Category Archives: Foodie

True Cost of Meat

Warning: Rant ahead.

pigmother
Photo by Pacificus

Obviously, driving on the central trunk-lines between Michigan and New York regularly means we see a lot of interesting and sometimes strange things along the way. In one week we saw something that was so horrific, it opened my eyes to the true cost of meat.

What am I talking about? Trucks crammed full of animals, in one case chickens, so tightly crammed into their cages that the back half of the truck appeared to have died, and in another two cases, pigs squeezed into spaces so small they cannot move. Picture a pig being trailered by a semi-truck during a rain storm, its face is covered in mud and cold with those intelligent eyes now hosting an afraid, vacant, and defeated stare. The horror I felt was initially captured by a feeling of absolute disbelief. I know this stuff happens, but I had never actually seen it. The feeling overwhelmed me. I wept.

But what did I do when I returned home? Stopped for lunch at a local eatery known for their delicious (and often local) foods. Did I think to ask about the meat? No. I had become complacent. And in that complacency, I may have contributed to the same behavior I found so abhorrent.

Bacon is so easy to love that we are satisfied with labels like “natural,” but this says little about the treatment of these animals. And I love bacon, but not enough to contribute any longer to this cruelty.

So, while at the store with a pound of bacon in my hands, I remembered those eyes staring back. There was no way for me to discover whether this product was raised humanely, so I put it back. Really, it’s simple. If I don’t know how the animal was raised and treated, I’m not going to personally fund it. And it’s amazing how much of a chore this is outside of going directly to a farmer. So, outside of a humanely raised certification, it takes educating yourself on best practices and not becoming complacent or satisfied by generic responses that do little to protect the animals we have learned to take fore-granted as a source of food.

One argument against buying local is the price of meat. Here’s the thing. As a farmer, I can tell you raising an animal free-range or GMO-free, organic, costs money. It is a labor of love. Cheap meat often comes with a cruel price-tag and significant environmental mayhem. So, if you like to eat meat, fund your local farmers, Folks. You may pay a bit more up front, but think of what that added cost buys you? Peace of mind and a better world for our little peeps.

 

Sheep’s Wool and Apple Trees

Last year, we bagged ram’s wool and hung from our remaining apple trees. The thought was that prey animals (namely the ones who love to nibble our tree buds) will avoid areas in which prey scent is strong, and likely attracting predators. We didn’t know whether it would be successful, and it’s still a bit anecdotal with only one year under our belt, but… the apple trees show zero sign of bud damage and are thriving! And no need to milk a coyote for its urine…

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We bought a house! (FINALLY)

We spent the weekend in NY house hunting again, after the farm we tried to purchasephoto 2 (3) previously fell through. The timing was good and we found a great house for sale in the Schoharie Valley, where we had hoped to land. The community is welcoming and the setting is tranquil and beautiful.

During this trip, we were pretty sure about the property, so we planned a day for house-related stuff and then a day for fun. It was a quick trip, but we managed to get an accepted offer on the house, watched Zootopia (awesome film!), and even found time for some cave exploration – think boat, underground river, Goonies…

We also enjoyed some downtime at the inn where we have stayed on previous trips out. This trip we brought along our son and youngest daughter, who wanted to offer her opinion of our housing choices. She was a big help and it was delightful watching our two youngest bonding as siblings.

photo 1 (4)Games, ice cream, and stories were devoured on this trip.

photo 2 (2)[My favorite part of being 200 feet underground on a boat floating down a crystal clear river? Hearing a woman behind me say, “It’s our time; it’s our time down here.”]

This plan to relocate has been in the works for more than a year, which has given us time photo 3 (2)to prepare emotionally for leaving home in the quest for a new place to call home. It has also provided us with opportunities to get to know other families in communities from all over the region, so the move isn’t as scary as it might have been otherwise. Our agent has been such a good friend to us in this process. He’s made this transition so much easier – we love this man! (Brad Morley – Benson Real Estate)

photo 3 (3)I can’t tell whether I’m more excited to link up with other farmers in NY State or sharing the history of this incredible region, known as the breadbasket of the American Revolution, with our children. There are cannonball holes in the sides of buildings here. Wha?!

Moreover, the house is near a state university dedicated to agriculture with barns filled to the brim with sheep, goats, cows, and horses. Yep, an entire college for agricultural studies. My kind of town!

We made sure to visit our friends at the ‘Il Cafe’ in Little Falls and Sunset Corners in Ames, the smallest incorporated village in the state of NY. The kids love this place especially. It really feels photo 1 (2)like you’re stepping back in time.

Feeling grateful also to those kind TC folks who helped us out while we were away. Thank you to Levi (RealEyes Homestead) for watching over the alpacas and kitty and to the Marker Family for taking on Louis Dog, who I have heard has been very well behaved (our sweet boy is growing up!)

Time for coffee and reflection. So many changes ahead. Thank you for the messages of support and encouragement. We appreciate them as we take this next, big step toward a dream realized.

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Small Town Post Office

It’s great living in a small town again. The Glen Arbor Post Office impressed me from Day One. As soon as we paid for our box, the woman behind the counter gave us not only our number, but the history of the box. A family had rented that small slot for decades, but the last owner had recently passed, something I’m reminded of each time I insert the key into the shiny lock, amid a lake of patina finishes.

photo 1It’s also the place where I was gifted a recipe idea, as I collected my first seed catalog of the season a few weeks back. “Have you ever made stuffed acorn squash?” the woman behind the counter asked.

I told her that I had often baked acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar as a dessert, the way my grandmother used to do, but had not tried stuffing the acorns with anything.

She recommended a vegan recipe, which sounded good, but in the last few weeks I’ve been making adaptations to the original recipe which included toasted quinoa, black beans, and corn, toward something more akin to our flavor palette. This combination is my favorite photo 2and includes lentils, sweet corn, a bit of diced onion, and ground turkey sausage.

Cut and hollow the acron squash (cut the tips so the squash sits upright on a baking pan). Preheat to 350 degrees f. Saute the onions in butter, then add the sausage until lightly browned, then add corn (I use a small bag of organic frozen sweet corn), and one 15oz. can of lentils, drained. Cook together with some fresh, crushed thyme. Add sea salt.

After ingredients are heated through, spoon into squashes. Add a Tblsp butter to top each squash (this will melt into the ingredients and help soften the squash). Bake for one hour, if squash is small. If larger squash, I would recommend baking the squashes upside-down for a half hour before righting and stuffing.

Pairs well with 45 North Oaked Chardonnay.

Leftover stuffing ingredients go well with omelettes in the morning!

 

The Fireside Chocolatiers

photo 1 (3)Well, one thing is for certain. Making chocolate fireside is an art that is as enjoyable as it is delicious. We’ve been thinking about what we’d like to learn this year, since we will not be fully engaged in farming, and old-fashioned candy-making  feels like a nice winter-weather kind of activity. It’s also a value added product, since candy may be sold during months when produce isn’t readily available. (Despite the fact that a farm-stand attracts people generally more aware of the health benefits of fresh produce, our number one seller was our pan-fried apple doughnut.)

Our first attempts at chocolates may not have been hugely successful (we got the flavor right, but the pan will not fully solidify), but it was seriously enjoyable. And the resulting pan of mostly solidified sea salt chocolate is a lovely sight. Just ask this kid…

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Hobbits, Unicorns, and a Cow Goddess

I just returned from another trip out to New York, this time to explore the Schoharie valley and Delaware County. This trip, thanks to the farmers who housed me, really invigorated me.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from farming, despite the daily regimen because we’re currently partially uprooted. Being on a farm started by a woman and witnessing the incredible foundation she has built, along with the connectivity she fosters with neighboring farms, has really inspired me not to “begin again,” but to continue with this mission forward to build a farm and fiber business.

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Isadora, the Adorable

The farm where I stayed (had to make this trip out alone so Chris could tend to the alpacas), is technically East Branch Farm, but most of the locals know it as Straight Out of the Ground, a beautiful property with a goddess of a guernsey cow, who is the apple of Farmer Madalyn’s eye, for sure. And it’s easy to see why. Look at that adorable face!

In addition to farming, Madalyn also co-produces a radio show called the Farm Hour Radio.

The mountains are nothing short of magical. The roadways and farmland trace their contours, and in the mornings, mist hovers over the valleys, leading me to look for hobbits and unicorns as much as farmland.

Madalyn connected us with some good folks and resources for farmers and reinforced the awareness that New York is a good state for agriculture. Beneath every county sign I passed, the words “Right to Farm” appeared prominently. The soil in the valleys appears good and the prospect of a fiber mill feels welcomed.

photo 1 (2)Moreover, the locals are fiercely loyal to their agricultural roots and at one stop, in a village where we had been told we could not house our alpacas, a local business owner stormed down to the local village office and demanded to see the ordinance. When the village couldn’t provide any specific wording ruling against alpacas, she called me and said, “You can have your livestock here.” Can’t help but love these folks.

I would like to say we have figured this whole thing out, but after an inspection revealed some significant issues on the house we were under contract to buy, we are once again looking for the farm. However, despite this setback, I feel more confident than ever that we’ll find the right place, because more significant than where we will land is that feeling of where we belong. And it’s there, among the mountains and the hard-working farmers of the Schoharie, where we feel most at home. Looking forward to calling this place home.

Last trip out, we traversed Sharon Springs, where an inspiring couple revitalized a farm into an enterprising business. Madalyn told us it’s not only a thriving business, but they even had a television show. Check it out below. Also, living in the region, a woman I look forward to meeting at some point in the near future, Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker. And so much more I would like to share, save for the time to write it all down…

If you don’t know them already, the Beekman Boys are fabulous.

Begin again with the Beekman Boys:

A Brain Food Lunch

photo (17)My kids are growing up. With one starting high school, I’m watching this child turn into an impressive little person, capable of organizing her life largely independent of her mama (No long sighs; I celebrate this!).

Knowing our eldest and the ‘younger’ children would be coping with greater demands at school, we decided to have a long talk before the first day about ways to reduce stress and stay healthy. This conversation included three elements: 1) Daily physical exercise, 2) A healthy lunch, and 3) Vitamin supplements.

I wasn’t expecting great results with the lunch, I’ll be honest. While our lunches have always included fresh fruits and veg, it was a huge waste. The kids ate everything, but.

This year, I have tried something different with huge success. I decided to only provide healthy options. They have brain-power-boosting nuts and seeds combined with some dried kale (all high in omega-3), a choice of fresh fruit for fiber and vitamins, a rice cake with peanut butter or sandwich that includes a protein, a “treat” containing additional seeds and fiber, and fresh veg like carrots or cauliflower. Yogurt or another additional protein is sometimes included, along with another dried fruit option. While, as an adult, I find any of these options enjoyable, it takes a bit more to motivate kids to eat well these days – especially when the high school flies stupid banners advertising fast food (Grrrr).

What we found was super reassuring. These elements of sweet and salty create a nice balance on the palate. The kids actually want to eat the apple, after eating a handful of nuts, seeds, and kale. And it follows that a rice cake with peanut butter is washed down nicely with a healthy quantity of life-sustaining water. The kids feel better, eat all of their lunch, and are choosing healthier options after school as well.

Another benefit? With three kids in school, packing a lunches can be costly, but these lunches are reasonable. I buy the seeds, nuts, and dried foods in bulk, which is a huge savings, and at this time of the year, some of these options are easily made right at home. Autumn olive fruit leather anyone? Bon appetit!