Monthly Archives: November 2009

Short Thanksgiving/harvest roundup

Too many delicious meals in my blogs today to round up, but I will write ours up soon.

Novella Carpenter’s non-published op ed on Thanksgiving. Novella is smart and awesome and bad-ass. Thank you, turkeys.

Via Kimberly, a fantastic poem:

Grace
Rafael Jesús González

Thanks & blessing be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
    this fruit, this meat, this salt,
               this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessing to them
who share it
     (& also the absent & the dead.)
Thanks & blessing to them who bring it
        (may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
        (may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
        & blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want — for their hunger
      sours the wine
          & robs the salt of its taste.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & the work of justice, of peace.

Gracias

Gracias y benditos sean
el Sol y la Tierra
por este pan y este vino,
     esta fruta, esta carne, esta sal,
                este alimento;
gracias y bendiciones
a quienes lo preparan, lo sirven;
gracias y bendiciones
a quienes lo comparten
(y también a los ausentes y a los difuntos.)
Gracias y bendiciones a quienes lo traen
        (que no les falte),
a quienes lo siembran y cultivan,
lo cosechan y lo recogen
       (que no les falte);
gracias y bendiciones a los que trabajan
       y bendiciones a los que no puedan;
que no les falte — su hambre
     hace agrio el vino
           y le roba el gusto a la sal.
Gracias por el sustento y la fuerza
para nuestro bailar y nuestra labor
        por la justicia y la paz.

(The Montserrat Review, Issue 6, Spring 2003
[nominated for the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Award];
author’s copyrights.)

Dark Days Week 1: Roast duck, pan-roasted potatoes with leeks, and sautéed kale with garlic

So we grew some ducks starting in August, and since the day we placed the order I have been talking about how I have never cooked duck. Today I started learning to cook duck.

Cast iron party fun time
This engaged most (but not all) of our cast iron pans. Potatoes & leeks in the front; kale with garlic; duck. Also, I need to learn to use my shiny new camera, so I can stop using my tiny, crappy point&shoot. Also, pictures of shiny things (like potatoes in duck fat) are hard.

Went with simplicity today; though duck is not on most folks’ regular rotation, we have several to last us the winter and we figured now is the time to learn about it. We roasted it very simply with just salt and pepper. I used a baster to suck up the duck fat to pan-roast the homegrown Swedish Peanut (we think) potatoes with farmers’ market leeks, and to sauté the homegrown Lacinato and Red Russian kale with homegrown garlic (variety lost to history). All the preparation methods were simple, easy, and comforting. The potatoes turned out to be fantastic, and the kale too, though a bit greasy (I didn’t want it to burn to I put too much fat). The duck was very tasty, though a bit overcooked (my fault).

Homegrown potatoes, duck, kale

Conclusion: Yum.

Homegrown: duck; potatoes; garlic; kale.
Local: leeks (Peresphone Farms, Indianola)
Regional (150-mile): wine (Snoqualmie Vineyards)
Origin unknown: salt, pepper as usual.

Lessons: I overcooked the duck a bit. Live and learn. Also, we might not like duck skin — handy, as is a BIG pain to pluck them. If we can skin them in the future instead of plucking, that would be nice. Don’t put so much fat on the kale (I do this when I’m cooking with olive oil too).

Dark Days Week 1: Roast duck, pan-roasted potatoes with leeks, and sautéed kale with garlic

So we grew some ducks starting in August, and since the day we placed the order I have been talking about how I have never cooked duck. Today I started learning to cook duck.

Cast iron party fun time
This engaged most (but not all) of our cast iron pans. Potatoes & leeks in the front; kale with garlic; duck. Also, I need to learn to use my shiny new camera, so I can stop using my tiny, crappy point&shoot. Also, pictures of shiny things (like potatoes in duck fat) are hard.

Went with simplicity today; though duck is not on most folks’ regular rotation, we have several to last us the winter and we figured now is the time to learn about it. We roasted it very simply with just salt and pepper. I used a baster to suck up the duck fat to pan-roast the homegrown Swedish Peanut (we think) potatoes with farmers’ market leeks, and to sauté the homegrown Lacinato and Red Russian kale with homegrown garlic (variety lost to history). All the preparation methods were simple, easy, and comforting. The potatoes turned out to be fantastic, and the kale too, though a bit greasy (I didn’t want it to burn to I put too much fat). The duck was very tasty, though a bit overcooked (my fault).

Homegrown potatoes, duck, kale

Conclusion: Yum.

Homegrown: duck; potatoes; garlic; kale.
Local: leeks (Peresphone Farms, Indianola)
Regional (150-mile): wine (Snoqualmie Vineyards)
Origin unknown: salt, pepper as usual.

Lessons: I overcooked the duck a bit. Live and learn. Also, we might not like duck skin — handy, as is a BIG pain to pluck them. If we can skin them in the future instead of plucking, that would be nice. Don’t put so much fat on the kale (I do this when I’m cooking with olive oil too).

Dark Days Challenge: Intro

So, as previously mentioned, we are aiming to do the 3rd Annual Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge (!) aka Dark Days. The challenge is to eat one meal per week that’s as Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical as possible — for the whole winter pretty much! November 15 to March 31.

One of the things I feel compelled to do to start with is to 1) rearrange the criteria and 2) define “local” and our exceptions.

Because we tried (and mostly failed) to grow commercially this year as well as for ourselves, my first stop on this project would be to have the meal be as homegrown as possible. This year was our first year raising poultry for meat so it’s exciting to be able to have a complete meal grown by hand (since I can’t grow enough soy to make tofu, yet if ever, so local vegetarianism is still out). But, on account of how we mostly failed, I also need to learn to be easy enough on myself to move on to my next criterion — Local. We are fortunate to have lots of farmers within a 20-mile radius at the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market and winter market, and even more within a 100-mile radius if we make it over to Seattle for the U-District or Ballard markets. And we are even more fortunate to know many of our favorite farmers personally, and even when we don’t, to have enough visibility into their methods to be completely confident in the ethics and the sustainability of their products, even if they aren’t certified Organic (now a USDA-owned term that doesn’t mean too much to me at all, really).

So — I’m going with Homegrown, Local, Ethical (re: animal welfare, labor practices, and land use) and Sustainable (re: labor practices, land use, and economic viability), Organic. (HLESO isn’t as nice as SOLE though.)

The other question is — what does local mean? What are our exceptions?

Laura says:

What does local mean?
Traditionally, local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius. Winter time is more difficult in many climates, especially if you’re new to eating locally, so my default definition is 150 miles. You can choose to make your radius smaller or slightly larger as you need. Typical exceptions are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. If you’re making fewer or more exceptions, please note that on your first post.


Our 100-mile radius

We’re in a bit of a strange but sweet spot as we are in the middle of Puget Sound — our 100 miles includes a good deal of water (yay seafood) but also quite a lot of very good farmland, including our most excellent dairy, Fresh Breeze Organic from Lynden, WA. Of course we get all our local B.I. farms as well as Skagit River Ranch, Nash’s Organic Produce, and Bluebird Grains (yay farro!!). We don’t get quite to Wenatchee or to Okanagan, where a lot of good summer fruits come from, but that’s OK as it’s not summer. I wish we reached Alvarez Farms, where we could get beans and peanuts. I guess if we did 150 miles we could …

So — I’m aiming for 100 as ideal, 150 as a fantastic compromise … we’ll see.

Our regular exceptions shall be:

  • olive oil; other oils (butter will be within 100 miles)
  • salt & pepper — still looking for ways to make these
  • wine will often be from close to home, but not always — assume it’s not; we’ll note when it is
  • vinegar, until we learn to make our own
  • citrus, as needed for taste that is not vinegar-y (I had lemon trees but they died, and the turkeys ate the lime tree)
  • baking goods
    • our organic flour comes from Utah
    • our organic sugar comes from Hawaii
    • our various other ingredients and flavorings are organic, and their origins will be described as appropriate (but most come from Bob’s Red Mill)

I am sure there are more additions and refinements to come, but for now … to bed.

Customer feedback

Posted with permission …

Subj: Just wanted to say Yummmmm!

We had roast chicken Sunday night and it was delicious. Thanks for providing this great service (and product) for our family.

And from someone else:

Subj: extra chicken?

Hi,
I got one of your recently slaughtered chickens — roasted it and ate it right away and it was the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life! I wondered if you ended up with extras that you froze and would like to sell?

When we replied to tell her that unfortunately no, we couldn’t legally do that even if we hadn’t sold out, and to ask permission to use her feedback:

You can add that I’ve only recently begun eating meat after years of not so I’m a pretty hard sell on chicken tasting really good!

Good luck with your farm. It’s gotta be tough making a living as a farmer — I admire and respect you for it!

Thanks, everyone, for your positive feedback. We welcome all feedback, of course, including constructive criticism, but the good vibes are particularly heartening as we regroup and try to recover from this difficult season.

On broilers, or, Thank you, chickens

So, we really dropped the ball on keeping everyone updated on the broiler chickens via the website. We really intended to, but it turned out that 150 chickens took up kind of a lot of time. So, here’s a retrospective of their lives …

The chickens (affectionately known as nuggets) moved to pasture the last weekend of September, just before the TWL Harvest Fair. Thousands of people attend the Harvest Fair so the chickens had a busy first day, and it seemed we prompted a lot of family conversations about where meat comes from (which I think is good). From there, we moved the tractors the hill towards the top, then over towards the orchard, then back down into some extra-delicious juicy green grass, then sideways towards the cropland area — basically in a big rectangle to avoid some trees and some really hilly areas.

By the time we got back to our starting point, about 6 weeks later, and looked at the path up the hill that we had already grazed, we realized that the grass where the chickens had been (scratching, pooping, scratching, eating, pooping) was greener, thicker, and taller than the paths we had left between the tractors. Part of the reason we do chickens in tractors — aside from the extremely important fact that it’s the most humane, safest way for the chickens to spend their lives — is the soil improvement that comes with rotating poultry through a pasture. It was really gratifying to see it in practice. We were able to re-graze them on the land they had already passed through because the soil and grass had improved so much.

One of the first times we moved them, shortly after the Harvest Fair, I noticed one chicken with some sort of morsel that he had just found, and everyone else was chasing him around to try to get it. Kids at the Harvest Fair had been running around with balloons and I heard several of them pop, so I went in to chase him around to try to get it, too, to verify that it wasn’t balloon. It was a little salamander or newt. I felt sorry for the little guy but he was already beyond help, so I left the birds to finish their game of keep-away.

Never let anyone tell you chickens are naturally vegetarian. If you see “vegetarian” on the egg carton, you know those hens were never outside.

It only took a couple of days for them to realize that when we started pulling the tractors forward, instead of running away from us (towards the back), they should run forward to the nice fresh grass that we were dragging them towards. Chickens love grass.

We lost a few of them here and there, a couple for reasons we could identify (ate too much) and a couple we couldn’t. We had one bad day when the biggest tractor blew down the hill and ran over a couple of guys partway, leaving them pinned under the end — one was gimpy but still getting around OK enough to not let us catch him easily, so we left him; the other had a broken wing and a pretty mangled leg. He was big enough to keep so we processed him and were able to keep all the meat except the bad leg and wing. Poor guy.

This weekend we processed everyone who was left, minus the one little girl who was too small and cute to process, who we will keep until she gets bigger or starts laying. We had lots of helpers (though many novices — not like we’re experts!) and we processed all day Saturday and Sunday. By midday on Saturday we got into a rhythm and everyone was pretty comfortable doing all the jobs, so we were able to take breaks and work in shifts and move around between stations for some variety. It was great to see customers again — lots of people were really excited — and to hear about how folks are going to cook them. Lots of barbecue and roasting (my favorite), and some folks with Romertopfs, plus some recipes that might get me eating liver yet … breaded and fried; sauteed; pâté …

It certainly doesn’t make for a good day, and it shouldn’t be, but it’s a day of completeness. It’s thanksgiving all the time on the farm.

Thank you, chickens.