Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sheep Wrangling

"If people tell you sheep shearing is easy, you can tell them they lie."

-John Seymour, lovable British father of modern self-sufficiency

Um. Yep. I think that's put rather well.

Except...that it really is rather fun, once you've lost your inhibitions, and just tackle the buggers.
I think football players ought to train by visiting farms across the state during shearing time.

Oddly enough, our impressive Ram, Durin, was the doll of them all, with no lambs to worry about, he was quite docile, letting me pin his gorgeous rack to the ground while he very sedately accepted the absurdity of his hoofs in the air...

The ewes had all sorts of anxieties about their babies, and would put up quite the fight when they were pressed to it by the pitiful bleating of their little'uns.

For you curious folk, a sheep on its bottom seems completely unable to do anything but marvel at the wonder of the sensation...and so, we found a little mantra does you the trick:

"RUMP, BACK, EAR." That is: Get them on their rump, keep them on their back, and persuade them with a little tug on the ear.

It really is something to see this dignified ruminant nose to the clouds...
The shearing, as all farm works, has given rise to some thought about necessity. I've been dithering about all my life, making excuses for why I don't knit. "Oh, I haven't the patience for it!" Well, after wrangling those lovely icelandics to the ground, and holding them in all sorts of not so lovely positions, and receiving some nice little hoof marks in all bodily nooks and crannies, I have come to the conclusion that our industrial economy insulates us from need, from the need of each other, from the need to make our own clothes, to grow our own food, to KNIT OUR OWN WOOL....but the sweaty enterprise of a very hot May morning pulls things back into perspective:
On another note: The lambs are all filling in quite nicely. The pastures have sent up all sorts of nice clovers and grasses. How those thunderstorms do help things along!

Broiler Chicks have arrived!

They are already out on pasture, nibbling at grass, and eating up their starter feed with astonishing alacrity. This first wave is sold out. The second wave of fuzzyness arrives mid-June.
I think we are given a great gift, as human beings, in being able to contemplate and enjoy the beauty of the animals we raise for our food. I have seen Cleo and Beatrice catch their voles and mice...and there is very little appreciation on their part for the fineness of furs, the excellence of mousy instinct...the general....cuteness.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in our modern conventional animal farming is the vast separation we experience from the animals destined for our tables. This separation allows for animal cruelty, confinement operations, manure rivers, overuse of antibiotics, and the resulting "super bugs" that evolve, and threaten our health and safety.
When you get to know an animal, when you care for it, and care for it's dignity, you are not only raising better meat, but you are existing as a human ought to, and not a mere predator. You become acquainted with its real value, and with a tremendous sense of gratitude toward the animal whose face you had come to know.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

HEAR YE! HEAR YE! Your lettuces are racing to a finish! EARLY DELIVERY of lettuces and HERB STARTS next WEDNESDAY the 2nd! Our innaugural box! The rest of the veggie deliveries will commence mid-June.

Please email us if you have not received our notification email!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Scrambled Eggs with Cream Cheese and Chives

Chives are up! And sending up their little purple buds. This is a favorite recipe for Springtime brunches:
8 large eggs

1 Tbsp minced fresh chives

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

2 oz cream cheese cut into bits (you can also use chevre!)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Whisk together the eggs and chives, salt, pepper. Add the cream cheese.

Melt the butter in a skillet over moderate heat.

Add egg mixture. Cook, stirring for 4-6 minutes.

Sprinkle with more chives! Enjoy! -From the Gourmet Cookbook

If you eat these with a slice of hot buttered toast and a cup of tea, you will feel rather like you are in a cottage in the British countryside. With a side of roasted potatoes, and you are in a hole in the wall cafe on mainstreet Stillwater. Either way: you will feel very contented with the world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fortunate Country

The final lines of Willa Cather’s “Oh Pioneers” are stirring:

“Fortunate country, that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra’s into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!”

Thank you to all of you who have signed up for shares in Little Flower Farm. Your hearts are already being given back again in the rows of little pea shoots, and the Broccolli and the Cabbage plants all braving flea beetles and frosts, their trunks thickening every day.

There are about 18 shares left.

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings."

-first two stanzas of William Butler Yeats' “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
Also of note: please save egg shells for us if you want to! We crush them up and feed them to the laying hens for additional calcium-strong healthy shells!

Say Cheese!

Dixie’s milk has yielded some rather delicious chevre.

Cheese making: Curdling milk. Separating the curds from the whey. Viola.

It is amazing to me that I have spent my entire young life assuming things like butchering and cheese making were impossible things for the average person to accomplish. How is it that we have come to live in an age which convinces all of us that the simple acts which provide for our needs are beyond our abilities to bring to fruition. It is a dangerous state we find ourselves in! Not just because it renders us infants when it comes to food, shelter, and clothing, but because it robs us of so many joys and beauties! When you knead your own bread, salt your own cheese, and grind your own sausage, your hands are holding livelihood, your are meeting with tactile pleasures all but lost in our button pressing world.

Cheese yields so much that is fascinating to study, but like a worthwhile and delicious things, it is also generously open to the forays of the curious novice. There are such things as Direct Set Starters which provide the exact bacteria needed for a certain cheese, and take a lot of guesswork and long experimentation out of the process of putting something good to eat on the table. And you needn’t kidnap a cow to get started! Try making some at home with supermarket milk….or find a farmer who can sell you some raw milk from off their farm. The results, with crackers and a nice warm pot of tea, will make you and yours very cheery indeed!

CHEVRE (From Ricki Carroll's Recipe)

1 gallon goat's milk
1 package direct set chevre starter (available through the New England Cheese making Supply Co.)
Cheese cloth (the real kind. Not the cheap stuff from the grocery store!)
Stainless Steel pot. (I use my regular old pasta pot.)
You can choose to pasteurize or not. To pasteurize heat the milk to 140 degrees and keep it there for 30 minutes. Then proceed to step one:
Heat milk (or let it cool down to) 86 degrees.
Stir in direct set starter. Stir thoroughly. Cover Pot.
Let sit till it coagulates and curd forms (12 to 20 hours.) Try to keep it at 86 degrees. Sometimes I place the pot into a bath of warm water in the sink which I refresh from time to time. Other times I just let it sit where it stands, keep it covered, and hope for the best. With a freeze dried starter, the results are always delish!
Then gently ladle the curds into the cheesecloth (placed in a strainer) and gather the ends up to either tie together, or rubber band together and hang from a spoon handle over a tall bowl or water pitcher for overnight.
Salt the cheese to taste. I just sprinkle its surfaces all over one, and then let it sit in the fridge till the cheese absorbs the salt....Wonderful on bagels-like cream cheese!

AH SPRING! A time of blossoming, growth, and amorous passions. Rival chicken gangs have set themselves up around the farm. You can hear the cocky "Cockle Dooing" from the house.

One group hangs around the silo. Reginaldo rules the roost there. He struts his stuff and likes to bark a loud "DOODLE DOO!" just as people pass by the silo, enjoying the bucolic scenery and the peace of the countryside.

The other group is a motely band of woodland wanderers. They vie for the attentions of the more mature laying ladies up by the house. The Barred Rocks and the Buff Orpingtons have received many solicitations from their teenage neighbors from out in the field. These forays are as yet unsuccessful.

The herbs are hardening off in the hoop house. Getting ready for our first delivery. I used to pronounce them "ERBS" but now, I am thinking of bringing on the European "HUhERBs" is more breathy, very like the sighs one involuntarily emits when stooped over them inhaling their lovely scents, and imagining various sauces, soups, roasts and salads.

The peppers and tomatoes are sun bathing in the greenhouses. The melons have been seeded.
. In the middle of a Minnesota winter, when one is combing through the seed catalogs dreaming daring dreams, planning gardens to rival Malmaison, one can get to the point of hallucination. When we read the description of the Edonis melon we thought we were imagining the second sentence:

Edonis (F1) These small, avg 2lb., round melons have a green rind with dark green sutures and fine cork netting. The firm, deep orange flesh is reminiscent of the pleasures of the gods in paradise.”
-Johnnys Seed catalog
You tell me! What does that description do to you?

When all the land within miles is covered thickly with pads and pads of snow, and all you’ve eaten for weeks are root vegetables, venison stews, and brown bread, it is difficult not to indulge in day dreams of ¼ acre covered all over with prolific melon fruits, and jolly barefoot frolickings that entail chins dripping with the juice of these “deep orange fleshed” beauties, giddy as the “gods in paradise”. Needless to say we ordered not one, but two packets….

Spring used to be for me the drippy season of wet mushy ground...a time only endured by means of many pots of tea and BBC period dramas. But now, in the full flush of planting out and direct seeding, with all these green growing things popping up around the farm, I am coming to see that Spring is such a healing season. All of the foggy notions we've spent the wintering nursing are dispersed with the first breath of fresh spring air tearing through the open windows into the house, or with that first touch of cool soil, that first meeting with a contented healthy earthworm.

"THE SECRET GARDEN" is perfect reading for May: (And now honestly, plow through it. Don't skim! It's good for the soul!)

“But Colin had actually dropped back against his cushions, even though he gasped with delight, and he had covered his eyes with his hands and held them there shutting out everything until they were inside and the chair stopped as if by magic and the door was closed. Not till then did he take them away and look round and round and round as Dickon and Mary had done. And over the walls and earth and trees and swinging sprays and tendrils the fair green veil of tender little leaves had crept, and in the grass under the trees and the grey urns in the alcoves and here and there everywhere were touches or splashes of gold and purple and white and the trees were showing pink and snow above his head and there were fluttering of wings and faint sweet pipes and humming and scents and scents. And the sun fell warm upon his face like a hand with a lovely touch. And in wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him. He looked so strange and different because a pink glow of color had actually crept all over him-ivory face and hands and neck and all. “I shall get well! I shall get well!” He cried out. ‘Mary! Dickon! And I shall live for ever and ever and ever!”

-Francis Hodgson Burnett

Let's say work isn't going so well. Perhaps you've had a nasty spat with your spouse. Your brand new puppy just made quite the impressive mess on your also brand new carpet....your car just broke down, or your teenage son just crashed it....the roast you had in the oven for Sunday dinner with the distant out of town relatives roasted all day in an oven....that was turned off.

It's time's like these you need to go outside. Get down on your hands and knees. Forget the gloves. Forget the trowel. Just dig into that moist ready earth. You'll find yourself slappily happy in about 5 minutes. Suddenly all your troubles will seem trivial. Your spouse will seem like the lover of your life, you can live with the interesting and artistic spot on your carpet, and who needs a car anyway? And as for the roast: sprouts. Sprouts will do just fine, and seem so wonderfully refreshing on a lovely May day. Dirt: The great healer. You will find yourself murmuring along with Colin:

"I shall get well! I shall get well! And I shall live forever and ever and ever!"

The peas are up! Dream of peas!
Also, we've spotted some potatoes coming up.
This rain has been great. Keep on dancing!