 cups. 4. Mix beef, suet, apples, raisins or currants, white and brown sugars, spices, brandy and cider or apple juice.

5. Prepare pie crust.

6. Line pie plates with pastry, fill each with half of meat mixture. Cover with top crusts, seal edges, slit holes on top for steam to escape. If desired, spread a thick layer of butter on pastry for flaky upper crust.

7. Bake 3/4 hour in 400°-425° oven.

Yield: Two 9-inch pies

These pies are available from Fable's Kitchen in our farm store and the Callicoon Farmer's Market on Sundays.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talking Turkey

Going Going Gone
The calendar page flipped to November and just as we predicted, turkey reservations came barreling in!  The sad news is that we were sold out of turkeys by October 30th and the spare turkeys we saved for us were eaten by predators on November 1.   Coyotes came down off the ridge and picked off one turkey one night and three the next. Flora, our livestock guardian dog was unable to deter them. Last night we put up an electrified corral and herded the turkeys into it at dusk. We moved the night roosts into the pen. We added one more LGD to the pasture.  The racket last night was horrific - howling, barking, whining and yipping.  At daybreak the turkeys were unscathed and happy to be released into the pasture for a day of roaming, scratching, pecking, grazing and roosting. 

Talking Turkey and Food on WIOX
At 1 pm on Wednesday November 3rd, Tara Collins and I will be talking turkey, Thanksgiving, recipes, local food, stuffing.  I will test Tara on her turkey facts and quiz her on facts such as: What is the name of the skin that hangs from a turkeys neck? Wattle, snark, garble, swag?  Tune in tomorrow for the answer to this quiz question and to test your turkey knowledge.  Did you know that before the 20th century, pork ribs were the most common food consumed at Thanksgiving because most pigs were harvested in November? So the theme of next month's Farm Chatter on Wednesday, December 1 is Everything Piggery. 

The centerpiece of Thanksgiving is the turkey but the centerpiece of the turkey is the stuffing.  A few years ago there was a nationwide alert that stuffing should not be cooked inside the turkey because it may not reach a temperature high enough for safe consumption. Phooey. I have been stuffing stuffed in a bird for decades and am not going to sacrifice the yummy turkey juices mixed into the stuffing because of a food safety alert.   My favorite stuffing recipes are:

Pumpkin Stuffing (Make chili and cornbread a few days before Thanksgiving so you have stale cornbread for this recipe.)

Adapted from recipe of Dean Fearing, Mansion at Turtle Creek, Dallas, TX
6 servings
1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
Salt and cracked black pepper
2 1/2 cups stale cornbread
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup chicken stock
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Cut pumpkin in half, and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin, and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, thyme, and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season, to taste, with salt and cracked black pepper.  Meanwhile, crumble the stale cornbread into a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables to the corn bread crumbs. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, beaten egg, and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.   Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes. To serve, cut stuffing into squares and garnish with a couple sprigs of parsley

Sausage Stuffing with Fennel and Roasted Squash
The richness of the sausage is a great match for bright, fresh fennel and sweet squash.
8 to 10 servings
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 cups 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from one 1 3/4-pound squash)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions (about 1 pound)
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh fennel bulb (about 1 medium)
1 pound pork sausage
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
12 cups (generous) 1-inch cubes day-old pain rustique or ciabatta bread with crust (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Scatter squash on sheet in single layer; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast squash until tender, stirring occasionally, about 55 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; cool.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and fennel. Sauté 8 minutes. Add sausage. Sauté until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through, breaking up sausage with fork, about 10 minutes. Add all herbs; sauté 1 minute longer. Add to bowl with squash. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until bread is crusty but not hard, reversing sheets after 5 minutes, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to very large bowl and cool.

Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Stir vegetable mixture into bread. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend well; whisk in 1 cup broth. Add egg mixture to stuffing, tossing to combine evenly and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish.

Bake stuffing uncovered until cooked through and brown and crusty on top, 50 to 60 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Lastly, Tara will be tasting one of my new butters from Fable's Kitchen new product line of chutneys, butters, pot pies, pates and other goodies.  The butter is great on toast or on toasted cranberry or pumpkin or zucchini bread, a dipping sauce for pretzels, a dollop on cheese, or spread on the bottom of a pie crust for apple or pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Walnut Butter

Makes 5 cup jars
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 box surejell fruit pectin
1/2 teaspoon margarine or 1/2 teaspoon butter
Measure pumpkin, walnuts and pumpkin pie spice into 6- or 8-quart sauce pan.
Prepare jars; keep lids hot until ready to fill jars.
Measure sugar into separate bowl.
Stir fruit pectin into pumpkin mixture.
Add butter.
Bring mixture to a rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
Quickly stir in sugar.
Return to rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat.
Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops.
Wipe jar rims and threads; cover with two-piece lids.
Screw bands tightly; place jars in hot water.
Boil in water bath for 5 minutes for 8-oz jars.

Last Dinner at Fable is Saturday November 13th.  We would love to see you. The menu for the next two weeks is:
November 6, 2010

Amuse:  caramelized apple onion bites
Starter:  sausage stuffed apples
Main:  horseradish crusted beef roast and garlic roasted potatoes
After:  crispy greens with maple cider vinaigrette
Dessert:  maple walnut pie with double whipped cream

November 13, 2010

Amuse:  cheddar dumplings with hot pepper dipping sauce
Starter:  winter kale and bean bruschetta
Main:  roasted and beer brined chicken with malt glaze with rustic herb stuffing
After:  mixed greens with cider pepper vinaigrette
Dessert:  spiced caramel pear tart with ginger cream

Second Saturday Suppers, three-course supper for $30 begins in January.  Game Night (board games, cards, etc) is coming. Look for information in the next blog.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn Underway

Tribute to Peter

Katey’s horse died a couple of weeks ago. He coliced the day we left for Virginia Beach to visit Tom’s parents and then coliced again mid week. An ultrasound revealed a sizeable tumor on his intestine. We made the decision not to operate and to put him down. Katey bought Peter two years ago. He was a seventeen hand, chestnut, off the track thoroughbred. His racing name was Peter L. Thunder. Katey put her heart and soul and countless hours into training him. A racehorse is a challenge to train. Peter had to unlearn how to be a racehorse. I remember the hours she spent teaching him to stand and not move off her leg when she mounted; how she had to teach him to turn right. I remember the first time she took him to horse show and the announcements via the loud speaker triggered “GO” in his brain and he tried to find the race outside the ring. Peter was never crazy like some thoroughbreds. He was sensible, sound and sensitive. He would not eat hay off the stall floor so we had to put the hay in a hay bag hung from the wall. One night he pulled it down and in the morning, I found him tangled in the hay net. Although he was terrified; he stood still while I untangled the net from around his legs. With my head under his massive body and next to his plate like hooves, he could have seriously hurt me. Peter was a natural jumper. One day we set up jumps in the arena and let him free jump – asking him to take the jumps with a prompt of the whip. He soared high over each jump. We let him cavort about the arena. When we turned our backs to chat, to our surprise, on his own, Peter took the jumps just for fun. Peter and Katey progressed from the arena to the trails and to jumps in two years. When a horse is young, the partnership is a little lopsided. Katey became his “babysitter”. He looked to her for direction, reassurance and confidence. During the past few months the relationship between Peter and Katey started to change; Peter was taking care of Katey – making sure that she was safe and sound while she was on his back. We miss Peter – we miss his beauty, strength, gentleness, desire to love and be loved. We miss his quirks, playful antics and his incredible drive to succeed and be the best partner Katey could have in and out of the arena. Someone told me that losing a horse, because they are our partners, prepares us for the big losses in our lives. And that every horse we ride in our lives, the spirits of the horses we have loved and lost are in our hands, our breath and in our hearts. And the last horse we ride on earth is the embodiment of the trust, courage and strength that we gave and got with every horse we loved throughout our life. That is going to be some ride…..

Range Roost or Turkey Jungle Gym

Turkeys normally roost in trees to stay safe from evening predators. Our hillbilly version of a range roost we built last week provides the turkeys shelter from the rain and a primitive but adequate place to roost during the evenings. The roost is moved with the tractor’s fork lift once a week on to new pasture. When raising livestock, we try to imitate their natural setting as closely as possible while keeping them safe from predators such as dogs, skunks, hawks and owls.

The turkeys are broad breasted whites and broad breasted bronzes and are happy and growing plump on pasture grasses and grain. I read an article on Mother Earth News that when poultry are under stress due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, they are twice as likely to carry foodborn bacteria such as Campylobacter in their intestines and surrounding meat which causes serious illness in humans when they eat the poultry. “The bacteria’s ability to affect the chicken is enhanced if the bird is in a stressful situation and the bacteria is also more likely to affect the muscle tissues, “ reported a food safety expert at the National Centre for Zoonosis Research in Liverpool, UK.

We are certain that we are raising happy AND safe turkeys for Thanksgiving. During the 20 years we have been raising turkeys for Thanksgiving, I learned that the flip of the calendar to November 1 triggers a flurry of turkey orders. We sold out last year by the first week in November. If you don’t know your plans for Thanksgiving, then order one for Christmas or the New Year! And who says you can’t have turkey for Easter?

We are offering the work for all or part of your turkey program again this year. How much of your turkey you earn depends on your skill level, the number of hours or days you work, how much you complain about the cold, how entertaining you are during turkey slaughter and a host of other criteria.


Pumpkin Parade
he lower field produced a bumper crop of sunflowers and pumpkins. A couple of our bed and breakfast guests spent the morning planting sunflowers in zig zag rows; they will be proud of the results of their farming endeavor. We harvested sugar pumpkins, turban squash, butternut squash and a heritage French pumpkin the day of the frost that killed all the plants. Lucky us. Frosted pumpkins and squash do not keep in the root cellar. While we have been successful in root cellaring potatoes, onions, beets and sunchokes, pumpkins are still a challenge. I have not been able to keep them past Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pigs

We fenced the pigs in the pumpkin patch to clean up the leftover pumpkins, squash and sunflowers. They are also doing a great job taking down the burdock. They are having an early Thanksgiving.

Early Autumn

The leaves have turned earlier than usual this year. Most of the tourists visit the Catskill for leaf peeping on Columbus Day weekend but I don’t think there will be many leaves left on the trees, especially if we get  big winds and cold snaps in the next two weeks. The geese started heading south a month ago but their flight activity is increasing. The migratory flight path for the Canada geese must be directly over the farm because hundreds of geese bed down in the corn fields and ponds. Their morning departure is louder than takeoff at a major airport.

How Many Tomatoes Can One Woman Can?

As it turns out, a lot. And pasta sauce, salsa, puree. I am going to keep canning until the frost although the canning cupboards are full. I am secretly hoping for an early frost. I dried a lot of tomatoes and canned dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. Layers of summer in a jar. I am also drying apples for the granola I make throughout the winter. A neighbor has arbors of ripe grapes so I am going to try drying grapes. How hard can it be to make raisins? Stay tuned.

The rose hips on the rugosa roses were ripening fast. I made rose hip jelly. You can add apples, lemon or oranges to it. But the basic recipe is as follows:
Rose Hip Jelly
• 8 cups of rose hips
• 6 cups of water
• 1 box of certo
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• 5 cups of sugar
Boil the rose hips for 10 - 15 min. until soft enough to crush. Crush them and squeeze through cloth, to make juice. For every 4 cups of juice add one box of certo and bring to a boil. Add the 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar (1/2 tsp. of marg to prevent foam). Bring to a boil and boil hard for 2 min. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars and seal with caps and rings. The jelly has a wonderful flavor and is the consistency of liquid honey.

Smoking is Smokin’

We borrowed a friend’s smoker and have been smoking chickens, sausage, duck, eggplants, almost anything. There are tricks to the smoker such as using apple juice instead of water for the pork. Pairing hardwoods with meats. Tom is the smoker master!

To Swap or Not Swap

My gym gals and other friends with flexible work schedules decided to hold a clothing and jewelry swap on Thursday October 7th at the farm. It is a pot luck lunch at 1:00 followed by the swap. If you have anything you want to swap, bring it. If not, come anyway as you may find something for your friends or family.

I went through two closets. I pulled everything off the hangers and separated it into three piles. Definitely swap, maybe swap and keep. I collect vintage clothes and most of them I have not worn since I was 20. It was very hard to part with the Indian skirt that I wore to the first picnic with my husband or the full brim hat I wore to a friend’s wedding or the evening gown I wore to a  friend’s charity ball in Boston. A skirt with beads and embroidery reminded me that while everyone was wearing t shirts and jeans in college, I was wearing skirts. I loved skirts and still do. Into the swap pile went most of my college days and 20s living in NYC. The pile is monstrous – a bright colored, beaded, embroidered, jingle jangle, satiny, strappy, oh so not me anymore mountain of memories. At least I had the good sense to get rid of my maternity clothes years ago.

Bye to Brunch

The last Sunday farm tour and brunch at Fable is October 10th. We are seriously considering doing another farmer’s market on Sunday next year instead of the farm tour and brunch. The tour and brunch is more an act of love than a source of income. While we love sharing our farm and our food with families, we have to be realistic about the cost/time/profit equation. Do we charge more? Charge for the tour and for the brunch? Make the tour shorter? Serve less food? Reduce labor by using dogs to clean the floor from the carpet of muffin crumbs and eggs deposited by the toddlers. Draw straws with guests and the three short straws do the dishes? Pick and cook your own brunch? Ideas are welcome!

October at Fable

October menus celebrate the harvest with apples, pumpkins, leeks, potatoes and grass fed meats.

October 9, 2010
Amuse - acorn squash, apple and sage puffs
Starter - pumpkin and chestnut soup
Main - bistro steak with shallot merlot sauce
After  - crispy greens with apple vinaigrette
Dessert - apple cup pies with crème frâiche

October 16, 2010
Amuse - buttermilk fried chicken livers with merlot gastrique
Starter - apple potato leek soup
Main - roasted chicken with apple wine sauce
sautéed leeks and root vegetables
After -mixed greens with herb vinaigrette
Dessert - autumn gold pumpkin cake with goat milk caramel

Hope to see you soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August Daze

Vacation in a Melon

The many visitors who visit the farm on vacation ask us when and where we vacation. If I am in a surly mood, I answer, “Vacation! What’s that?” We take our vacation in moments – increments of minutes or hours or if we are lucky, half days. My favorite get away spot is the hammock. I can grab 15 minutes and swing with eyes wide open taking in the canopy of trees overhead. The second best vacation spot is the patio at sunset. We dine at the patio table and sit with a glass of wine in hand listening to the farm quieting with the evening and admiring the sun setting as the night cold caresses our shoulders. When there is just enough light left to see, the vacation ends and we close the turkeys and the chickens in their night pens for the evening and head off to milk the goats. It is fun to hide away as an overnight guest in our farm bed and breakfast. But unlike our guests, we have to cook our own breakfast. We often sneak off to Pine Lake for a quick swim or we take half day trips Cherry Valley to pick up piglets. The most sociable vacation spot is the Wednesday Delhi farmers market. Seth Heller and his lovely daughter Laura sell me fruit and vegetables for Fable to supplement what I have growing in my kitchen gardens. The melon I bought this week was the sweetest and shortest vacation. In one bite of sunny summer sweetness, with juice dripping down my chin, I experience every vacation moment of the summer.

Kitchen Garden Jungle

The vegetables were ready to harvest two to three weeks earlier this year because of the long bouts of sunshine and dousing of summer rains. The garden was so overgrown that the weeds are towering over the zucchini plants but not as high as the sunchokes. I was so embarrassed of the jungle condition of my garden that I spent the day in the drumming rain picking and weeding. The garden looks disheveled as if it needs manicuring but at least it is tamed. The huge zucchinis rivaled in size the baseball bats sold in Cooperstown. The Asian cucumbers were wrapped around themselves creating cucumber sculptures. The cauliflowers seeded, the cabbages were bigger than globes. I dug the overgrown beets, lobbed off the cauliflower and cabbage and wrangled the zucchini bats from the plants and fed it all to the pigs. The pigs devoured the beets, chomped a few bites out of the cabbage, nibbled on the zucchini but stomped on without eating the cauliflower. Next year I will plant a separate beet garden for the pigs.

Pardon my Boys

Three Highland calves were born this week, one girl and two boys. Their shaggy coats and big heads remind me of Ewoks. The moms stow them in the tall grass or under a tree and wander off to graze. I surprised them in the tall grass and two calves jumped up and turned their butts on me but peeked around to see if I was approaching. The new mom, who is used to mingling with us, turned to me as if to apologize for their unsociable behavior. One more calf is expected this week.

In a Pig’s Eye

The new piglets are sequestered in the horse barn for a few weeks while we prepare a fenced area that will keep their curiosity from leading them through fences and into the road. Most of them are males so we will be castrating next week. If we wait too long, the chore is more of a wrestling match that includes kicking and biting (the pigs kicking and biting us!) in addition to twisting, squealing and squirming. You don’t want to drop a pig on its head when Tom has a scalpel in his hand.

Scrambled and Upside Down Eggs

The hen laying wagon has to be moved by the tractor at dusk when the hens are sleepy eyed and roosting. We hook the tractor up to the wagon and pull it yards and sometimes miles. Can you imagine the hens’ surprise when they wake up to a different landscape? Last night we attempted to move the wagon uphill but it tilted precariously and rolled off the wagon frame and down the hill. The hens were rudely woken, rustled their feathers and roosted on the ceiling. By morning, all the uncollected eggs were scrambled and the hens were figuring out how to lay their eggs upside down in the laying cubbies. The wagon was uprighted by mid morning. There is little damage to the house and no hen injuries.  Another fix it before winter task is now added to the list.

Turkey Talk

The broad breasted bronzes grow slower than the traditional whites. The whites have graduated from the brooder boxes to the grazing fields and are taking up residence with the ducks. The bronzes have to grow a little bigger before they are ready for the big world of pastures, fencing and colder night temperatures. A cold hard rain with gusty winds swept through the pasture. The bronze was cold and wet. After a quick once over with the hairdryer and couple of hours in a box in the kitchen, it was ready to join the flock.

Magic Nectarines

The fruit from Pennsylvania and New York’s Hudson and Schoharie Valleys is super juicy and sweet this year. The raspberries bore fruit for weeks and we canned and put jam in the cupboards for winter. The never ending blueberries are still being picked. We’ve made blueberry pie, jam, ice cream and muffins. If we are lucky, we will have blueberries through September. This week I am trying to work magic on a crate of nectarines.

Nectarine Preserves
2 to 2 ½ lbs nectarines, pitted and sliced
2 cups sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1. In a deep, nonreactive bowl, toss together the nectarines and sugar. Cover and chill eight hours or overnight.
2. Have ready, hot, sterilized jars and lids. Drain the nectarines through a colander set over a large pot. Set aside the fruit, and bring the syrup to a boil over medium heat. Add nectarines and lemon juice, raise heat and cook, occasionally stirring gently until the fruit has softened, but still retains its shape, about 10 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, divide the hot nectarines between jars. Ladle the syrup over the nectarines, leaving ¼ inch head space. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims clean and seal. Process jars for ten minutes in a boiling water bath, cool and test the seals. Or simply cool the jam, ladle it into jars and store in the refrigerator for up to one month

August Menus at Fable

The menus for the next two weeks were designed to use the herbs and vegetables that grown in abundance in the kitchen gardens.

August 21, 2010
Amuse:  lemon basil arugula tomato bruschetta
Starter: cauliflower soup with brown butter croutons
Main: ricotta and herb stuffed chicken, garlic roasted potatoes
After: baby greens with herb pear dressing
Dessert: blueberry pear tart with honey whipped cream

August 28, 2010
Amuse: baby blue cheese toast with honey port glaze
Starter: roasted tomato carrot soup with basil
Main: london broil with horseradish cream, caramelized shallots and roasted garlic potatoes
After: baby greens with pear vinaigrette
Dessert: plum and blueberry upside down torte

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July: Too Hot to Lay Eggs

July has been hotter than hot: steamy, sweltering, scorching, suffocating and searing heat.  Plants, animals and humans on the farm are wilting.  90 degree plus days were remedied with a dunk in the stream or swim at Pine Lake.  At night, the air cools to a not-great-for-sleeping 80 degrees.  We had to forage in the far corners of the attic to find fans.  Thank goodness we don't throw anything out because the stores were sold out of fans. I heard that people were traveling over two hours to Albany and Binghamton to purchase fans.  Am I complaining of the heat?  Give me heat over 40 below zero days any day.  Fans are whirring, animals are panting and the only cool spot is in the car with the air conditioning on full blast. 

The hens stopped laying eggs. How do they stop like that?  If you have ever slaughtered laying hens then you know that the oviduct contains a line up of eggs - newest to oldest.  So are they walking around with an egg stuck mid lay? Is this egg constipation? Does this mean that when the weather is cooler the hens will drop more than one egg a day to lighten their load?
The laying cabin was moved downstream to the willow tree. The hens are roosting in the trees instead of the cabin. Perhaps they are laying eggs in the treetops.  How do the animals stay cool? The rabbits were so hot, we put frozen water bottles in their cages. The dogs are digging craters in my herb garden and camping among the valerian and wormwood. The pigs are wallowing in the swamp areas and taking long mudbaths. The ducks are waterbound and are rock hopping up and down the stream. The cows found a giant apple tree which was occupied by the dairy goats. The goats left in a huff found a bigger, shadier tree. The cows think they secured the prime spot on the farm and the goats are laughing at them underneath their Ritz Carlton shade spot.

The Rabbit Fleet
Tom and Susannah finshed building large rabbit cages that can be moved on pasture daily. The fleet was assembled and launched on pasture seas this week.  Each day, the rabbits get a new patch of grass on which to graze and bounce around.  The rabbits are much happier, more active and eat more in the pasture cages.  The prototype cage was built in May and the rabbits housed in that cage grew faster than the rabbits in the standard cages.

The Danes
WWOOFers Laurs and Manja from Copenhagen were with us for a couple of weeks. They worked sun up to sun down. Their contribution to our farm during the two weeks was huge; they weeded the gardens, picked peas and raspberries, took care of the chickens, slaughtered chickens. We took them fishing on La Fever Lake the other night and Manja caught her first fish.

Tribute to Rosie

Rosie, our tenacious, tough and cranky Australian Cattle dog “Blue Heeler”, died last week. A truck driver rescued her as a stray but could not handle her strong, stubborn personality so he gave her to us. She was the least liked dog on the farm but everyone admired her independence. We don’t know how old she was but she suffered from cluster seizures which had paralyzed her back leg. During her seizures she often went on walkabouts seeking water. We often searched for her for hours and would find her in the streams, water ditches and swampy areas. With a paralyzed back leg, the journeys were tough. Each time, we scooped her up and brought her home and finally convinced her to hang out under the oak tree. She died one morning while I was stroking her head.  I miss her nipping at my heels and biting me when I stepped on her.  She had an annoying habit of lying inches from where I was working, even if I was moving fast from counter to counter in the kitchen. So when I accidentally stepped on her, she bit my ankle to let me know to watch my step.  I love this picture of Rosie. She dove into the offal pile while we were slaughtering turkeys and carried of her prize turkey foot.

Birth to Bones Workshops
How does a chicken, turkey, rabbit, lamb or pig get from the pasture to the plate? We put together a series of summer and fall workshops to provide a hands-on learning experience on raising, butchering and preparing livestock for cooking.

July 14 - Pullet to Pot
Broilers are raised from day-old chicks that arrive via post to eight-week old chickens or broilers grown on pasture. See the different phases of raising chickens from critter proof chick pens to free range on pasture. The full-day experience includes intensive hands-on learning about raising chickens on pasture, slaughtering chickens en plein air and preparing and a whole chicken for roasting or the crock pot or breaking down the chicken for sautéing, grilling or baking.

August 18- Rabbit to Roaster
Rabbits are caged raised during kindling and transferred to pasture cages at weaning. Observe the rabbitry and pastured rabbit cages or rabbit fleet. Learn how to raise rabbits on pasture. The full-day experience teaches you how to raise, slaughter and prepare rabbits for stewing, braising, sautéing and grilling.

September 15 - Lamb to Plate
Lambs are born on pasture in May and are ready for slaughter in three to six months. Learn how to raise lambs on pasture, including lambing, pasture rotation, butchering and preparing lamb. The full-day experience includes intensive hands-on learning about raising lambs on pasture and getting lamb from the pasture to the plate.

October 13 - Piglet to Platter
Heritage breeds of pig – Berkshire and Tamworth - are raised on the farm on pasture and woodlands year round. Experience pork on pasture and learn about farrowing, pasturing, butchering and preparing pork for the spit, crock pot or grill. The full-day experience includes intensive hands-on learning about raising pork on pasture and getting pork from the pasture to the platter.
Workshops are held on Wednesdays once a month. 8 am to 8 pm. $125 per person*. Includes lunch and dinner at Fable, the farm’s restaurant. Participants will work together to prepare dinner using all parts of the animal. Lunch and dinner will be accompanied by the seasonal dairy and produce raised and harvested on the farm. *A minimum of ten persons is required for us to conduct a class.  Overnight accommodations are available at Stone & Thistle Farm Stay and B&B or Harmony Hill Retreat Center’s tree house yurts and chalet (a stone’s throw away). or  Contact Denise Warren at Stone & Thistle Farm – Kortright Creek Creamery – Fable 1211 Kelso Road East Meredith, NY 13757 607-278-5800

The Border Collies
The puppy (almost a year old) Ty is doing great. He is obssessed with rabbits and ducks and is at my side when I do chores. I can't let him out of my sight because he would love to eat rabbits and poultry. The other day, all the bunnies escaped from the pasture box and he wanted to eat them so badly. I told him to lie down and he was so humilated as the bunnies hopped on his head and back.  I did not have the camera with the bunnie episode but this is a photo of Ty watching a snake in the grass. Border collies will herd anything. Cade has been working hard with sheep as well as cattle. He just jumped in the stream and decided to admire his cattle herding task.  Marly is headed for retirement.  I came back from feeding the goats and Marly was playing basketball all by himself.  Border collies even herd basketballs.

Lois the Bummer Lamb
Lois lost her mom at two days of age. She was bottlefed with the replacement dairy kids for 12 weeks. Lois thinks she is a goat except she is not as smart as a goat. She bleats and baahs and screams when the goats wander off exploring. She is so intent on grazing that she does not see the goats leaving. To quiet her down, we have to lead her to where the goats are grazing.

The ducks are hard to process but we celebrated the first harvest with duck confit and duck breast with raspberry sauce.  The next couple of weeks will feature goat and rabbit.  We will begin serving lamb dishes in early August. Chicken and beef is boring. We hope that more customers will broaden their palate and enjoy different meats and parts of the animals such as feet, hearts, livers and tongues.  We picked zucchini from the garden this week.  Zucchini is almost three weeks earlier this year. I made zucchini quiche, zucchini muffins and zucchini bread. I am always looking for great ideas for the amuse and starters at Fable. Please email us with your favorites.   We are selling rabbit and pork rillette, cajeta and sausages in our farm store and at the farmers market. The products are produced under the name Fable's Kitchen. I can't wait to make bacon marmalade which is "all the rage" in the urban gourmet stores.
We hope you will join us at Fable soon.

July 17, 2010
Amuse: spicy egg shooters
Starter:  roasted summer squash soup with parsley mint pesto
Main:  roasted goat kebabs on herb pilaf
Dessert:  summer berries in mulled cabernet sauvignon with rosemary sorbet and lemon verbena biscotti

Summer-Squash Soup with Parsley Mint Pistou
8 servings
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 yellow-fleshed potato (1/2 lb), peeled, halved,
4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
for pistou
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 large scallion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, then cook onion with salt, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add squash, carrots, potato, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool soup, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Working in batches, purée; soup in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer to a bowl. Return puré to cleaned pot and thin with water if desired; simmer 3 minutes. Season with salt.
Make pistou while vegetables simmer:
Pulse mint, parsley, and scallion in a food processor until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a stream, then add water and salt, blending until incorporated.
Swirl 1 tablespoon pistou into each bowl of soup.

July 24, 2010

Amuse: blue cheese and basil honey toasts
Starter: smoky bacon and garlic soup
Main:  braised rabbit smothered with onions and grilled red beets
Dessert: blackberry soufflé

Blackberry Soufflé
Serves 6
Butter to coat ramekins
1 ¼ cups sugar divided
24 ounces fresh blackberries
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
1/3 cup flour
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Chambord or cranberry juice
5 egg whites

reheat oven to 400F. Thoroughly butter six, 8 oz ramekins or 2 quart soufflé dish and sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar.   Place berries in food processor or blender. Pulse until pureed. Place in a sieve and press gently to extract juice. Add enough water to yield two cups. Combine the juice and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from the heat.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk well. Gradually pour hot juice mixture and whisk vigorously. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in yolks. Whisk in Chambord.
Beat egg whites in clean dry bowl with a mixture until frothy. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form, Stir in one cup egg white mixture into blackberry mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into black berry mixture.
Spoon into ramekins or soufflé dish and bake 20-25 minutes (ramekins) or 30-35 minutes (soufflé dish) until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June - Summer Beginnings

Scrubbing Names off Cups

Our intern from last year was so wonderful that we decided to hire two interns this season.  We are fortunate that Susannah returned this year to help us. The search for a second intern began in January. We received 30 applicants and narrowed it down to five to interview. From the interviews, Tom selected an enthusiastic, smart, adventuresome, twenty-something female who agreed to start in May. In preparation for her arrival, we scrubbed down the camper and washed towels, sheets and the dishes that were stored in the camper for the winter. We picked flowers and placed them in vase in the camper’s kitchen table. We assigned her a green, plastic cup for water and wrote her name on it. She stayed less than 12 hours; I scrubbed her name off the plastic cup. I scrambled to find a replacement. The interns we turned down had already found positions so I reposted on the agriculture websites. Within 48 hours I hired a new intern over the phone. He arrived this week. We again readied the camper, picked flowers for his table and wrote his name on the scrubbed over green, plastic cup. He stayed 18 hours. I scrubbed his name off of the cup. So your immediate reaction is that something is wrong with us that we can’t keep interns. Or why after several years of hiring interns, we are lame at weeding out the emotionally unstable, physically unfit applicants with extra baggage. We are beginning to lose faith in ourselves. So while we need an intern as quickly as possible, we are taking a different tactic and hiring an intern via a friend or acquaintance. So when the intern turns out to be a loser, we can blame our friend’s ability to pick a loser, not us. In the meantime, I know someone out there wants to join our family this summer and learn lots of fun ways to farm, market and create new products. With the economy in the tank, private housing, meals and a $100 week stipend, it’s not a bad deal. Heck, I’d take a job on another farm for the summer if the food was great and the work was fun. Let us know if you have any thoughts on candidates and we promise not to hold you responsible for your recommendation. Promise.

Many Huey Duey and Lueys

Last year Tom bought me three ducks at the poultry auction and named them Huey Duey and Luey. They lived with the turkeys and did a superb job of alerting us to any dangers or informing us of when they were hungry. The plan was to slaughter them when we harvested the turkeys for Thanksgiving. The ducks were too skinny and did not have enough meat on their bones to make it worthwhile. We gave them to a friend who gave them to a friend and they are happily swimming in someone’s pond wondering where all the turkeys have gone. The family named one of the ducks Trisket because he is a little “quacker”. Tom became so enamoured of ducks that he ordered 50 Peking ducks to raise for meat. I never knew ducks were so yellow, fuzzy, friendly and so darn cute. The first batch graduated from the brooding pens and are happily quacking in their marsh spa canopied by wild irises. We scoot them into their hut at night to keep them safe from owls, coyotes, skunks and other predators.

The Chicken Vault

We are raising hundreds of chickens for meat and laying hens for eggs. The poultry is in constant danger of assault during the day by hawks and foxes and at night by owls. During the day, the maremmas, the livestock guardian dogs, are used to bark away predators but they are on lamb duty during the night to protect the livestock from coyotes and neighbors’ dogs. Our combat weapon is a chicken vault. At dusk, we shoo the chickens into the vault and latch the gates. In the morning, when the dogs are back on poultry watch, we open that gates and let the chickens out. They spend the day happily foraging and stream hopping.

The Portable Rabbit Pen

Susannah built a portable rabbit hutch from scraps of wood, wire fencing and wire mesh. It is moved every day onto fresh grass. The feeder rabbits love it; they have a lot more space and 24 access to fresh grass. We are trying to train them to move into the box at the end of the pen when we move it. There are some design problems that will be corrected with the next pen. We need to have six more so by the time we build the last pen, we should have the design perfected. Firstly, it is too heavy for me to move. Even Tom strains when he picks it up. The tractor needs to be lighter and we need it to easily slip onto a hand truck. A lot of the designs we looked at have wheels but it makes more sense to use the hand truck for each one. Secondly, the only entrance into the pen is at the box end. So when I need to grab a rabbit for harvesting, I have to crawl inside the pen to get it or get Tom to tip the pen so the rabbit scurry to the box. Thirdly, when it rains, the feeder full of pellets gets wet and the rabbits won’t eat wet pellets. The feeder needs to be protected by an overhang or ideally a box needs to be built around the feeder. I think the feeder is attracting wild rabbits because there is rabbit poop outside of the pen near the feeder every morning. I can imagine a chow line a mile long of wild rabbits.

East Meets West Meets East Meredith

The peas I planted in mid-May are tall enough to need a pea fence. The pea fence is a very large roll of wire mesh. I rolled it up and carefully stowed it in the garage at the end of the growing season. The pea fence is missing. I looked in the garage, all of the barns and even in places that a pea fence would never be, which in my experience after many years on the farm, is usually where it ends up. The pea fence has disappeared. As it turns out, the pea fence was used for the portable rabbit pen. Instead of buying another fence, I decided to make do with what we have. I asked Tom to cut down the sumac near the garden. I cut the sumac into 3 foot lengths and pounded them into the ground. I lashed the sumac branches together will baling twine. The fence is sturdy and has a throw together, rustic look. When Shane saw the fence I created in the garden he said that it looked like a something you would see in Vietnam. I was so inspired by my pea fence that I used more sumac branches to make bean teepees. Shane said it has an American Indian look. Now east meets west in my garden on the southeast side of the house.

The World of Welwyn

Katey is graduating from Delaware Academy High School in a couple of weeks. Her last day of school is Friday. She got a scholarship for a jumping clinic at Cooperstown’s Farmer Museum 4th Annual Horse Clinic this weekend. On Tuesday, she and her horses, Monty, her 17 year old thoroughbred and Peter, her 8 year old off the track thoroughbred, head to Welwyn Stable in Rhinebeck, New York. Katey will be a working student for the year and is excited about getting the opportunity to learn, show and work at the stable. My heart is light when I think about all expenses we won’t have such as horse board, hay, feed, farrier, vet, show helmets, boots, tack and horse show entries and the time spent hauling her horses to lessons, horse shows and clinics. Katey worked to pay for many of these expenses. As a horse mom, it has been an amazing experience watching Katey grow and excel in the equestrian world and my heart is heavy when I think about not having her in our everyday life and no longer being a 4H horse mom and a Pony Club mom. Then my heart is lightened again when I think that the non-stop bickering between she and Shane, the endless laundry, the unpassable back stairs, the collection of dirty dishes in her bedroom, the wait for the shower, the wait for the computer, the obsession with facebook and the cell phone. And then I grow sad again realizing that her new adventure is the first step out the door of which she will never return as our child but will return as our child adult as a visitor, but always as a joy in our lives. If you see Katey, please wish her the best of luck and happiness in her new adventure.