Finally, the gals are back to work! Our hens can pay their own damn rent for once! We're up to 2 dozen a day which is about half of what capacity will be once our CSA pick-up in June! We're incredibly relieved to be able to stop funneling money into these voracious little eater's beaks!
February 2013 Archives
I'll be going to take my first ever yoga lesson with Summer over at the retreat. I've been feeling terrible for months and I hit a wall this week. Summer is going to try to help me get on track. Yoga 3x a week, no drinking, and a kitcheree cleanse are what's on the docket for the time being. Let's see how I do!
Wish me luck!
"Whole worlds have been tamed by men who ate biscuits." Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
There are few food staples that vary regionally to the same degree as bread. Though many of them consist of nearly the same ingredients; flour and water, variables such as the careful handling of the dough, the quality of the grain and the method of baking have a created a vast and perhaps countless number of bread recipes from cultures and kitchens around the world.
None of them, as far as I am concerned, will ever compare to the humble biscuit. Not ever.
I grew up on these delectable quick breads, much like any child born below the Mason-Dixon. The mere sight of a puffed up, golden-topped biscuit is enough to make me do jumping jacks where I stand. I love them dearly, and only recently attempted to baked them, when I was hard up for quality biscuits in Brooklyn. I found the ones in my vicinity to be dry, dense and all together unappealing. I know some of you will chime in to defend some of restaurants known for making excellent biscuits. I won't argue that there are places in the city that do it up right, but hear me this; baking biscuits at home and breaking them apart fresh out of the oven to enjoy is an experience you cannot get in a restaurant. Biscuits will always be better made at home, especially when you know how to make them.
I've spent some time noodling around with recipes and have sort of come up with my own goat-centric version. We've always got tons of milk piling up in the fridge, which often times gets made into yogurt, which oftentimes ends up in these biscuits. Yogurt, I've learned, makes a great substitute for buttermilk. It's thick, creamy tartness imparts wonderful flavor and results in a moist and flaky biscuit that would give any southerner a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The trick to a good biscuit is a wet dough that just barely keeps from sticking, and minimal handling.
Farmer Meg's "Famous" Biscuits
To make, you will need:
-3 cups of self-rising flour, plus extra for handling the dough
-1 teaspoon of salt
-half a cup of cold butter or lard
-1 cup of yogurt (we use homemade goat yogurt, but a store-bought thick, cultured yogurt would work as well)
-a 10-in cast iron skillet
Here's how to make them:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt with a fork, making sure to break up any lumps of flour. Cut butter or lard into small pieces and spread throughout the flour. Using your hands, rub the fat into the flour until the pieces are the size of small peas. Add the yogurt and stir in a folding motion until all of the flour is absorbed. Dough should be sticky to the touch.
Flour a smooth workable surface like a counter top or butcher's block. Pour dough out onto the surface and dust liberally with flour. Fold over several times lightly, lightly forming the dough into a rectangular shape. Add flour to places that continue to stick. It's important at this point to avoid the temptation to over handle the dough. Less is more. If you are working the dough for more than a minute, you are overdoing it.
By hand, gently press out the dough to 1-inch thickness. Using a knife or pastry scraper, cut the biscuits into squares. Larger squares can be used to make tasty breakfast sandwiches, while smaller ones can accompany soups or salads. Place the biscuits flush to one another in the cast iron skillet. You may have to gently squeeze the last one in. Don't be shy about it.
Place in the over for about 20 minutes or until the tops are a toasty golden brown. Serve with honey butter immediately or up to 24 hours after.
Blogging has felt like a kind of drudgery for the past few weeks. For me it's felt forced and contrived and I attribute it mostly to the fact that we're kind of stuck in that in-between place that most farmers and gardeners find themselves in this time of year. We've had a few weeks of rest and contemplation about the next growing season and we know Spring is just around the corner. We've got work to do soon and we want to do it, not talk or blog about it. We want the warm sun on our faces and damo soil under out fingernails.
It's frustrating at times because we want to continue sharing everything that's happening here, but the reality of being a farmer/blogger is becoming clear. At some point you have to choose one or the other to focus most of your attention on.
Some things will be changing around here. There are plenty of blogs out there with daily content being added and we aspire to be that sort of prolific blog as well, but since this farm has become our first priority, that will be challenging and not always possible. I personally have had to rethink my strategy because I cannot find myself behind a computer for the length of time I am accustomed to. Lives are literally at stake daily. We need to be present mentally and physically, if only to provide damage control.
For farm information, you'll want to look to our posts at Seven Arrows East. The content will likely contain useful information alongside personal anecdotes. We're also contributing to The Anchor, an Asbury Park based culture blog. We're contemplating what to do with Brooklyn Homesteader. We're ready to move on, so now we've got the complicated task of figuring out what to do with it. We cannot depend on other people to post content with regularity. So, a name change is on the horizon and with it a slight shift in focus. More on that soon.
So are you guys ready for Spring or what? Renewal and verdure are on the horizon, y'all!
I've heard it on good authority that when training Maremmas, a wise human should anticipate two "exuberant" phases in the livestock guardian's developmemt. One takes place at around 7-8 months and what follows is a bit is a lull in the perpetual chasing and chewing that these young dogs can inflict on their charges. Many farmers new to Livestock Guardian Dogs (or LGDs) expect that the pups can be trusted to do their job now with little supervision. We we're cautiously optimistic around that we could leave them for extended periods of time with little to no trouble. We had been lucky in that the first wave of puppy-like playfulness was only a nuisance and never resulted in injuries to the livestock.
That was, until this week when our gals Stevie and Peach reached the age at which their second exuberant phase tends to hit. They are yearlings now, each weighing in at 70 lbs each. They still near the large paws of dogs that still have not grown to their full size. Boy, are they ever making it known that they think they are large and in charge!
Both dogs have been having a challenging time controlling their chase impulses. Peach, who lives with the goats, is making sure to allot ample time to run circles around the goats, nibbling at their ankles until either Hershey's, our only horned goat, gives her a stern head-butt to the grill or I catch her in the act. Busted, I belt at her a guttural "Hey, NO BITING" in the deepest growl I can muster, bringing the rabble-rousing to a quick halt. To her credit, at least she listens to commands. She's now the easier of the two to keep in control. A surprising development to be sure. I always thought Peach was the problem child. A big goon. That's not the case anymore. She has gentled a bit, and shows signs that she is always listening and processing information.
Stevie, the more socialized of the two, who is alone with the runner ducks and chickens, has developed some undesirable chase behavior. I think it is a result of the introduction of 30 young pullets to the flock last week. We've had them sequestered from the big girl hens, in a room screened off with chicken wire. Stevie has managed to squeeze through a gap in the screen and has mauled several of the birds, causing some pretty cringe worthy injuries. We've lost only one bird, but all of the others are on the mend and it appears that they'll make a full recovery.
This hasn't stopped Stevie from picking up the ducks by the neck and trying to carry them off, never actually harming them but scaring them half to death. I've had to give the roughest of the correction to her, flipping her over on the ground by the scruff of her neck, pinning her down, getting into her face and fiercely growling "NO". If I were an older, trained Livestock Guardian left to teach her the ropes, she'd surely receive worse treatment. In this situation I have to behave like a beast, one that she finds intimidating, but still manages to love and respect. I hate being rough with her but I couldn't stand it if we failed at her training and she couldn't work with livestock. We have no place for her if she can't work. It's what she was born to do. I'm not sure how she'd adapt to being a house dog.
I'm getting ahead of myself, here. Failure is not an option. This dog will stop chasing and she will become a trustworthy livestock guardian. I have faith in her.
Once I pulled back from the recumbent dog and put all of the molested poultry back where they would be safe, I returned to where Stevie remained sitting and waiting. I gave her a warm pat on the head. I knelt down and wrapped my arms around her neck and told her "I forgive you. Please be good." She nuzzled her fuzzy head into my open coat and all was well again. This is the Stevie that we want around. A gentle giant.
The gap in the door has since been sealed tight. I go out to work with the girls for an extra half hour a day, practicing commands. They get extra rations of food just in case winter hunger is what's causing them to chase with such intent. We just have to work through this phase and hope that in the next couple of months the little fires in those bellies simmer down and things become more harmonious in our critter kingdom.