Recently in inthekitchen
It's been a while. We're in the throes of the most productive time of year at the farm, harvesting tons of heirloom tomatoes and greens (among other things) and preparing for the quickly approaching autumn growing season. We've been hustling to get all of our farm goodies sold and distributed to CSA members but in my scarce free time I've been working on migrating Brooklyn Homesteader over to a new website that is no longer specific to Brooklyn since, well...I no longer live there.
So, as a result I created a page dedicated to the projects I'm working on, including teaching and farm events. The book I have been working on for an eternity will be out soon! Next season, I'll be tackling management of the farm by myself so it should be quite a ride! Please consider adding the new blog (which I've imported most of the content from this site to!) and following me on this crazy journey.
p.s. Big ups to McKenzie over at Oliver and Abraham's for designing my banner and buttons!
Who says the 80's were a complete waste!
The farm has undergone a huge transformation in the past few weeks. Where brown and grey we're the dominant colors, green and fuschia have supplanted them. The trees, grasses and hedgerow shine so brightly you see their negative burned into your eyes when you look away. This is the time where we steadily creep toward plenty. In a short few weeks we'll be up to our eyeballs in zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers. I'm wringing my hands in anticipation already.
In a little over 2 weeks, our CSA pick-ups begin. If you think my blogging is infrequent now, I'm afraid my dwindling readership may be in for a disappointment. You see, I've learned that you can't be a blogger AND a farmer and excel at both. I'll be checking in as often as I can. I hope you'll be there to receive my transmission!
I am, as much as I hate to admit it, a fairly negative person. A "poo-pooer", if you will. Much of my life up until the past few years felt monochromatic, pointless at times and generally unfulfilling. Working a 9-5 job, spending what little money I had on things that I felt no connection to and family troubles kept me adequately distracted from the positive aspects of my life.
As an insecure person, I felt I had more to say if I had something negative to share. Being positive in social situations is boring, right? I could use my distaste for something as an opportunity to be snarky and amusing at bars. The scary thing is, it kind of works. Folks chuckle at your commentary and you keep it up to keep the accolades a-comin', In time, that sort of attitude starts to chisel away at you. Negativity is a tough habit to break. You begin to find comfort in those rough words. They dismiss the things you don't understand, the things you are fearful of, the things you simply do not like. Talking trash makes easy work of existing because you've given yourself a way to avoid learning to navigate through things that are challenging. Negativity is a coward's warm blanket. One that, if you are not careful, can smother you.
It never occurred to me that I was behaving cowardly. In social situations, I'd blurt out the first thing that came to mind, usually something unpleasant, with no filter on. It was alienating, for sure. I felt myself floating adrift from my friends and loved ones and that only made matters worse. About 8 years ago, I hit a wall. I had allowed my poor frame of mind to quite literally take over my life and it wrecked my relationships with a couple of folks that meant a lot to me at the time. Ashamed, but too stubborn to try and fix myself, I ran away to the city to start anew.
New York City taught me something of value that I am only now just realizing. Folks there don't have time for things that make them feed bad, that includes people. You don't make or keep friends for long there when you've got a bad attitude. I learned that focusing energy on things that made you feel good actually had the power to make you better in attitude, and eventually in spirit too. I'm thankful for the people there for showing me no quarter where matters of shit-talking and negativity are concerned. We should all aspire to be less tolerant of bad attitudes.
Things are a little different now that I'm farming. I wake up every day and venture to the outbuildings to let out the critters, attend to their needs and milk the goats. There's not a day that has gone by when I don't laugh or smile big or well up with love during that process of caring for our livestock. Watching the dogs play mirror through the paddock fence, or that first 30 seconds after I open the door to the coop and all 80 of our chickens flow out of the door like some sort of spastic, noisy river. It gets me right in the heart. It's so undeniably good and I feel the most crystalline gratitude in those moments. I find myself looking for them everywhere and as often as I can.
I won't lie to you, though. I still catch myself focusing on the downside to everything on a daily basis. It's an ongoing battle. What helps is remembering how good I've got it. We can feed all of the creatures under our care, pay for vet bills, and feed ourselves too for that matter. I make a very modest living doing what I love. I can't afford to buy a new car or new gadgets every year like modern folks are accustomed to, but I do not find myself wanting and that is something to be very grateful for. I have a man who loves me and is willing to take personal risks to be with me. There are people in the world who trust me with things that are precious to them, like their land and their home and their memories. None of these things are small or to be taken lightly. Is there anything more humbling than the gift of other people's faith in you?
It's important to keep reminding yourself of all of the good surrounding you from time-to-time. It's not always an easy task but the alternative will eat away at the soul. It's something I can attest to personally. If you don't make it a point to seek out those things that make you feel big inside you might just find yourself wishing at the end of your time that you had appreciated all the beauty in your life when you had the chance.
So what is that thing that makes you feel gratitude? Think on it and share if you would like. But most importantly, think on it.
It's been a while since I've interviewed someone I admire on the blog. Last time was my friend Jenna Woginrich, a farmer and writer up at the wonderful Cold Antler Farm. This time, I contacted Hank Shaw, a hunter, an angler and a forager whose blog is chock full with drool-inducing recipes featuring the seasonal and wild foods that he has personally gone out into the world to find. He's written a best-selling book called Hunt, Gather, Cook which I recommend to any wild food enthusiast or adventurous cook. I enjoy Hank's writing because it possesses reverence for the lives that feed him that isn't ham-fisted or saccharine. It's respectful without being precious. It's graceful and it's fact in his world and it feels authentic to me. Add to that that the man can cook like nobodies business. It's an inspiring read nearly every time.
Hank's blog, if you haven't already visited, is called Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. Do yourself a favor and add it to your feed. It's one of my favorite places to click to for inspiration. When you are like me and you try to dine on what is free and near, checking in at websites like his keeps the fires stoked. After the interview, check out this link to his recipe for Venison Meatballs, Greek-style. We've been enjoying this dish all winter with some of the venison our neighbor has been trading us for eggs!
(Note: In November, Hank will be visiting us here at the farm for a book event. He's just written Duck, Duck, Goose, a book about cooking wild and domesticated water fowl.)
BH: Was there a definitive moment when it dawned on you that seeking and eating wild food was preferable and something you wanted to make part of your daily life?
Hank: Not really. I grew up picking berries and digging clams and fishing. Wild food is part of our family's DNA. But I can tell you that one reason I've taken it into hunting -- something no one else in my family does -- is as a conscious rejection of factory farmed meats. There is real horror in industrial meat production, and I want to minimize my involvement in it as best I can; I have bought meat only a handful of times since 2004.
BH: Killing and consuming wild or farm-raised animals, especially cute ones, can be really a really polarizing topic. How do you find yourself coping with folks that seem to take serious issue with the rather hands-on manner in which you provide for yourself?
H: Well, it can come from several directions. The most amusing are the "cute-itarians," those who will eat beef because they're ugly and not lamb because they're cute. Kinda ridiculous. The other easy ones to dismiss are those hypocrites who tell me I am a monster for hunting when they wear leather shoes and gladly stuff their pie holes with McDonald's burgers. They lash out at me because they fear the reality I choose to face head on. What I do reminds them that their burger was once a cow, their skinless, boneless chicken breasts were once wandering around pecking things -- or not, in the case of factory chickens, which barely get to move at all.
On the other hand, I enjoy debating and discussing with vegetarians. I like vegetarians, because many of them (not all, mind you) have also spent time thinking about the industrial food system and they too have rejected it. Their choice is merely a different one from mine. Where we debate is in who does the least harm to the world. This, in the grand scheme of things is akin to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin -- vegetarians and hunters do FAR less harm to the earth than do the typically wasteful American consumer. That said, vegetarians (and vegans) need to realize that animals die for them, too. Anyone who's ever seen the crows and seagulls flock around a disker, pecking at the chopped up remains of mice, voles, baby birds and such -- and I'm not even going to get into the issue of habitat loss and pesticide use -- understands that no one lives unless something dies. It is a cruel fact of this world.
BH: How do you feel that your lifestyle has effected your perspective? Do you feel differently than you did before you began actively hunting and foraging?
H: Like I said, I've been foraging and fishing my whole life. But hunting has definitely changed my perspective. I waste less meat now. I am a better cook because I hunt -- it requires skill to cook offal, and the tough cuts of an animal. I actually eat less meat now, because I have chosen to eat only what I bring home. I think hunting has restored meat's rightful place in my life: For most of human existence, meat has been special. Before I hunted, it was not. Not it is something I hold in reverence.
BH: What advice would you give someone with hesitation about how to get started hunting or foraging? Do you have any advice for people who are afraid of taking a life to feed themselves or their families?
H: It is absolutely a big deal, a serious matter. And not everyone can do it. It's been a powerful long time since everyone was required to be able to kill for their meat -- eons, actually. And there is no shame in facing the moment and finding yourself unwilling or unable to pull that trigger, or release that arrow or slash those gills. My advice for those who are curious is to talk to anglers and hunters and livestock farmers. If you are still interested, ask to join them on a fishing trip, or a hunt or on slaughter day. Watch. Let it seep in. If you think you can do it, only then should you start the journey.
Killing for meat, especially when we're talking about fellow mammals like deer, is never easy. Nor should it be. But over time you understand that doing so is taking your place on Nature's stage. We have been hunters since before we were fully human. There is no shame in accepting that -- so long as we remember to respect what Nature gives us.
BH: In your opinion, what is the most rewarding aspect to having a more intimate involvement with your food?
H:Getting to see Nature in a way no other people get to see. Hunting, fishing and foraging get me closer to the wild world than you ever possibly could as a hiker or as a spectator with a camera. To succeed in what I do, I must understand what I am pursuing -- whether it be bird, beast, fish or plant -- far more than I would need to as a casual observer. There is an intimacy in the process that lies outside the realm of reason. The forest, the fields, the ocean. These are my cathedrals.
"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!
And they live on our street. Neighbors! 29 more shares to go...let's go, let's go!
If you live in the Navesink River region in Monmouth County, NJ and are interested in finding out more about our CSA, click HERE!
Hay there, Readers!
It occurred to me a few weeks back that music has begun to play a big role in our day-to-day here at the farm. Wether belting out ditties with the Louvin Brothers in my pick-up truck or poring through seed catalogs to Bob Davenport's Balladeers, my new life has a soundtrack and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all.
This first playlist was made with the quiet of winter in mind. We've been spending a lot of time planning the garden over creamy goat milk coffee with fat cats on lap. These are the songs often playing in the background. I hope that you love them as much as I do.
We usually listen to LPs at home, but I use Spotify often, since it has an iPhone app that I can use both on the road and at the farm so if you have an account, click HERE to access my first playlist!