JOY AND PAIN.

We promise ourselves, at the beginning of every season, “NO LIVESTOCK THIS YEAR.” No animals, only vegetables. That’s what we always say. Livestock adds a whole new element of chaos and unpredictability to farming that we often find exasperating and demoralizing. Livestock adds the emotional gamble that comes with loving creatures alongside the inevitability of death, through loss or slaughter. Livestock adds a lot of work to our already impossible list of chores. And yet – here we are again. We find, year after year, that a farm (to us) just doesn’t make sense without animals. The life they bring to our farm – through fertility, through their nourishment to our family, or simply just by their very presence – is key to our sustainability.

So, when our friend reached out to us about some ducks he wasn’t able to care for properly, we were excited. There is a large pond behind our house, overgrown with algae, desperately in need of some movement and life to clean it out. Our neighbors have chickens and are always willing to share chicken eggs, so ducks seemed like a perfect fit!

ducks.

The ducks arrived and we quickly set up their coop and electric fencing to encircle the pond. We released them and watched as they waded into the murky pond, jumping and splashing about and just looking blissfully in their element. It took maybe ten minutes before one duck let out a loud squawk and started flailing about, swimming in tight little circles as if stuck. We stared in confusion as it continued to spin around, growing more and more tired as it began to go underwater for longer and longer periods of time. We thought it must have gotten its leg tangled in something and, unwilling to watch it slowly drown to death, Jesse and I waded into the pond (luckily, we had friends visiting who were able to watch Further during this adventure!). Jesse used a long stick to push the now completely limp duck to the edge of the pond.

Well, maybe you have already guessed what we were oblivious to, but when I pulled the duck out, attached to the back of it was a SNAPPING TURTLE. I screamed and quickly pulled my legs out from the pond, falling onto the shore. The turtle slipped back into the pond, and we sat in shock, realizing that we had just released the ducks into one large death trap.

In a literal matter of minutes, we experienced all the emotions that come with having livestock: the joy and pleasure of watching animals living in their ideal habitat, the sorrow of pain and loss, the anger and frustration of being at odds with predators just doing what they naturally do. For the next few days, we didn’t let the ducks have access to the pond while we tried to catch the turtle. And to make the story very brief and short on gory details, we caught the turtle and killed it. We waited and didn’t catch another one, so we are hoping there was only one. The injured duck seems like it will survive. The ducks are now back in the pond.

We hate this part of farming, but as any farmer knows, death is a part of farming. If we could have thought of a way to remove the turtle without killing it, we would have. I know this story may bother some people. But this is what worked for the time and situation: we had to remove the turtle, a danger to our animals and to our son. I am horrified thinking of all the times Further and I walked barefoot around the edge of the pond, wading into the edge to grab a cattail or frog.

And with this hardship of death comes the promise of life: more eggs already than we can eat, feeding our family and other families we love. Happy ducks rejuvenating an anaerobic pond. A cleaned-out coop adding bountiful material to the compost pile that will grow more food in years to come. It is hard, and it is good. And so it goes.

– Hannah.

duck eggs.

LONG OVERDUE UPDATE.

It has been quite a spring, and this poor space has been so neglected. We apologize for that! We are making it a priority to start finding the time to post here – social media makes it easy to fire off quick photos and captions, but we miss our little blog community!

So, here is a very brief update of our past month or so, to catch you up:

We put up two high tunnels, thanks to an NRCS grant and the fine folks at Grow Appalachia. The tunnels were immediately filled with plants overflowing from our tiny greenhouse: cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, cucumbers, and squash. We also installed drip tape irrigation in the tunnels – a VERY new experience for us as we have never really used any type of irrigation before, other than praying for rain! We are still getting the hang of it, but everything in the tunnels looks great!

high tunnels.

We now have SHEEP! We took a trip back down to Bugtussle to visit with our old neighbors, and while we were there we picked up seven Katahdin sheep. Their main job is to help us control the 6+ acres of pasture that we are definitely not going to mow. We have loved having them around and also loved that they are already trained to a rotational grazing system and an electric fence!

sheep.

The CSA started and the season has been going great so far. We are enjoying getting to know the new members and, although we miss the social aspect of the farmers market, we spend so much less time doing the deliveries and one of us is able to stay at the farm while the other does the drop-offs.

early morning harvest.

We also have DUCKS! This is a very recent addition and also a long story, in need of its own post, but they are a fun new chore to add to the list and our counters are already overflowing with delicious eggs.

ducks.

Well! That is what we have been up to! We miss you, blog friends, and hope to be more regularly visiting this space! Happy summer!

– Hannah.

HERB PASTA RECIPE.

greens.

Our CSA started this week, and so we thought we’d share one of our easy, go-to recipes for random leftover greens – for our members, but also for anyone else out there who finds themselves with assorted radish tops, bits of spinach, kale, herbs, onion tops, etc. It is modified from the “Pâtes aux Herbes” recipe from Provence: The Cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:

  • A large handful (about 5 – 6 ounces) of herbs or greens. You can use WHATEVER you have – spinach, chard, kale, basil, arugula, green onions and garlic, wild greens like dandelions or sorrel….anything!)
  • A large pinch of salt
  • About 3 cups of flour (I use about 2 1/2 cups of plain and 1/2 cup of semolina flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 -4 TBSP warm water
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, pepper, butter for serving

 

DIRECTIONS:

In a mortar, pound together the salt and herbs/greens until you form a paste. You can use a food processor, but you get more liquid with the mortar and pestle (plus it is more fun!) Put about 2 cups of flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the paste and the eggs to the well, and then mix with a fork, slowly moving outwards and absorbing more flour as you mix. Add more flour or warm water as needed, so that you form a sticky but coherent dough.

mortar and pestle.

Thickly flour a work surface and turn out your dough. Knead for about five minutes – stretching out the dough with the heel of your hand, folding it over on itself, turning, and then stretching again. The greens will continue to release more liquid as you knead, so keep adding more flour. You want a silky, rollable dough. Form into a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rest one hour.

pasta dough.

Scrape clean your work surface and flour it lightly. Roll out your dough (I like to do it in sections) with a floured rolling pin, to about 1/8th inch thick. Cut the dough into strips, and then cut the strips cross-ways to make squares.

pasta.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the oil. Drop the squares into the boiling water. When the water returns to a rolling boil, let the pasta cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Drain and serve in warm plates with butter, cheese, and pepper!

What about you? What’s your leftover random greens recipe?

 

SPRING (!?) IS IN THE AIR.

broccoli plants.

The weather, as I am sure you are aware, has been crazy lately. Spring (and SUMMER) like temperatures, trees and flowers blooming, everything growing much faster than we would perhaps like! We spent yesterday outside, setting out broccoli and cabbage transplants to make room in our crowded greenhouse. It is hard not to get ahead of ourselves when it is this warm – hard to remember that we could still have winter weather around the corner. Luckily, brassicas are pretty hardy, and just in case, we covered them up with row cover to protect them from cold and the inevitable cabbage moths.

While we worked, I couldn’t help but reflect on some of the words we had heard over the weekend from Wendell Berry, at the Organic Association of Kentucky conference. He had spoken about the “human” element in farming. How farming cannot become just an industry, or technology will replace farmers. If farming is first and foremost an art, then there must be humanity in it. Good farming is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful – a place where there is a balance between the product you are creating and the homeplace. As I kneeled beside my husband with my hands in the dirt, as Further played on top of the compost pile a few feet away, as we let the sun and cool air refresh our overwintered skin – I felt the truth of those words. Yes, we are creating a product. We are making money, trying to become more efficient and knowledgeable so we can do better always. But we are also building a family and a home and a life. And we are ready for another season, even if spring seems to have come a little earlier than we might have hoped!

-Hannah.

transplants.

bcs.

setting out transplants.

further.

COOKING CLASSES WITH YOUR FARMER.

radish.

CSA shareholders, we have a treat for you!

This year, Hannah and I are experimenting with something we would like to add to the CSA experience: cooking classes!

These events are only open to CSA members, but they are free. How it works is this: starting in late May, every month throughout the season we will host people out at the farm here in Lawrenceburg for a few hours. We are thinking there will be either four, possibly five events, depending on how they go and they will all be mid-week in the evenings (if we have a substantial amount of interest in a weekend event, we could consider one at the end of the season). And although we are calling them “Cooking Classes” they are more like “Delcious Farm Food Preparation Classes”. The goal is to show you everything that will be coming up in your CSA baskets, demonstrate some ways in which you can prepare these items, and give you a chance to see your food growing in the fields. We will also all snack heartily as the night goes along. Our hope is that this will help connect you to your farmers and farm a little more and give you plenty of good ideas for how to manage your vegetables.

These events will serve as a sort of “prototype” for genuine cooking classes when we eventually have a commercial kitchen. But anyone who signs up for the CSA, will always get a significant discount on any events we hold. This year, that discount for CSA shareholders is 100% off!

We will be announcing the official dates soon. Let us know your thoughts, inputs, questions. And we do still have CSA shares available, so please tell your friends!

It will be a kid-friendly event, and a good chance to meet like-minded folks and to get to know your farmers!

We hope to see you, well, here!

-Jesse + Hannah.

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