Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on eggs

I don't even know if I should be talking about this. Not because I'm worried or have some concern, but because its an exhausting subject. Industrial egg production. I've been thinking about writing a post about it for a while, but every time I do I get this overwhelming sense of all the life being drained out of me. Why? Because its like beating your head against a wall.

Everyday I listen to the radio and everyday the egg recall comes up and everyday I think, I don't get why this is news. Yea that's right. Why now?
Every time I hear about spinach recalls, meat recalls, packaged green bean recalls. I think, duh!
Look, here's my thoughts, if 81% of the total population (this is all the urbanites, people dependant on outside sources for food) of around 310,118,00, drink from the same well, by gosh , if something goes wrong, some of those folks are going to be directly effected. How many dozens of eggs came from this one company. How many months did it take to track it to the producer?

I'll be honest. Salmonella is something we all have to live with, Every egg carton in America has cooking instructions and warnings to help prevent you from getting sick. We've seen it on menus at restaurants, a small warning down at the bottom of the page that reads "consuming raw or undercooked eggs can be hazards to your health" or something to that effect. We also live with e-coli, and a plethora of other critters that we've come to live amongst in our decision as a population to concentrate our food source in a limited way. We cram animals into small confined areas for economic reasons to create fast cheep food at grocery stores, fast food establishments and restaurants. We mechanize our food production to save even more money on labor and we separate ourselves so far from our food source that we're willing to believe the packaging or the brands like the eggs carton that reads "farm fresh" or "farmers Market". Now I know it sounds like it, but I'm not here to knock it.

If 81% of the population or more is dependant on buying their food from outside the homestead than I understand why and how this has happened. I understand the need for affordable food. Okay, so whats the big deal? If your going to support this food system than quit your bitching! cook your eggs, vegetables and meat well done! Don't rely on new government regulations to keep you 100% safe.

I have around 190 laying hens. I raise them on certified organic pasture, they're all free range, but even though the chances are really slim, even my hens are susceptible to coming into contact with salmonella. The difference here is, If you got sick and you know where the eggs came from, the reaction time would be immediate. an hour, a day at most. The chain of communication is extremely short. As short as a handshake. This is effective responsible food management!

I know you. I've come to think of you as my family, you help keep my farm going by buying my vegetables, eggs, lamb and cheese. We have a relationship. We have formed a bond of trust. I have watched your kids grow from little tad poles into little people. Why does this matter? Because like myself and so many other small local producers our focus is not primarily on production its on creation. Creating a sustainable food system, a way of life that we believe to be good.

Seriously, I don't mean to rant, or make anyone feel bad. I really don't, but if you opened your refrigerator or your cupboard can you say that you have a relationship with anything in it? do you know the human being who produced it? If you got ill could you just call them up directly and say I got sick and I think it came from your farm. If it were me and you did, I could react. I could call all of my customers in one way or another and make them aware of what happened. Find out if they too have also had a problem. More important I solve the problem immediately, not months or years but minutes. But in all fairness and honesty there are plenty of things in my cupboard that I don't have a fliping clue about. I can account for at least 90 % of my food and that is pretty amazing. But there are somethings that I really depend on, like rice, beans, olive oil, salt and some other things (wine), so I'm not trying to brag on my perfection, I'm anything but. But I really think about it. I have come to know and understand my choices and what they mean.

The excuse that there is not enough small producers to provide enough food for everyone is just hogwash. Every week at the end of the market I watch vendors pack up good clean food that hasn't been sold. I myself have taken home a lot of products only to either put them up for myself or compost them. So at least for the most part here in Oklahoma its not on the supply end. Its the demand end and its the consumers challenge of cooking and planning ahead, The challenge of taking the time to think about this. Some of us however really don't have a choice and that's a whole nuther story. But if you do have a choice, you can use it. Whatever you choose you have my respect not my judgment. You how I feel now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Think about it

I'm still reading Angie Debo's Prairie City. The only chance I get to read is right before bed and my eyes get mighty heavy. There are no photos or illustrations in her book so I do little searches on the Internet so I can get a good picture of what things really looked like during the early days of Oklahoma. Her descriptions are beautifully detailed but I have such a limited frame of reference when it comes to the photo above I really have to see it in order to truly understand it.

The more I read the more I begin to understand the people of this state and why it still seems like uncharted territory at times. What inventive and hearty folks the first settlers were. Ingenuity was their strong suit, but also creative and pure survivalists at the core. Can you see yourself in the photo above? Aside from the politics of the day and the dark side of settling this state, its quite amazing how people set out to survive against all odds. Kinda like being a vegetable farmer here, but in spite of the unfriendly weather and heat at times, we just keep on truckin'. and now I understand why Oklahomans like turnips so much. It was one of the only vegetable crops they could grow here besides, Keffir corn, and sorghum, then later of course wheat. The landscape of Oklahoma has really change.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The hunt?

This is what I believe; that all aspects of this farm should live in harmony together. Even the deer who has taken a liking for Armenian cucumbers. Said deer has also helped themselves to my melons and corn but I personally thought the melons were terrible so I didn’t feel so bad about sharing, and the corn wasn’t in good shape to sell. The deer were only on the far end of the 300 X600 plot, just eating on the outskirts barely where they could be noticed at all. But the last several weeks they have gotten bolder and are now on the south side where most of the traffic and human activity is. I’ve noticed their hoof prints in the soft soil, but I’ve never seen them.

I have nothing against deer and I can continue to live side by side with these beautiful creatures, but I was wondering if venison in the freezer would be a good thing this winter? If I truly am to “live of the land” should I attempt to hunt? I’ve never hunted, not to say I’ve have no experience with guns because that I do. But I’ve never shot nor dressed a deer. I’m going to really have to give this some thought. I eat meat. I raise lambs for meat. But I don’t do this thoughtlessly; there is great intention and a mindful process behind it. I have vegetarian friends that do not see my way, but I respect their view and their intentional eating as thankfully they do mine.

But this is a real moral dilemma for me. See at my core I am a chef so I look at things like this as not only nourishing me but also an opportunity for a creative way to use it. I love venison Sausage and smoked venison tenderloin. So if you have any thoughts please add your 2 cents. But I’m really going to think about it seriously. Winter is coming and I don’t know much about this whole population thing yet but the argument for it, is not enough to eat or forage during the winter and it’s cruel to let them starve?????

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dreams of fall

I woke up at 4:30 from a bad dream. I was angry at my niece Jennifer and was throwing shoes at her and yelling something like "how could you do that" I have no idea what "that"was but I was pissed. I grabbed an arm full of my clothes out of the closet and preceded to take them out to my car. My car was a black flashy Suburban. one of my coats fell off the hanger, it was a white rhinestone studded fringed leather jacket. I had two, each different. My sister picked it up off the ground, brushed it off, placed it back on the hanger and laid it neatly in the back seat of my Suburban.

She said nothing, my sister, but she had a little smile on her face that made me feel a little bad for my temper tantrum. But I was MAD dangit! But there was something funny. in the dream, in the back of my mind I was thinking. "why do I own two white rhinestone studded leather jackets? and why am I placing them in this shiny new black huge ass suburban"? "am I in the wrong dream?" Then I looked at my sister and said, "and why are you here, your, dead" That's a buzz kill for a crazy dream so awake am I at 4:30, thinking is that the only thing I could have thought of to say to my sister? SHIT!

shake it off, carry on.....

So Soil temp at my place is way to hot to plant yet. Its up in the very high 90's so I wait. Were right on the cusp but its not worth shitty germination. I've gotten the first 300 ft bed ready to go and I'll work on one more. This is just to get me started, into fall. I have like 6 more weeks of market so the last three I want a full booth of greens; Arugula, lettuce, etc. But the big push will be next week. I'm in the process of getting the ground ready for the new high tunnel for winter growing. This gets me pretty excited. I cant tell you what a thrill it is on a cold 35 degree day to walk into the 65 degree hoop house and harvest lettuce.

I'll be constructing about 4 cold frames as well, which will be really nice for some specialty lettuces and greens. I've been asked to give a talk at OSU's Seretean wellness center for the Wellness Wednesday series. This is where I work in the winter part time , I'll be talking about and demonstrating all the details on how to construct, fill and plant a cold frame for winter production. It's Wednesday September 15th in Stillwater. If anyone is interested contact me and I'll send you details.

So the next two weeks you'll be reading about getting ready for winter by planting seeds. Kind of strange I know but Fall and winter are one of the best times to grow in Oklahoma.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another glorious morning. I sit with a long lists of tasks and to do's in front of me and look up out the window to the east pasture and watch the sun peek over the boundary of trees. Its big today, the sun. Surreal clouds dot the sky with such utter magnificence I feel I'm looking at a painting that's moving and breathing its gift all around me, Its going to be one of those days, the kind where I walk around in my farmy euphoria all day. I manage however to get a lot done on these days so I'm not knocking em' but it makes me pretty hard to reach in a variety of ways.

I'll be spending today on the brush hog, and then working a fresh clean bed for spinach and lettuce. With the cool nights now soil temps have gone down enough I think to plant. I feel pretty confident that this is the case. I have some ground to break up and turn in for garlic planting soon. I'm always late with garlic. Maybe not this year. Maybe this is the year I'll be on time. Or not.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Morning made of pearls

Not to bring up the weather AGAIN... but the mornings have been absolutely glorious! Yesterday morning it was a cool 72 degrees, there was so much dew on the ground everything sparkled. Half way out to the field to harvest, I was overcome with such beauty on all fronts I had to run back in the house and grab my camera. I love starting off the day with childish wonder and excitement! I actually did get some harvesting done, eventually.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

contents of a larder

Between scratching my chigger bites and hunting for seed ticks I'm preparing for winter. Some folks call it a pantry, homesteaders call it a larder. A larder is serious business for a person or family that has made a commitment to try to live off the land or as close to home as they can. So preparation is very important. A pantry seems less harsh and more whimsical, you can put all sorts of things in there with out a worry in the world. With a larder there is a slight panicky feeling that there wont be enough.

My larder is half full. Early in the season I made a list of what I wanted and how much based on previous years and what I estimated I would use. I've over canned and that's a poor use of time and you really have to consider how many times do you care to eat green tomato chutney? Once or twice suits me thank you very much. Tomatoes are the big one cause I can seriously plow through tomatoes. I freeze a great deal too. Most fruit, some veggies although I am fortunate enough to have the means and ability to grow most greens throughout the winter months.
Here is my list of musts for the larder

  • Tomato sauce 15 qts
  • pickled jalapenos 12 pts (love them !!!)
  • Green pepper sauce for chili verde 12 qts
  • chili sauce 6qt
  • plum chutney 6pt
  • plum jam 12pt
  • blueberry jam (sauce rather)12pt
  • fig jam 6 pts

Still left:

  • Apple sauce
  • pie apples
  • pear or apple butter
  • pumpkin (for pie)
  • pickled okra

In the freezer:

  • 1/2 a hog (on the way)
  • Lamb of course
  • peaches
  • blueberries
  • melon (Frozen? perfect for smoothies)
  • cow peas

Our crop for broccoli and cauliflower was an utter failure so we'll have to rely on other greens.
Of course we'll have our staples like rice, beans, risotto and polenta. and I'll have my beautiful extra virgin olive oil and my white truffle oil, my Himalayan sea salt, red coral sea salt. Lavender pepper and salt, champagne vinegar, and preserved lemon, curries and spices, and the standard medicinal herbs. Homesteading has changed a little over time, these things are allowed now. I said so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prairy City

I am reading Angie Debo's book Prairy City and I am just enthralled. The book was originally published in 1944 and reprinted twice the last being in 1985 by Council Oak Books LTD. At that time she was 95 years old, She passed in 1988. I dont know much about Angie Debo yet but I feel I really found a jem. Prairy City is so beautifully written. I hang on to sentences and paragraphs and read them two or three times just for the pleasure they give me.

If your not familiar, Debo was a historian of Indian and Oklahoma history. I cant tell you much about her yet because I have just discovered her, but Prairy City is about a town being formed in the early years following the Oklahoma land run. I'm afraid Angie Debo is about to become my new obsession. Remember I am from Seattle.

This is somthing I savored for some time last night:

"Thus each homesteader struggled with his individual difficulty. And as the wheat ripened, all was merged into the stress and toil, the zest and excitment of that first harvest. As one long day of perfect weather followed another, the grain fell evenly before the sickle and was piled into smooth golden shocks. For the first time in all the brooding ages the prairy landscape stretched field after field to the horizon bearing this crown of ordered beauty."

"Something of this feeling of mystery and wonder came to the people as they worked. Characteristicly they planned a celebration; nothing else would express their thankfulness for the harvest, their pride in the new land they had tamed, their joy in the work of their hands."

Gosh every time I read that I get chills.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On another note

Where's that girl with the red dress on
some folks call her Dinah.......

I strum a little here and there. I wouldn't ever call myself good. I know my G D C Am and all the basics it takes to get ya through a song. I like to sing, and I wouldn't call that good either but its something I do. I've been playing this here Martin for a few years now. I really like her. Deep and pretty soundn'. I play for myself and for the goats and an occasional innocent bystander that just happened to be in the way, like the one I live here with. Who insists she likes it when I play.

I do aspire to be a better guitarist. I really do enjoy playing so much. I took lessons as a teen ager and then just messed around now and then. The years I was in the restaurant business I really just left it alone. Sad business. I picked it up again a few years ago and have been pretty gung ho. I'm not in a position financially nor do I have the time to take up lessons again although I would really like to, but I try to learn new songs as much as I can and I try to play as much as I'll allow myself spare time.

I think of ways in which I can be creative. Work on a farm certainly requires a certain amount of creativity but I also crave to play music, write, draw, cook. I like using time for these things rather than watching TV although I've done my fair share of that now and then. But I notice a big difference when I allow myself the time to be creative. I feel it throughout my body, a vibrancy, I'm lighter and less uptight. The problem is gifting myself the time. If I'm not "working" I feel a little guilty.

So my goal is to play my guitar at least 30 minutes a day and teach myself a new chord, one a week. I have a list of songs I want to learn. There will be no concert at the end, this is just for my own druthers.
send prayers to Linda as I'm exploring the minor notes

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Days like these

On days like these there is not much you can do but just smile, wipe the sweat off your face and keep moving. Get out as early as you can and come in when you cant breathe and if you have to go out again wait until just before sundown. These days are temporary. I try to keep this in mind. I try to use the idle time in the house to rest, to catch up on paperwork, write and to plan.

I start back up at the Wellness Center next month so I'm planning my classes and getting recipes cued up to test. I'm looking forward to getting back to OSU. It will be a crazy September for me but I'll make it fun. Interns are wrapping up and next week I'll find myself on my own. I'll really miss Kathleen, she is quite an amazing woman and I can see if she decided to farm someday she has the wherewithal to actually do it and do it well. A big lesson I have learned is stamina trumps strength. It doesn't matter if I can bench 200 pounds, If I cant be out at the crack of dawn ready to hoe, harvest, tie, water, brush hog, through a hot day with a big fat grin on my face, I might be handy but for the long hall I ain't worth squat, at least on a farm.

But I'm thinking about next week when Kathleen is on her way back to School and Linda is back at work and I wonder what its going to be like. I'm looking forward to the quite contemplative days but I wonder if I'll be lonely. I don't think so. I have plenty to keep me busy and the animals to me are sometimes the best kind of company, and I'll be going into Stillwater a few times a month. Where will my mind go? What journeys will I take myself on? What will the quiet sound like? Maybe I wont even notice.

I've been reading a book called A Handmade life - in Search of Simplicity- by Wm. S.Coperthwaite
I love the book and Its helped me during this busy and stressful time to recognize that my work is a spiritual practice, to keep in front of me my intentions. I think about the pastoral ideal, or idea and I've come to realize the pastoral is not a place or a time its a state of mind and it does exist. Its the way you sip your coffee in the morning or the way you honor a challenge. Its your thoughts as you push yourself to your own physical and emotional extreme. Its pain, its poverty, its wellness and respect. Its gratitude and questioning. But Its quiet and you have to listen for it, and the scenery changes frequently so you have to keep your eye on it. Sometimes its easy to miss but its there.

A chapter in the book called- Work-bread labor- Copeerthwaite states what he as young man was seeking in "work"
- be intellectually and physically challenging
- encourage creative thinking
- advance the cause of a better world
- provide for basic needs

Another great quote from the book:

If we have not been helped to see how our life can be
useful to the world beyond ourselves, we fail to
harvest the full return of our labor.
On that thought I think I better go out and milk some goats.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A little update

On beautiful mornings like these its hard to imagine that within hours it will be unbearable. Today we have a slight cool front to look forward to when the high will only reach 96 and there is a slight possibility of some rain too. I welcome the rain but not the humidity.

Yesterday in spite of the heat we had a big job to do. We separated our sheep into groups. One group are the ewes we will breed this fall. The second are female lambs, ewes and wethers, we wont breed, and the third are a few in tact males that I never got around to banding, there are just four of them so they will go into a rotation far from any females and will be raised for our next trip to the processor in a few months.

It was a long hard hot job but we managed to get it done so that felt like an accomplishment. Everyone is really looking good and fat. There was a lot of separation screaming last night but this morning it seems pretty quiet. This is the first time I have ever worked with rotational grazing. In theory its wonderful concept but in practice I haven't quite gotten it down. I've been told it takes some time. I'm good with taking the electro-net fencing down and putting it up. That is fairy simple and takes only 10 or 15 minutes, but its the planning and having the next rotation ready to go. That's where I get stuck some times. I could use a couple more panels.

On the chicken front, the pullets are now 22 weeks old and I found a whole four eggs in the bus. So I think fall I will have a good supply if eggs. By the end of August they should all be laying like mad. Moving the bus is an adventure all on its own that's worthy of a post soon. But the Hen-a-bego is in this grand rotation too so it really takes some planning. Getting all the bugs out, making it second nature that's what we're shooting for.

Today is about canning. Jalapenos, more tomatoes, and chili verde sauce. The air conditioner isn't working to good so we'll get to the canning after chores this morning.

Some bad news; Granny passed. I guess the stress of moving and the heat did her in. She couldn't get up on her own anymore and I couldn't get her up so I just brought her water and food but she started to turn them down. I had decided to put her down, but she took care of that. I'm sorry I didn't get to spend more time with her she was really sweet. The others are doing fine but haven't left the site. Its so sad. It'll take time. Rest in peace Granny.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


If you are anything like me your sick of hearing how hot it is, but 104 that’s something to talk about. That what the thingymigger reads outside right now. 104. Just 104. Not, “get your ass back inside its 104 idiot” no, just 104, not flashing or nothin’. I went inside a cracked a Stella that’s what I did. Today wasn’t a good day to can either. Just saying. It might be 104 outside but its 110 heat index in the kitchen. Me, I have an air conditioner unit that might be older than I am or half my age let’s just say, it’s working like the little engine that could and I so hope it can.

Linda is on vacation, a staycation they call it cause she’s not leaving town. In her case a haycation more accurately named. (it’s all the rage, you should try it) So she has two whole weeks on the farm with me. Poor thing. Yesterday she helped hoe until she turned a funny purple color. Then today she grilled peppers for the winter. Is that not hilarious? Joke is on me, I was inside canning and it was cooler outside. (Sometimes my tricks backfire on me).

But really, I’m trying to make my peace with this heat. I’m trying to pull up the memory of the cold hard winter of the year before and how I wished for a hot summer day. It really was a hard cold winter here at the farm. The summer is relatively easier in comparison, no ice to break on water tanks, no frozen pipes under the house, no frozen well, no freezing cold house when we ran out of propane. No chickens sliding along on the ice, no goats held up in the barn, no dead grass and trees emptied of leaves, no grayness in the sky, no eight pound carharts to lug around, just blue skies and a blazing red ball of fire in the suffocating air over us. So much for peace, at this point I’ll just take survival, more occasions to drink cold beer and take naps. There’s a bright side.