Agricultora


Farm-Sitting & Food
February 12, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Farm, Food, NYC

It’s been a while again, I know, but most of that time was spent upstate either at the winter NOFA-NY conference in Rochester or back at the farm, caring for the critters while the farmers were on vacation in France.  It was a great trip, and I think I could very easily have stayed there, but it’s nice to be back in the whirl of city life I suppose.

Non-animal life was pretty hidden under the snow up at the farm, but besides the abundance of food in cellar, pantry, attic, eggroom and freezer, I did manage to scavenge a few green leaves from the T’aj (the big ol’ greenhouse) despite the snow cover letting in very little light, and we had some fresh-picked salads while we huddled around the wood cookstove for warmth:

Arugula & Lettuce Salad

Arugula & Lettuce Salad

 

Wilted Spinach Salad

Wilted Spinach Salad

Most of our food was cooked, however, and this was the preferred method of doing so:

Cooking on the Woodstove

Cooking on the Woodstove

The purple carrots were from the cellar, the tomato sauce from the cupboard of canned goods.  There were plenty of eggs:

Breakfast

Breakfast

We were given permission to eat what was there, and we ate well!

I did a little bit of knitting in between trice-daily chores.  I’d gotten some yarn from Catskill Merino Sheep Farm at Union Square before we left that was dyed with indigo, among other things, and I made use of the farmhouse facilities to wash, dry (over the other woodstove) and wind into a ball (with their swift and ball winder) the two skeins of yarn, but despite my repeated rinsing, I still ended up with very blue hands every time I worked on the scarf.

Scarf & Gerdi

Scarf & Gertie

That critter there next to me, modeling the scarf (although, of course, not as lovely a model as the beautiful Basil Hayden) is Gertie the Whiner.  She has the most awful voice.  I wish I’d recorded it.  I take that back– no, I don’t.

The other critters were doing well.  There are five turkeys left in the backyard after Thanksgiving, two toms and three hens.  One of the toms is a real piece-of-work and attacked me every time I brought food or water.  At one point, he slapped me full across the face with his wing.  Nevertheless, he is particularly attractive, as far as toms go:

Narragansett Tom

Narragansett Tom

The feeder pigs are quite fat, since they were really almost ready to be sent off before the farmers left:

Wiggles

Wiggles

See the huge scars on the side of the one second from the left?  She was stepped on by her mama when she was a day or two old, and not only did she get back up and survive, but she’s one of the fattest there.  I think these pigs are all a little darker red than the ones sent at the end of the summer.  I don’t know if the summer pigs’ hair gets a little bleached in the sun or if this batch’s genetics is just a little different.

Clara is the same ol’ Jersey, framy and weeny, constantly picked on by the big, mean, long-horned Highlands, but always compliant and productive.

Clara

Clara

Unfortunately, her fellow dairy cow, Dearie, who did not back her up in a fight and in fact probably caused more damage than the Highlands– but dammit she had a lot of spunk and character– passed away in December, I think it was.  Her calf seems to be doing fine, though:

Sue-Bob, Last Calf of Dearie RIP

Sue-Bob, Last Calf of Dearie RIP

Ain’t she purty?  Clara Bell’s calf, Tinker Bell, is looking very different from her first few days, when she was dainty and leggy:

Tinker Bell, or should I say Tinker Bull?

Tinker Bell, or should I say Tinker Bull?

My favorite Highland, Ruth, is looking quite pregnant and seems to be doing quite well with it all this year:

Ruth

Ruth-o-the-Shag

Speaking of shag, the Fjords (especially Mira) are showing all the other critters how it’s done, winter-style:

Mira

Mira

(Check out that beard!  Total Prezwalski’s!)

Lovely Dagna

Lovely Dagna

And surprisingly, Leo looks quite handsome in his velvet coat!

Black Velvet Leo

Black Velvet Leo

 

There are four pigs in the compost middens by the barn, getting very socialized:

 

Hi, whats up, how you doin, can I help?

Hi, what's up, how you doin', can I help?

 

The infernal duo, Reuben & Felix, were up to their usual antics, only with the snow to set off their black-and-white markings this time:

 

Reuben & Felix

Reuben & Felix

This was, however, one of the only times Felix braved the outside.  Most moments found him much more like this:

 

Ensconced

Ensconced

 

What we couldn’t find on the farm (which wasn’t much) we got at our favorite old haunt, Greenstar.  Y’know, the necessary luxuries:

 

Passionfruit Mango Coconut Sorbet w/ Elderberry Syrup

Passionfruit Mango Coconut Sorbet w/ Elderberry Syrup

Actually, the elderberry syrup was from the farm, cooked down from wild elderberries along the driveway.  We made jam from the domesticated elderberry bush in the yard of the strawbale, and the berries were much smaller, so I left in the seeds (which taste a little like hazelnuts) to bulk up the quantity at least a little and still only got two 1/2-pint jars out of it.  The farm family, on the other hand, got quite a bit of syrup out of their big wild berries, darn them.

We brought back some of the good food with us, namely the last of my weekly meat salary that we couldn’t keep up with during the summer.  We lugged a huge box of it onto the Metro-North at Middletown.  The little half-size Manhattan apartment freezer is now extremely hazardous (I step back when I open the door or I would get my toes smashed by an avalanche of solidly frozen meat every time), but it’s paying off.  Last night we got out the little sack of duck hearts and livers Karma gave us when I learned to process ducks (well, to pry out pin feathers, to be precise), separated out the hearts, sliced them in rounds, sautéed them in bacon grease and added them to a mafé variant (a West African groundnut stew):

 

Sautéed Duck Hearts

Sautéed Duck Hearts

 

Mafé

Mafé

It was peanuty-gingery-delicious.

When I set the kali chana (black chickpeas) to soak (they also went in the mafé, although they ended up being rather incidental), I also boiled a couple cups of the Roy’s Calais corn that we harvested from the big strawbale garden in water with cal and set it to soak overnight.  I rinsed it and massaged off the skins this morning and set it to simmer when I left for the rickshaw shop for a day of riding courier.  To make a long story short, I ended up back home from the shop a little earlier than expected, so I turned the corn into a late lunch of pork posole that exceeded my expectations.  Alvaro, who stopped by after work and tried some, looked at me, a little surprised, and asked, “Who made this?”

 

Pork Posole

Pork Posole

I love the little corn-flowers.  Yay nixtamalization!

Not to be outdone, however, Matt just took those duck livers and whipped up a little of this:

 

Duck Liver Pâté

Duck Liver Pâté

 Rest assured, the competition will continue tomorrow…

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