Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The garlic dinner

This last Saturday 35 guests came to the farm for a 6 course meal that celebrated the garlic harvest! We held two dinners this month the one this last Saturday and then two Saturdays prior. Both dinners were a success and went off with out a hitch. The guest were so much fun! It was so wonderful to be able to share the farm and its blessings with such amazing folks.

The dinners always start with a farm tour. I give em my spiel about how I metamorphosed from a Seattle chef to an Oklahoma farmer and what it is exactly we do here at Living Kitchen. I'm always afraid people will see my many imperfections at the farm like the barn that needs cleaning or the field that needs weeding, the random pieces of barbed wire. I definitely make an effort to clean up the hazardous stuff like the razor sharp shards of medal from the barn wall we put up last winter, but if folks see these things they don't say much, I think its pretty obvious were not out here eating bon bons (I want one now). I hope they see a real honest to goodness working farm. I hope they see the beauty of such things as manure and weeds, I hope they see the community we create together by sharing these meals.

I truly look forward to these evenings, I mean as a chef I get to cook with the most amazing food. Vegetables I've started from seed and lamb that I raise and oversaw its health and safety and the grass it grazed on. Cooking like this renews my commitment to the natural world, renews my sense of purpose and care for the soil and the land and the animals I share it with. It brings it all together for me. I would so eat a bon bon right now if I could.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Three sheep who didnt make it over the moon last night

This morning as I opened up my journal, I looked up sleepily to see the sunrise and noticed the three woolie sheep in the front yard happily munching away. Apparently they do not prefer the "weeds" in the garden. I stepped out the front door and they didn't notice me until I gobbled like a turkey and ran at them with arms flailing. They ran right back into the garden under the string of barbed wire that is just a little too high. They stood looking at me from the other side and gave me a "Baaaah" and walked away. "crazy bitch" I thought I heard one of them say. "thats right" I scoffed "I am one crazy BEE-H, you can expect more where that came from you big eyed woolie monkey face"!
I might need to get off the farm.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

cool enough to think

I put the sheep in what we refer to as "plot 1" I know kind of boring, but that's how it reads on our organic certification paper work and in the grant paper work for the department of conservation. We have two more plots, guess what they are called. You got it Plot 2 and Plot 3. Plot 1 is a two acre plot I started for fall and winter growing. Plot 2 is 5 acres and this is where the summer crops are planted. There is actually only three acres planted and let me tell you that is enough. Plot three is everything else also labeled hay fields.

Plot 1 has been finished long ago, and has been getting weedier and weedier, so I did the only reasonable thing and put the sheep in there. They seem to like it and there is still beet greens and lettuce shoots so its not just weeds and grass. They are staying in there until I can at least get the mower in. I like plot 1 its pretty, there is a cedar tree border and its just really pleasant so I really see something special in that plot perhaps blueberries, it would be just the right size all fenced in slightly acidic soil. Plot 2 is just plopped down in the middle of the big field, no real character at all yet but I see fruit trees on the north.

Its easy to dream and have these visions when its a cool 70 degrees out, but soon it will be in the upper 90s and I wont be able to see a thing. Just steam coming off my hoe. But I like to dream and I like to imagine the future and now that I almost have a full year at this place I have really gotten to know it. So the future is a little more clearer and a little more possible.

I'm learning a lot this season. I'm learning a lot about my own physical limitations and that the experts like Elliot Coleman, really do know what their talking about. There have been in hind site a lot of mistakes made this season that have cost us lower yields and more work and a lot of head scratching wondering what was we thinking? If I only had it to do over again, but alas the market booth is full, and that is the important thing right now. But its good to know I get another chance, that I've have this season to learn from and next year will only be better.

So what would I do with out the sheep to help me out. They are the best weed eaters and grass mowers ever!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hoe thyme

Out in the field yesterday hoeing, trying to catch up on the grass and weeds that are getting ahead of us. At 6am the morning was lovely then by 10am it started really heating up by 11 I could smell the oils of my body a combination of Carissa's soap, coconut oil and sweat. it wasn't bad but by noon there was a considerable difference in the aroma coming off my body.

I talk about hoeing and weeding a lot its a big part of whats going on here, and its an opportunity to really spend time with the crops. You learn a lot just by standing out there with them, you notice things you might not just walking by. Also the smells coming out of the earth are really interesting too. There are several weeds, not sure yet of their name but they smell sweet and fragrant when I cut through their stem at the soil line. At first I thought it was me but by that time there was no chance I was smelling sweet.

Today is more of the same. I have my Ipod and have been listening to Jesse Kalu and Friends, a CD I picked up in Sedona a few months ago. Its American Native new age meditationy like, so I imagine I'm in a sweat lodge. The sky and the soil are my walls and I just let the visions come.

Bella has the right idea!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dad's day chowdown

Our Fathers day chowdown here at the farm went off without a hitch. The weather cooperated with us and the clouds came out at just the right time, several large trees gave us beautiful shade and the breeze just made the day perfect. Fifty folks showed up to the farm and a big o'l handful n a half of yongins came to spend the day eating and enjoying the farm and all its gifts.

The day started with sungold nugget (cherry tomato) and summer squash harvesting in the field, later to join the buffet. I made a Kohl Rabi slaw, potato salad, cucumber salad, marinated feta with fennel, baked beans and broccoli salad all grown on the farm, Linda made the most amazing bread! plus the amazing green pepper and chorizo dogs from Pork and Greens, which were a absolute hit! (thanks Stephen, the non vegetarians were down on their knees thanking the good lord for you!)(Linda you are the official kick ars bread baker of the farm! best bread I've ever eaten!).


I have to say the day inspired me. I needed this day bad. It all makes sense to me now. Once in a while I get discouraged, I get exhausted and I sometimes sit with my head in my hands and think the restaurant biz was so freaking easy. But seeing all the folks at the farm and how the kids touched the lambs and fed the goats leaves, brought it all back for me and I felt the same excitement I had seven years ago, inspired by the farmers at my local farmers market in Seattle.

Here are some pictures of the day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

good morning

The steamy sunrise is beautiful, I know its going to be a hot one today with 100% humidity so I've got to get out early and come in just when it becomes absolutely unbearable, which is around 3pm. There always work in the house to be done, cheese to package, feta to salt, laundry etc. Then its back out to gather eggs, feed lambs and milk goats, move sheep and Finally dinner and then bed.
The weeds are growing faster than we can get to them so it's a battle to stay ahead. Cultivating is best when done when the soil is dry so the sharp hoe can slice through the stems of the non veggies. When its wet the hoe blade gets dull fast and picks up more soil. So I wait till the ground dries a bit which the weeds love. Ugh! What can ya do?
The Chard pictured above is now on the top three list of things I love to eat. We lightly sauteed it with onion and garlic last night and served it over a tostada that was topped with avocado, black beans and goat cheese. It was fabulous. With a cucumber salad on the side. That a good meal for a hot day out in the field.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A river runs through us

This is a picture of a dry creek bed I like to come to. You cant even see the smooth rock I like to lay on, all stretched out shaded by several small pines. Its a place I love to come because it reminds me of Sedona and the warm red smooth rocks, ready to energize. Nope you cant see the red rocks and red sand, the small trickle of water into a deep puddle, home to all sorts of snails and little polliwogs. The ants who make a single file line to bite my butt cheeks and ankles.

There is so much life in this ol' dry creek bed, coyote footprints. Deer tracts and what I think to be one or all; raccoon, possum, armadillo, small little pads with deep long nails dug in one step at a time. The owls wait on thick branches for mice and the rabbits. The sounds are almost as rich as the sites. The other day I was hearing a low screech like sound. I'm thinking had to be some kind of bird. I like to close my eyes and separate the orchestra of sound into each individual player. Tree frog, cricket, meadowlark, blackbird, wind.

The dry creek has waited for this. Ready to receive the abundant and dominating serge of a storm. It holds on for its rapture as it's walls separate and open into tiny sand particles to be washed away. The opportunistic trees that have regrettably taken the soft soil in which to stretch there roots are ripped and violently taken along side a small blue bucket, a Styrofoam cooler and a faded beat up fake duck stopped by a dam, crushed by all that follows. The trees on the bank above clutch the soil beneath them, tightly digging there slender root fingers in to the fleshy earth.

the powerful excitement of a thing that cannot be stopped must be surrendered to. A crazy giddiness and dread fills the air. Nothing can be done. Let go, give in. submit. invite.
The water subsides as quickly as it approached leaving shreds of life and ugly destruction in its wake. No apoligy, no thank you for recieving me, nothing. The storm has move on. The creek bed, sand and soil is swollen beneath my feet and I sink into it deeply.

Friday, June 11, 2010

garlic breath

We harvested garlic this week. We got quite a yield, most were small heads but its understandable with the exceptionally bad weather we had this winter. Mulching is a big part of garlic planting, this is where after planting the bed is topped with several inches of good hay. The purpose of mulching is to keep the soil at a more even moisture level, shade out weeds and eventually to add organic matter to the soil. Number 1 has always been true mulching has generally kept the soil from drying out. But... no matter how much mulch I put on by spring the weeds have made their way through. Chick weed, Bermuda, etc. Its not coming from the mulch its self because I remove the mulch to weed and this stuff is coming from deep in the soil. I have had hay sprout on its own and give me stands of wheat. But general not the hay I use to mulch with, its the old hay that didn't get fed to the goats.

Anyway I decided not to mulch last fall, weeding was so very easy but the night of the Christmas eve blizzard I thought they would all be goners. So a bad year to try something new. Consequently, the garlic did suffer and small bulbs were a result. The soil had good drainage so I had no splitting but next year I shall mulch. Another thing that happened this year is the garlic was ready to harvest much earlier than it had been in the past years. So I had to catch up.

This weekend is the first Farm Table Dinner of the season and the theme is garlic! While the interns harvest for market I will be in chefy mode creating a 6 course meal with over 14 varieties of heirloom garlic. There is nothing in the whole wide world that gets me more excited than this! So for the next two days if you are looking for me, check the kitchen I shall be in heaven. Friend and CSA member Theresa is helping me, much of our work includes pealing lots and lots of garlic. We have two garlic dinners scheduled here at the farm and both have been sold out now for months. This is going to be exciting.

Whats on the menu you ask?

Garlic Lovers Dream
the players:
Vekak, Burgundy, French Tarne, Creole Red, Red Toch,
Inchilium Red, China Pink, Persian Star, Sicilaino, Tuscan, Guatamalan,
Russian River Giant, Xian, Spanish Roja
Mini Pizza with creamy roast Siciliano garlic pesto, gorgonzola and local pecans
Giant homemade paparedelle pasta with braised fennel and Mushroom Planet shiitakes, studded with tiny cloves of sweet Red Toch garlic, topped with fresh chevre.
Garden delight salad:
Great Northern Cucumber in yogurt sauce with Tarne garlic
Marinated beets and sweet onions with Creole Red garlic
Marinated homemade goat milk feta With Burgundy garlic
Garlic intermission
Pie cherry lime ice
Pasture raised Lamb Shoulder Slow Braised with new potatoes Persian Star and cardamom curry. Seared summer squash with Inchilium Red
Vegetarian: Stuffed Patty pan squash with walnuts and goat cheese studded with Inchilium red
Blueberry Tiramisu with caramelized Spanish Roja

June 10th 2010
At the Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy

Ya got to watch Jai, he loves, beets, peas and garlic.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Our newest intern, Kathleen starts this morning. She arrived last night. I started her out with a dinner of sauteed chard, boiled kohl rabi and green beans with olive oil and garlic, and a nice green salad with balsamic vinegar. A good healthy start with everything off the farm.

Today she'll be learning how to foliar feed (feed the plant) using fish emulsion and she'll learn the joys of weeding and cultivating. Next Saturday is our first Farm Table Dinner so the place has got to look fantastic. We'll also be harvesting and hanging garlic. I'll never forget my first time to harvest garlic, it was in knee high weeds and much of it was split. There was no place for it to go so harvesting included a full day of clean up. Big lessons; weed your garlic consistently and have somewhere dry, dark with good air circulation for it to go. Some of my first experiences with gardening was explicit lessons on how not to do it, so Kathleen should benefit greatly from my first flailing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

between joy and stability

Had a great farmers market today, the booth looked fabulous and again I feel the satisfaction of good honest hard work, but when we unload the bins and bins of fresh produce harvested 12 hours before I worry. I worry if it will all sell. As we unload the truck and before our very eyes the tables mount with beautiful kale, chard, kohl rabi, beets, turnips, lettuce, boc choi, and tatsoi, I worry. Will I make enough money to pay my bills this month? I've been putin in 13 to 15 hour days for what feels like weeks. I'm feeling fine about it and joyful but can I make the truck payment this month?

We didn't sell out but I can make the truck payment this month.
One question I have to ask myself every month is; Will I always struggle financially farming?
While others buy toys and things to fill their space, I buy the absolute basics. I wonder if this is okay. It feels okay most days. I don't feel deprived in the least and I eat like a queen. But you have to wonder don't you? Whats the trade off for utter happiness.

yesterday afternoon I was harvesting peas. It was the last thing left to harvest. It was so hot, alone in the field my tan bare arms crusted with mud and sweat, I crouched down in the isle scootching down it toward the end inch by inch trying to get every pea I could. I tested many along the way and they cooled me. My back was to the west and I looked east over the rows of previous harvested crops. I swear steam was coming off of them It was so beautiful. The Meadow Larks and Killdeer were scampering about and twilling their songs. I never thought once about money or toys or things to fill my space. I couldn't think of a thing I needed right then. I wonder if it will always be like this? and I hope with desperate enthusiasm eventually I can make ends meet and still feel this joy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tonight I'm weary, my body feels like Raggedy Ann. ( the only doll I had as a girl that did not get her head ripped off). I liked Raggedy Ann and now I am Raggedy Ann. Oh shit. who named this doll and why did they make her raggedy and what the hell happened to Andy? I mean why couldn't she just be Laid Back Linda or Relaxed Rachel or Silly Sophie, Goofy Gloria. WHY? Back to my weariness.....

Days have been long, ridiculously long. I notice at 5pm when I've hit the twelve hour mark, but then by dinner and a glass of wine I get my second wind, ready to foliar feed or move sheep or move drip tape. By about whatevertime I finally finish with the day, I am fried as Okra in a all night buffet. (soggy too). The thing is after a shower, I have a cold one and start to unwind, rather untwist in my case. And its all OK. I go to bed, sleep oh so good and I'm back at it again.

I am having the time of my life. Really. I know winter will be here someday and I'll have time to journal and catch up on books, but right now I'm on frikin fire and I love it. The sheep look great the pullets are growing faster that you can say "get a damn laying box in the Hen-a- beggo".

and the earth is putting forth food faster than Nate and I can harvest it and Linda can wash it.

So what can I do but go with it. smitten
This is a picture of a feed lot and this keeps fresh before me my moments of high resolve

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A couple nights ago I enjoyed dinner with some friends over at Cordero Farms, we had a great time and feasted on a dinner that I could never find in a restaurant for any price. Local, Cattle Tracks braised beef short ribs that were to die for! served over creamy polenta, out of the garden we had sautéed garlicky chard, potatoes, green beans and seared zucchini, fresh baked bread and soft yummy rub your face on em’ rolls and for dessert…hello, Wagon creek blackberry wine cheese cake. Yea I firkin know! The memory of those short ribs has stayed with me throughout the day. After glow.
It was really nice to have an evening with friends eating, and laughing and solving each other’s problems. Allowing time for fun is something I need to be mindful of. It’s easy to get caught up in the day and the day after and the day after that. Falling into the flow of the season has been easier than I thought it would be this year. There is so much work and the day turns to night so quickly I barley have time to think about it and when Kasey left I wasn’t sure how I would manage with all that he had started. I found I’m managing just fine. I mean he’s missed and all that but it’s funny how sometimes change can be so freeing. Being pushed off the cliff you sometimes find wings. I find that I am so at peace with the farm. Every cell in my body feels interwoven in the soil and the weather and the weeds, the grass, the mud, the sand and the food, the glorious food. So I celebrate!

Nate, my intern this season has really stepped up and has been a huge help. Between the both of us we’ve really been focused on organization and structure, we both work better that way and we’re really starting to see results of our efforts, even though those efforts seem so so great. I think this last Saturday at the farmers market it really rang true for me. Our booth looked fabulous the best so far. I have never been so proud and so satisfied. You don’t get to see it when you’re out in the field hot, sweaty and tired. It’s easy just to see the weeds and the deficiencies, but it all comes together at the booth when everything you’ve worked for is now on display and for sale. It’s such an amazing feeling when your customers comment on how beautiful everything looks even at the last five minutes of the market. It keeps me going at least another season, and dinner with good friends keeps me going for a life time. Let’s do it more often!