Monday, December 2, 2013
Hello and good tidings. Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
I am well but decidedly chillier and snowier than the above picture would have you believe. Winter done struck. Last week we welcomed our first snow and justifiably alarmed the entire lot of spring-born animals we keep on this hill. This morning, a drive inland to see a woman about a Christmas puppy left Craig and I white knuckled and over an hour late picking up Gus from school. Needless to say, we're all happy to be back on the coast where life remains a little wetter in these last few weeks before mother nature lays her white blanket down for good.
In the month since my last correspondence we had our first birth (4 silver fox bunnies) and our first non-culling, non-predator death (4 silver fox bunnies). Baby Lu is off her bottle and ornery as ever. We butchered our turkeys in our front yard, nearly losing Craig's thumb in the process, and learned to stand by the first cut. Know better, do better, became our motto moving forward. Our first homegrown turkey came in at a whopping 25 pounds and is threatening to feed us clear on through the new year. Turkey sandwich, turkey soup, turkey chili, turkey pot pie.. And while I may have dramatically asserted that I would never raise a turkey again while carrying a dinosaur of a bird to its death, I'm already toying with the idea of providing some heritage birds for the next market season. How easily we forget. In downright blustery news, our chicken trailer sits sadly on its side after being unceremoniously blown ass over teakettle. Our daily egg intake has dropped to zero, although I suppose the girls could still be laying. But how could I tell?
It's funny, this supposed slow season we're in. After months of pushing knitting and reading and educating and winter readying projects off, I find myself moving at a breakneck speed, all too similar to summer's frantic pace. It's different, it's the same. Lately I've been wondering how to be the person I want to be with, give or take, 15 hours in a day. An earlier rise? A faster pace? Temper my interest in all the things? Sometimes I look around me and see a crumbling castle. Piles of laundry, buckets strewn about, bedraggled garden beds, and a barn to rival many a great hoarder house.. I wonder how all you good people do it- you knit the things, squeeze the yoga in, know a great deal about animal husbandry, and summon some damn fine fruit from the earth. I wonder- am I lazy? Distracted? Inefficient? Ill-equipped and -suited? I know. No one does it all. And I know what you're going to say- I'm doing just fine. (Because, really, I am.) What it comes down to is this: I'm just trying to find a way to do most or even some of it all and hold these moving parts together with grace instead of clumsily smashing the thing to bits. Wish me luck. x
A little housekeeping- I finally switched my instagram handle over to homesweethomestead. You can follow along for more frequent and less wordy updates, if that's your thing.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
A rooster by any other name could have perhaps been spared.
Whitey Bulger or Stagger Lee; Ziggy Stardust, Martin Rooster King, or even Rojo. All roosters of ours, ranging from the composted to the eaten to the still on the clock, but a rooster going by the name of Coq au Vin..? Well, that's one ill-fated mother fucker. A destiny sealed upon christening.
As roosters go, Coq au Vin wasn't impressive in color or size. At his death months ago, Stagger Lee far outweighed Coq au Vin, and Ziggy Stardust's feathers of gold always won the battle of The Most Beautiful Barred Rock. During the first round of rooster harvesting- wherein eleven roosters were laid to rest for the sanity of all Lincoln County- he earned his stay of execution out of the power to blend. He was never a show cock: no hens were saved on his watch and no humans were pursued to their side of the fence by his taloned feet and banshee war cry. Instead, his beak was kept down and his crow only unleashed to turned backs.
But you must know- roosters are roosters, despite any bucolic idea one has. Cock fights and hen trains and general uneasiness are the hallmarks of an over-roostered flock, and nothing this particular wannabe farmer wishes to encourage. And so we were left with a decision to make. In the end Beauty and Brawn were the winners; Coq au Vin and Rojo were the dinners.
And so in celebration and in thanks, we crowded the pot with Maine's finest fall offerings and drenched the poor bastard in our only bottle of red. As always, we remain grateful. For after all the role played by Coq au Vin and those like him is vital to this little homesteading family.
Coq au Vin
Quite simply, cock with wine. Roosters are notoriously scrawny and tough, and quite perfectly suited for stewing meat. Part of the charm of this dish for me is its rustic vibe. Don't bother with peeling or pristinely chopping your vegetables. Wash them and rough chop them, and call them good eating. In the same spirit, leave your herbs whole.
1 very naughty rooster, or in the case of their absence, a perfectly innocent but delicious hen will do
2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 parsnips, scrubbed and chopped
4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
4 yellow potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
10 garlic cloves, paper and ends removed but left whole
herbs of your choosing- thyme, sage, rosemary
1 bottle of red wine
Quarter and season your chicken. In 5 quart or larger pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee over medium heat. Brown your chicken and remove to a plate.
Immediately add an additional tablespoon of oil or ghee, and the herbs and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of liquid (wine, stock, water) to deglaze the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon. Saute for five minutes, stirring regularly.
Return chicken to the pot. Cover with wine. Add additional liquid (water is fine) to bring the liquid level to an inch from the top of the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. About an hour in rotate the chicken. Check on the level of the liquid occasionally, adding more if it falls bellow the middle of the pot. After a few hours of stewing a rich, tender dinner awaits. Coq au Vin can stand alone or be served over something like egg noodles or rice.
Simmer, simmer, chicken dinner!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I was up before the sun, kicking through ice topped waterers and bartering a heat lamp for some eggs with my chickens. After a failed attempt at heifer introductions last week we tried again with much more success and far less bully humping. It turns out Luella just needed to know she was still loved. The gifted garlic was planted and a beautiful swirl of straw, cow shit, and leaves was dragged over on the hood of an old truck, our resident stand-in for the wheelbarrow we don't have. Cozy in their bed and safe from Jimmy the Hen, the garlic began its cold weather rest.
Winter mouths to feed were discussed; superfluous drakes and roosters were caught. Again I grappled with my most vicious homesteading enemy: practicality. In the late afternoon as the sun slanted through red-orange trees and Gus watched on as the ever-curious, never alarmed farm child, I eviscerated my first chicken. I find in those moments no amount of thank yous for food and company, or saving of wings and feathers and feet, is ever enough to make me feel good or completely at peace with the process. And, I've decided I'm okay with my heart always hanging a little heavy over these things. As the sun went down I put the animals to bed with heaps of hay and closed barn doors. The boys did a feed run. And then for twenty minutes or so we slowed down over pizza with one special candle adorned slice.
Yesterday I turned 28 with my hand up a rooster's ass. I was not too terribly celebrated and was thoroughly worked to the bone. I thought a lot about how alarmed my fifteen or even twenty-one year old self would be at the way I spent my golden birthday. But for every person I was, from twenty-two until now, and for the person who I know myself to really be at my core, I can say that she would be quite pleased, although still perhaps a little surprised. Grilling produce from the farm on a city fire escape is a long way from your own dirt. So is a spic and span suburban lot where only eight chickens are allowed and never any roosters. The paths to our futures are so poorly lit sometimes and I could have never foreseen the coup that is our settling on these modest, beautiful, sacred ten acres.