Mar 25, 2010

Pause Forward

March has us living in a rare pause.  

You know that space between exhaling and your next inhale?  It feels like that.  Not uncomfortable, just still.  This month has provided me the opportunity to gather my thoughts and plan for the upcoming rush of Spring. Only five babies have been born all month.  The older babies, born at the first of the kidding season are so big.  They no longer need much of my attention, eating grains and playing happily be themselves.

This pause has also provided us with the chance to put a few seeds in the ground.  Wedding season is fast approaching and everyone on the farm is been busy with landscaping and beautification projects.  Joe and I are cleaning up the outside of our house and planting gardenias, lavender, bee balm and borage.  So far, our bees continue to do very well.  Surprising for a colony that has been moved twice since the fall!  I see them all over the farm now.  They greet us when we plant,  dancing from leaf to leaf, checking out what new things they will have to forage from in the coming days.

The owners of Celebrity Dairy have allowed my friend Caitlan, who works in the cheese room and Inn, and myself the chance to farm some of the property here.  

This is an amazing gift, the gift of free land, for two young aspiring farmers.  In addition, Brit has give us the use of a tractor, a tiller, and water.  We are planting in a pre-existing garden space and in two long 130 ft. rows Brit plowed up for us in one of the unused pastures.  Caitlin has been through the sustainable agriculture program at CCCC and hopes to one day manage her own farm.  This opportunity is huge for both of us, but it feels like equal parts gamble and experiment too.  I'm scared of failing but at the same time know I will have crop failures, make mistakes, and that failing is sometimes the best kind of learning.

The garden spot already in production has four rows of garlic planted by Rudy, another part-time employee who helps with the milking and care of the goats. Rudy's family are garlic farmers in Guatemala and you can read that experience in his perfect and precise hand planted rows.

If all goes well we expect an early summer harvest of hakurei turnips, a variety of beets, mini purplette onions, arugula, spicy mesculun salad mix, cabbage, and peas.  A little later on we'll harvest a diverse selection of heirloom tomatoes including a mix of slicers & paste, watermelons, and okra.   We are also putting in some herbs and flowers, mainly calendulas and sunflowers. 

All of our choices have been guided by what the Inn's kitchen can use and specifically what pairs well with goat cheese- hence lots of arugula and beets!  We'll be serving our produce at farm dinners and what is left over we'll pickle or preserve for the Inn's use and possibly for sale to guests and at market. 

We're calling it LoCa Farms for Lora & Caitlan and as a joke of our crazy, making it up as we go, experiment.  So far it's been hard for us to find times that we can both be in the garden and field together because of competing schedules.  But last week we built some beds together. Moving hoe and rake over dirt, we talked about personal histories and future plans.  Farming with other women is one of my goals in life and I'm grateful for Caitlan's work and friendship.  While most of the time the boys get all of the attention, it's important to return to how natural it feels to be a woman farming and remind ourselves that most of the world's agriculture work is done by women.

Other than the tractor and tiller, we have no real farming equipment outside of a few hoes and rakes. No real equipment means that we have no seeder.  Not even a little hand held micro-seeder.... Nope...Nada.  So for the last few days I've been hand seeding 40 ft. rows on my hands and knees, inching along each bed. 

Since moving to the farm, I've been living from check to check.  As anyone who's ever worked in agriculture knows, farm work don't pay what it should.  I do have two off-farm jobs right now which help keep me afloat, but don't provide much more.  With that said, I'm not complaining, things are okay for right now.  I don't need  much and don't have many costs.  But I'm hoping that in the next week I can put enough aside to purchase an Earthway seeder so we don't have to keep hand seeding- especially as we do succession lettuce plantings. 

While frustrating, going slow provides it's own rewards.  

On the ground, I find my own rhythm to the planting and focus on each seed dropping into place.  Today, one of the barn cats decided to join me.  I don't know this cat's name, it's one of the scroungy barn cats with a torn ear and I don't particularly like cats in the first place.  I appreciate them for the job they perform on the farm, but I prefer to keep my distance.  She, however, had other plans; walking in front of me on the bed as if patting down the seeds I'd just planted and then moving behind me to bite my bare toes, before returning to weave in and out of my arms as I ignore her and continue planting.  Bored with my routine she finally leaves.  I breathe.  I'm thinking of nothing, my thoughts are coming and going like the things happening around me.  A colorful rooster chases a red sex link across the ground in front of me.  To my right, one of the lamas is running in time with a herd of goats across the back pasture towards the barn.  A hawk is flying overhead.  My fingers push through ground.  My seeding is at a human scale- the smallest tip of my index finger to my outstretched palm.   It is imprecise, it is imperfect.  I can't calculate what the outcome will be.  I plant another seed, cover it up, say a little prayer, and hold my breath.

In another couple weeks 60 more babies will be born.  There will be wedding celebrations here almost every weekend.   I'll be busy planning my own wedding and going to Saturday Farmer's Market again.  And LoCa Farms will, hopefully, see it's first sprouts poking through broken ground.

Mar 17, 2010

3.14 = Pi(e) Day

 My friend Emily is a pie baking queen. No, wait, maybe Pie Ambassador is the best title for her.  A master's student in UNC's Folklore Curriculum studying women's creativity in domestic spaces, Emily writes the tastey blog nothing in the house to archive all of her pie baking adventures, share recipes, and post interesting finds from her studies along the way. 

March 14th marked Pi(e) Day, so named for the date 3.14's resemblance to the numerical figure for the mathematical pi.   Emily has been a long timer supporter of  Pi(e) Day celebrations and now that she's living in North Carolina, set out to organize a great event that would bring people together for the sheer joy of baking pies in the Piedmont.

Miss Emily at work.

We started on Saturday night with a team of folklore students who came to the Inn at Celebrity Dairy to make some pie dough.  After the dough was done we headed over to my favorite taqueria in Siler City, Loma Bonita, and had some pre-pie tacos and beer.  Back at the Inn we consumed massive amounts of Celebrity Dairy goat cheese and crackers, a little wine, played word games, and sang songs into the night.... way into the night....  making for some bleary-eyed bakers the next morning!

Celebrity Dairy was happy to host Pi(e) Day 2010 and welcomed some 13 bakers into our kitchen who produced an astonishing 26 pies! Not too shabby for a Sunday afternoon.

The spread!

Here's the list of what we made... hold on to your pie tins, folks! 

Bourbon Pecan Pie 
Baker: Joe Schroeder

Lemon Goat Cheese Tart with Blackberry Preserves
Baker: Brooke Simmons-Temple, Celebrity Dairy's Innkeeper and Chef

Avocado Coconut Vegan Pie
Baker: Emily Hilliard

Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
Baker: Emily Hilliard

Blueberry Pie 
Baker: Emily Hilliard 
*This pie was one of two given away during our Pi(e) Walk.

Mini Blueberry Pies
Baker: Emily Hilliard

Key Lime Pie
Baker: Ashley Melzer

Coconut Pie 
Baker: Ashley Melzer 

Pork Pie/Tourtierre
Baker: Chris Fowler

Allen 'n Sons North Carolina Bar-B-Q Pie with Slaw Dressing 
Baker: Chris Fowler

Sweet Potato-Muscadine Pie
Baker: April McGregor of Carrboro's Farmer's Daughter

Chocolate Meringue
Baker: April McGregor

Chess Pie with warm Strawberry & Lavender Preserves 
Baker: April McGregor   
*One of my favorites of the dessert pies! But I'm always a sucker for April's Strawberry & Lavender Preserves.  If you haven't checked them out you should at the Carrboro Farmer's Market where April has a stand or at 3 Cups in Chapel Hill where Farmer's Daughter preserves and seasonal pickles are sold.

Fried Pies! 
Baker: April McGregor

Jamaican Veggie Patties (hand pies) with Curried Greens
Baker: Phil Blank

Blackberry & Blueberry Ginger Pie
Baker: Lora Smith

Mocha & Molasses Shoofly Pie 
Baker: Lora Smith 

Kentucky Pie
Baker: Lora Smith

Pimento Cheese-Tomato Pie 
Baker: Emily Wallace  
*I have to say that this one won best in show for me of all the pies.  I can't believe how good it was and it was one of the first ones to disappear.

Buttermilk Pie 
Baker: Emily Wallace

Chicken Pot Pie 
Baker: Zans & Molly Mclachlan
*Molly was our youngest pie baker at age 10.

Deep Dish Pizza Pie
Baker: Mary Turner, Celebrity Dairy's Head Cheese Maker

2 Apple-pear Pies with Gruyere Crust
Baker: Shannon Barry 
*One of these was given away during our Pi(e) Walk.

Potato and Pheta with Preserved Lemon Pie
Baker: Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery
*Brought by Whitney Brown who is now working for Scratch as a baker.  
Walnut Cream Pie
Baker: Phoebe Lawless

Whitney Brown and Ashley Melzer, proud members of the Pie Bakers Union, Local 919.

In addition to our pies we whipped up some goat milk's ice cream as a compliment to cut the sugar buzz.  I'm not sure it helped as the ice cream was so rich and custardy it was a rich meal unto itself!

 We took $5 donations to help cover our ingredient costs- No one made any money, that wasn't the point, we just tried to recoup some ingredient money for many of the bakers who are students.

 The pies await!

I had to bake this one twice- I was working from an old Shaker Cookbook and failed at my first attempt. The top was made with crushed walnuts and I added my own little galloping horse cookies.

Can you believe this was Joe's first pie ever?!

One of the sweetest parts of the day was watching our neighbor Zans cook with his 10-year-old daughter, Molly. Watching Zans gently give his daughter direction on how to put together the pie made me all tenderhearted and reminded us why these home-based events are more than just about having fun, they can serve as important points of connection, memory, and continuity among communities and families.

Our neighbor Zans, a former baker at Whole Foods, with daughter Molly.

Somewhere between 30-40 people came out to the farm to enjoy the pies.  We also had a pie walk with live music performed by some very fine old-time musicians in the bunch.

My favorite of the day- Pimento Cheese & Tomato.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the love of pie!  And be sure to check out Emily's blog post about pi(e) day too.

But a big THANK YOU to our bakers: Emily W, Emily H, Chris, Ashley, Whitney, Brooke, Shannon, Mary, Zans, Molly, Joe, and April.

 Mary recovering from a pie hangover.

See you next year...

Mar 10, 2010

Photo Booth

Over the weekend we held our second Open Barn of the season.

It was the first nice weekend we've had in a while and Spring Fever had all of us out in the sunshine.  I don't have an exact count but I think we welcomed somewhere around 200 people to the farm- multiple families picnicked on blankets in the fields, Rupert our resident peacock happily paraded for his audience, and lots of kids met our kids.

I set up a 'Celebrity Dairy Photo Booth' where for a donation to Heifer International you could take a ticket and get your picture taken with "Teeny the Wonder Goat" billed as "The World's Cutest Goat!"  Okay, so I can't legally prove that claim, but he's the world's cutest goat to me.  Over the weekend I took close to 100 photos and we raised over $1,500 for Heifer.

The photo booth was such a success I'm thinking we should consider offering it as an option for weddings, birthdays and other events held here on the farm.  Here are some snaps.

Mar 4, 2010

A Goat Cheese Tart & Blackberry Jam

One of the best things about living on the farm is that we have a Bed & Breakfast Inn steps away from our front door.  With an Inn comes a huge commercial kitchen, gas oven ranges, a library full of all the cookbooks I've ever wanted to own, and an industrial dishwasher- meaning that yes, I might have died and gone to farm heaven.  It also means plenty of reasons to experiment with yummy recipes.

This week we've had a company here on the farm for a retreat and Brooke, Celebrity's talented and very cool Innkeeper and Cook, has been in the kitchen around the clock preparing breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  For dessert today we got to collaborate on a dish when Brooke made a delicious Lemon Goat Cheese Tart and covered it with some Wild Blackberry Winter Preserves I'd put up over the weekend.  It was a winner so I thought I'd share some photos and our recipes.

Slices were flying out the pan.

First, I'll start with the Blackberry Preserves I made this weekend.  Brit and Flemming had picked wild blackberries on the farm last summer and there were still some left in the freezer that I'd had my eye for quite some time.  I took the basic recipe for Wild Blackberry Preserves from Christine Ferber's fabulous book, "Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber" that is, lucky for me, part of the Inn's library, and adapted it to create something I called "Wild Blackberry Winter Preserves" by adding more lemon and some ginger and honey.

I decided to add ginger and honey in thinking about the taste of summer blackberries in the midst of more snowy days here on the farm.  Lemon, ginger and honey are three foods I use anytime I start catching a cold.  I thought the spicey ginger would help warm up these last cold mornings when served over hot biscuits or Brooke's scones.

2 1/4 pounds foraged wild blackberries
3 3/4 cups sugar
Juice of 1 small lemon
Zest from 1/2 the lemon
Honey and grated fresh ginger to taste

Directions based on what I did:
After de-thawing the blackberries I rinsed them off quickly and put them through a small food mill to try and remove as many seeds as I could- a special request from Booke who hates seeds in her jam!  I then combined the fruit with the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a copper pot over low heat until they reached a simmer.  I stirred and poured the mixture into a stainless steel bowl, covered it with parchment paper and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  (I'd never done this step before but that's what Ferber's recipe called for, so I thought I'd try it out.)  The following day I brought the already thick preserves to a boil, stirring them, and then bringing the heat back down.  I added the honey and ginger to taste and then waited, stirring and checking the set, until I was happy with the texture and taste.

These preserves are not lasting long around here...

For the Lemon Goat Cheese Tart with Blackberry Preserves, Brooke adapted an easy recipe from Maggie Foard's book, goatcheese.  Maggie's blog, Goat Cheese Please, is a great read for learning more about cooking with goat cheese and has plenty of recipes.  I highly recommend Celebrity Dairy customers to check it out!

Here's what Brooke did to make a yummy semi-sweet tart perfect for a decadent breakfast or as dessert.

16 ounces unsalted Celebrity Dairy chevre*
4 extra large Celebrity Dairy free-range eggs
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 9inch homemade spelt deep tart shell made with local Lindley Mills spelt**
1 jar of Blackberry Preserves

Preheat over to 350
Blend the chevre, eggs  2/3 cup of sugar, and lemon juice
Zest the lemon and combine with the 2 tbs of sugar
Combine the chevre & lemon mixtures until smooth
Pour the mixture into the tart shell, place on a cookie sheet at bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Let the tart cool on an oven rack and while cooling, heat up one jar of blackberry preserves until warm for easy spreading
Spread over the tart and garnish with lemon

The guests liked the tart and so did the staff. 

*Foard's recipe calls for 8 ounces of fresh chevre and 8 ounces of ricotta, but having a cheese room out your back door makes it easy to get soft, unsalted super fresh chevre. 

**We use spelt crusts because of one of the owner's has a wheat allergy, for a non-spelt all around great tart shell recipe, visit my friends Emily's awesome pie blog nothing in the house.

Mar 3, 2010

Growing Pains

The babies are getting so big.

The oldest ones are now eating grain and hay!  The biggest ones are almost too fat to dance on the milk buckets which has been their favorite pastime at feedings up until now.

Growing means changes to their bodies- natural and forced.  Last week Brit told me it was time to start disbudding the babies.  Disbudding is done to remove the goat's horns before they develop into larger horns with  mature circulatory and nervous tissue, and I was not looking forward to it.  In doing research about disbudding, almost every source refers to it as one of the least favorite parts of goat farming for compassionate caretakers.

The majority of goat farmers do disbud their goats because the horns can be dangerous to other goats, people, and an appendage that often gets caught in fences.  Brit has had the misfortune of having to cut off horns when a goat has gotten them stuck and says it's an extreme and painful process to do so on mature horns with arteries and nerve endings. Therefore, most farmers see it as a smart preventative measure to stop the horn's growth before they become a liability.  And if done when they are a couple weeks old, quick and relatively painless.

The process of disbudding involves securing the baby goat in a specially made box with its head poking out and using a specially designed hot iron to burn the horn bud area and stunt further growth.  This is also a good time to do ear tattoos on the goat so they can be identified and documented for your records.  The use of a hot iron is similar to what ranchers do with cows for branding and is extremely effective.  It also seems more humane than the other alternative for disbudding which requires the use of a caustic acid you must apply topically to the baby goat's head.

We use two types of hot irons, a larger one and a smaller one.  The larger one is used first to burn a hole around the horn.  You want to see a bright copper ring.  Next, a smaller iron is applied to burn closer to and on the horn.  At this point you can then scrape off the tiny formed bud to expose the baby bud tissue beneath.  We use the iron again to scar the top of the bud and prevent any bleeding.  After that the baby is released and goes back in the pen.


Brit disbudding Suri.

I'm not going to lie- I was shocked when I saw my first baby- my baby!-  disbudded.  I love these goats and do everything I can to keep them from any kind of pain- hunger, cold, sickness.  I couldn't bear the idea of pushing a hot iron onto their tiny heads.  Not to my Suri!  And they let you know they don't like it.  The hardest part for me is watching them struggle and the sound of their tiny hooves scraping against the box and their high pitched bleets.  The smell is not pleasant either.  The barn is filled with a burning hair smell that embeds itself into your clothes, burns your nose, and stings your eyes. You carry it around with you all day.

I've never really understood the principles of veganism when it comes to abstaining from local and humanely produced cheese, eggs and honey, but after watching the baby goats cry at the touch of the hot iron I can understand their concerns.  On the other hand, this routine procedure is saving them from potential injuries down the road, takes less than a minute to perform, and has no lasting negative effects on the baby.  Literally, five seconds after taking them out of the box, the babies were happily running around again as if nothing happened- their funny new haircuts the only sign something was different.

Suri after being disbudded, happy again.

Here is a good article on the subject that outlines some of the pros and cons of the procedure.  And you can see a good tutorial on how to disbud goat horns here.  However,  I'd hope that anyone doing this would learn from an experienced farmer before working with their own herd.

I have faith in the fact that the owners of Celebrity Dairy have been doing this for over 20 years and love their goats more than anyone. Brit told me, "We didn't much like this either when we started doing it, but after seeing what damage goats can do with their horns to each other and themselves, we found it necessary."  In fact, as I did more research I found that disbudding really is the standard for goat farmers in the U.S.   I'm not sure about practices in Europe, but I'd like to find out.

This Monday, Brit trusted me to finish up the babies on my own. I knew that this was part of being a goat farmer and that I just had to do it.  I was confident and worked quickly and strongly to minimize the time each kid had to spend under the iron without compromising the work.  If you do a rushed and poor job,  goats are at risk of developing spurs on their horns that will have to be removed later, so you want to be thorough.

It wasn't as bad as I had remembered or feared. Each baby had a unique reaction to it- - some cried, others didn't make a sound and seemed fairly blase about the whole thing. A few fiesty ones looked at me and bleeted angrily- I admired their fighting spirit and willingness to voice their displeasure with me.  All, though, went back to their pens and showed no signs of continued suffering or pain.  I petted them as much as I could before, during, and after to show them comfort and filled up some buckets with fresh milk after it was all over to give them an added treat.  During the process I wound up burning myself- a huge surprise, I'm sure, for anyone that knows me and my klutzy coordination.  My skin is still red and aches.  It was a good exercise in a continued effort to understand what compassionate care might look like on a dairy.