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.