Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Birth with The Farm Midwives: Prenatal Appointments

When we decided to go to The Farm midwives for this birth, I was curious about what prenatal appointments would be like compared to the appointments I had during my pregnancy with Maggie with an OBGYN. We've had several prenatal appointments so far -- after our initial visit, which was at the actual clinic on The Farm, our other visits have been at Joanne's house. We've gone once monthly and the visits will increase once it gets closer to my due date (December 22).

Having my checkups at Joanne's house has been so nice. She lives in the tiny town of Hampshire, TN, about ten minutes away from The Farm. Her small, cozy home is tucked in a little valley, shaded by trees and greenery. She and her husband have an abundant garden behind their house, with a grape arbor, ornamental plants, and a vegetable garden. During today's visit we were offered freshly-made grape juice from their Concord grapes, tangy and pulpy, bright purple and delicious.

We begin the checkup sitting on the couch in Joanne's living room, which has a relaxed atmosphere and is filled with tiny Buddha statues, arrowheads found locally by her husband while working in the fields at The Farm, and tapestries and fabrics from around the world. Joanne always takes a minute to make sure Maggie is comfortable, bringing her books and toys to occupy her while we chat about any questions or concerns I have. Joanne asks how I've been doing, making sure all is going smoothly, and asks about my diet is going and whether I'm making sure to exercise. Having Maggie along at these checkups means that I have a tiny accountability partner -- this week she got onto me about how I needed to be walking because "Joanne said so!"

As I've shared about my pregnancy, I've heard stories about Joanne's pregnancies (she's had six!) and how those went. While in the throes of my own first-trimester nausea (debilitatingly bad, I lost 12 lb because I could not stand food!) she shared her own pregnancy nausea story: during one pregnancy she also had severe nausea, but since everyone on The Farm ate only what they grew themselves, she didn't have much choice in what she had to eat. She said it took years for her to be interested in eating eggplants and sweet potatoes again, as that was what was in season during her nauseous period.

Once we've asked all our questions, we go into a back room of the house that's set up with a bed, a desk, and a rocking chair. The bed is covered with a beautifully-made Amish quilt that Joanne got as payment for attending the birth of an Amish baby. The rocker is also Amish-made and was also payment for a birth. Josh takes the rocker while I sit in the desk chair for Joanne to take my blood pressure.

I then lay down on the bed and she measures my belly to see how the baby is growing and checks the baby's heartbeat. Today she started out using something called a Pinard horn, a fetoscope that's commonly used in Europe but is rarely used by US doctors. It's a primitive-looking instrument but is actually more precise than the Doppler device that most US obstetricians use for detecting fetal heartbeats. Joanne also used the Doppler this afternoon, which meant we got to hear Wendell's heartbeat out loud, galloping along like a racehorse. Today I also got my cervix checked, something that usually Joanne won't do until a woman is close to term, but as I've had some worries about preterm labor and bleeding, she checked me out to give me some peace of mind.

Our visits usually last around an hour and we leave feeling happy and cared-for. It is great to be building a relationship with the woman who will not only catch Wendell as he comes out into the world (my OB with Maggie was in the room for only the last 20 minutes or so of my labor), but who will be with me through the entire labor and delivery process, no matter how long that takes. Building that trust in Joanne over the course of my pregnancy will only help the labor process go more smoothly, as I know she understands the type of birth I want, knows my fears and concerns, and will be with me from start to finish.

Though we've got an hour and twenty minute drive to get to Joanne, our visits have felt like mini-vacations because Josh has been able to take off work and we always stop somewhere fun along the way. Today after my appointment we went to Davy Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg, where we ate a picnic lunch and spent some time by a waterfall, splashing in the shallow creekbed. It was gorgeous and the weather could not have been more perfect. During our time in the park we saw wild turkeys, deer, crawdads, fish, and butterflies.

Cherry Tomato Crostata with Fresh Goat Cheese

The tomatoes, oh! The tomatoes!

They've been coming out of our ears, truly. With today's harvest, which may be one of the last since my plants are petering out, we hit the fifty-pound mark! I've been keeping track all season of how much we've grown and to know that fifty pounds of tomatoes came right out of our front yard garden is very gratifying. All that hard work paid off!  That harvest weight doesn't even include the many tomatoes we lost (mostly the heirloom varieties, which I won't likely grow again) to splitting, cat-facing, and worm holes -- but even those yucky tomatoes found a use as chicken feed! The chickens think tomatoes of any kind are the best treat ever. Even moldy, wormy, sludgy ones.

Josh and Maggie aren't fans of fresh tomatoes, but I've been eating them atop salads and sandwiches and cooking them in as many ways as I can. I refuse to do any tomato canning, as I've found that freezing them whole is a much simpler and much less time-consuming way of preservation. But we haven't even had that many tomatoes to freeze, what with a glut of amazing recipes that use tomatoes in one form or another. Here's some of them that we've tried and loved:

Fresh pizza sauce (of course I used fresh tomatoes vs canned)
Pimento BLTs (adapted to use Hannah's pimento cheese recipe that uses a box grater vs food processor)
Tomato and fresh corn quiche

Tonight we tried out a new recipe, small tomato crostata with fresh goat cheese.  Goodness, this crostata! I found it via the blog The Yellow House, through an e-book with different recipes for using up summer's bounty of tomatoes. Amazing. Simple and easy, even for me, a novice at pastry making. I used some of our red cherry tomatoes from the garden and fresh chèvre from our local artisinal and highly-lauded goat cheese makers, Belle Chèvre.

 Served with pesto salmon and a green salad, it was a simple meal with little prep work -- I made the pastry a couple days ago and was happy to read that it can even be frozen then thawed. Straightforward, easy, delicious, healthy. My favorite kind of dinner. All three of us polished our plates! Though I'll be honest, Maggie picked the tomatoes off and then had to eat them plain afterwards. Josh and I enjoyed ours much more atop the crostata where they belonged.

Though we're coming to the end of the tomatoes from our own garden, I've got about ten pounds ripening on my kitchen countertop and waiting to be experimented with before the fall veggies begin to roll in (soon we'll be harvesting spaghetti squash and pumpkins!). 

I've been aching to make this fresh tomato sourdough bread ever since I stumbled upon the recipe. During my nauseous first trimester, Josh was being sweet and cleaned out the fridge (a lot of things were going bad, since I could barely eat and couldn't stand the smell of food so Josh couldn't cook either, and I definitely couldn't clean out a fridge full of stinky old foods) and let me know that he had cleaned out a particularly foul-smelling Mason jar full of gloop... which ended up being my healthy sourdough starter, that had been doing just fine until it was poured down the drain. At any rate, I've now got a brand new starter bubbling on the countertop and as soon as I get enough I will be making that tomato bread. 

What tomato recipes have y'all tried and loved? Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Feeding Rabbits Naturally: Organic Herbal Vitamin Supplement

Well, we've had to do a bit of troubleshooting with our natural rabbit feed system. It's been almost six months since we began mixing our own grain-based feed for our rabbits and the transition went pretty smoothly. No one had any tummy issues adjusting to the grain and though our two new rabbits took awhile to adjust to living on pasture rather than in cages off the ground, both eventually adjusted digestively to the new feed.

Unfortunately we had a few problems that may have to do with vitamin deficiencies, most likely either Vitamin A or Vitamin E. First we had a litter of kits that had two kits who didn't develop normally. They weren't putting on weight and seemed to have some muscular coordination issues. Their mother's next birthing was prolonged (it began two days early and ended two days later), unsuccessful (all six kits ended up dead, and fairly gruesome, with some decapitation. This doe had had two litters and been a great mama, so our speculation is there was something wrong with how the kit fetuses developed and they just didn't come out right. Vitamin deficiency is often a factor in aborted / unsuccessful kindlings.

We began brainstorming, feeling terrible that our rabbits were having these struggles but still hoping to stay close to our natural feed aspirations. We realized that part of the problem is although our rabbits are in pasture pens, they aren't getting the amount of forage daily that they need to. We've remedied this by beginning to collect a big bucket full of plants to give to the rabbits daily. We've also slacked off on feeding fodder and are beginning to add that back into our feed system, as it should have been all along.

In addition to adding those extra greens in the form of forage and fodder, we've looked for a vitamin and mineral supplement solution to feed the rabbits daily. Another issue we realized was that we were not incorporating healthy fats (flax seeds, black oil sunflower seeds) into the mix as we needed to be. We had planned to do it originally, but had failed to execute getting those seeds into the mix. Without those good fats, our rabbits weren't able to absorb vitamins as efficiently. We've since remedied that issue and our rabbits are looking chunkier in a healthy way now.

As a short term fix we ordered Vitadrops, drops that can be added to the rabbits' water. It is cost prohibitive to use this long term (it takes 32 drops per rabbit water bottle and we fill five water bottles daily!) but we'd like to bulk up on vitamins short term to get back everyone back to healthy condition.

After finding Vitadrops for the short-term, I searched all over the internet for a good long-term vitamin solution. There aren't many vitamin supplements of any kind out there for rabbits, as most folks feed their rabbits commercial pellets which are formulated to provide a balanced diet including all vitamin and mineral needs. So when I stumbled across this organic supplement for rabbits I got excited. I was even more excited when I realized I could easily mix up my own version of it using bulk herbs for less than half the price.

I ordered the organic bulk herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, whose reputation online is stellar for high quality product and reasonable prices. Here's the mixture I've come up with:

1 cup dried stinging nettle
1/2 cup red raspberry leaf
1/4 cup dandelion root
1/4 cup dandelion leaf
1/4 cup rose hips
1/4 cup hibiscus

This mixture costs about $17/lb, compared with $30/lb that the premixed organic supplement cost. I think a pound of the mix will last us at least 4 months, maybe longer.

I throw everything into a quart-sized mason jar, shake it up, and keep the jar in our big feed bucket.  Each rabbit cage (which has either one adult rabbit, or up to 5 kits) gets about a tablespoon of the supplement sprinkled on top of the feed daily.

The herbs I chose for the supplement have a variety of medicinal uses and lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Stinging nettle is a powerhouse herb that has been used to treat a variety of medical ailments including congestion, arthritis, anemia, and internal bleeding. It is a natural multivitamin containing plenty of vitamins A, B-complex, and K, plus calcium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

Red raspberry leaf is most widely used for its health benefits for pregnant and nursing women -- it can strengthen the uterus, enabling more effective labor, and helps balance out hormones. It is also known to be an overall reproductive health tonic for both women and men. I'll increase dosage of this for our does during breeding season to support healthy pregnancies and kindlings. The vitamins it contains include vitamin A, B-complex, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Dandelions are considered a nutritional powerhouse, labeled by a 1984 study as one of the top green vegetables in terms of overall nutrition.  Dandelion root can be used to treat anemia and high cholesterol and contains vitamins A, B, C, and D as well as calcium, zinc, iron, and potassium. Dandelion leaf is helpful to the liver and gallbladder, aids in digestion, and contains vitamins A, B, C, D, folic acid, and riboflavin.

Rose hips contain high levels of vitamin C and also are a source of vitamin A, B, lycopene and other antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and zinc.

Hibiscus is often used to treat high blood pressure, has anti-inflammatory properties, has high levels of antioxidants, and is a good source of vitamin C.

I may add in some other herbs, specifically yarrow and chamomile, once they become available via Mountain Rose, but for now this is the mix we're trying out. I think there's a good balance of vitamins and minerals, all from whole plant sources.

The major benefit of using herbs as a vitamin supplement is that not only are they natural sources of vitamins, they also do not cause any toxicity due to too-high levels. Rabbits are particularly susceptible to "overdose" of vitamins and having too much of a vitamin can cause just as many problems as having too little.

It's a long-term goal of mine to establish a establishing a medicinal herb bed full of all the above herbs plus others like echinacea, chamomile, calendula, and yarrow. I've been poring through The Forest of Wild Fruits on etsy, as they've got an extensive selection of medicinal herb seeds. The rabbits would benefit from freshly picked herbs and we could dry and mix herbs for a winter supplement. And of course we'd get to use the herbs for ourselves, too!

In closing, I want to state a disclaimer that I am not a veterinarian or medical professional of any kind. This is simply the herbal mixture we are using for our own rabbits and as always we are doing this as part of a learning process to care for our animals well.

It's tough having to go through some trial and error to figure out what will work best for our animals and our farm, but my hope is that in several years we will have learned to be better caregivers of our livestock and our land. Farming is such a learning process and one that takes time, a lot of reading and research, and grace when mistakes are made.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Week on the Farm: July 17

The weather has been lovely this week, with highs a balmy 80 degrees. In July in Alabama, we sure will take it! We even got to eat dinner outside tonight because it wasn't sweltering.

Yesterday we had a big scare with the baby. It was one of the most frightening nights of my life and hearing the baby's heartbeat on the Doppler was one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced. Today we got to see our baby via ultrasound and he is safe and healthy and all is well. And yes, the baby is a he! I wasn't planning on finding out the baby's gender, since our midwives don't do ultrasounds, but with this emergency ultrasound happening unexpectedly we just couldn't resist.

The name we've got picked out is Wendell Lyle Clark. Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors, an agrarian advocate who writes prolifically and farms 40 acres in Kentucky with his trusty team of mules. Lyle is my grandfather's name, my mom's dad. I've really appreciated getting to know my maternal grandparents in adulthood; they're both neat folks. I feel like the baby's name is old-fashioned, humble, and perfectly suited for a farmer's son.

As far as the garden goes this week, it is still busting out all over the place! Harvest is necessary every two to three days. Today I picked a Crimson Sweet watermelon, two and a half pounds of yard-long beans, eight pounds of tomatoes, seven pounds of butternut squash, and a stray zucchini. I've had to do plenty of cooking and preserving to keep up with everything. So far I've made pizza sauce, fermented salsa verde, and have frozen lots of zucchini and green beans.

Not all of the produce has been a raging success; my big tomatoes especially have had issues with worms and splitting and molding. I've taken to picking the tomatoes when they're just starting to change colors from green to red/orange/whatever color indicates ripeness. That seems to be helping with helping them ripen indoors away from the dangers lurking outdoors. And luckily we've also got our trusty chickens who act as a garbage disposal for any produce that's not good enough for us to put on the table. They more than happily consume wormy tomatoes and old zucchini and watermelon rinds!

Friday, July 4, 2014

This Week on the Farm: July 4

It's been a lovely week. I'm enjoying the "honeymoon" second trimester and the weather has been surprisingly temperate. Lots of time to get out into the garden and to spend time with our animals.

The thornless blackberry canes that I planted last year are going crazy! We've only got maybe twenty berries, but the canes are multiplying and sorely in need of a trellis system. I'm excited for next year, when this plant will produce lots more blackberries and when we can finally let our blueberry bushes grow some berries.

Oh, these ducks! They're four months old now and much less of a pain to clean up after now that we just let them free-range in the pasture. There's some risk that a predator might get them at night, but everything has been fine so far. Although they're not nearly as filthy as they were when they were in a contained space, they do manage to dirty up the water containers very quickly, as you can see here. 

The middle fella in this picture is definitely a male; he doesn't look that much different from the other two but is beginning to get some iridescent green feathers on his head, which identifies him as a drake.

Spottle is my favorite of our two older ewes. We developed a special bond during the short time that I milked her. She's just got a sweet, gentle disposition and is a great mama.

Little Sassy. She's Spottle's ewe lamb, almost seven months old now and as sweet as can be. She is looking more and more like her mama as she grows. She's not nearly as skittish as her unnamed twin brother, who wants nothing to do with us (which is smart on his part, since he's our freezer lamb!).

Tiberius and Sassy. Tiberius is a naughty, naughty boy (I don't risk going in the pasture with him anymore unless he's tied up or put in the pen), but I just think he's gorgeous and his nose wrinkles are adorable. I hope he passes down his red coloring to the lambs he sires.

Since Tastebud lost her winter coat she's been looking so pretty and clean. Well, as clean as a white sheep can be when it wallows in the red dirt all day. I love her pink nose.

Our chicks are growing up! We've got seven total and I think at least three of those are roosters. Hard to know for sure until the roo's start crowing. The ones here are Buff Orpingtons (the yellow ones), Easter Eggers (the red ones), and Speckled Sussex (the white and black ones).

The bush beans have quit producing already, but the pole beans are just getting started. These are yard-long beans, which really do get a yard long. I've been experimenting with cooking them; they're not as crisp as regular green beans so they do better with being sautéed than with being steamed. I may try roasting them in the oven and cooking them in a curry.

We've got plenty of green tomatoes on all eight tomato plants, but these first ones to ripen have been full of worms. I'm not too worried, since we've got several grape and cherry tomato plants and worms tend to leave those alone, plus our chickens are thrilled to get the wormy tomatoes that we don't want.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fermented Green Beans

This year was a good year for bush beans. All of a sudden the 8' double row of bush beans in the garden exploded and I wound up with over five pounds sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to do something with them. Some I froze and some I fermented using this recipe that I tried for the first time. They're a little crunchy for my taste so next time I may pour the brine over the beans while it's still hot to soften them a bit, but the flavor is good.

Fermenting has always been a little scary to me, since it's the intentional cultivation of bacteria -- yes, good bacteria, but bacteria nonetheless! I was comforted to read that there are no known cases of botulism from home fermenting, since basic precautions ensure that nothing bad will grow in your ferment. Basically all you have to do is make sure your fermenting veggies don't touch the air and you'll be safe.

I used the water bag method since I don't have a fancy airlock lid (this blog talks about a few different cheap methods to use, including the water bag method). I just made sure there was enough brine in the jar to more than cover the beans, then put a pint sized ziplock bag about halfway full of water into the top of the jar. This weighted down the beans enough so that none were near the surface of the brine, staying safe from mold or bad bacteria.

There aren't many other fermentation recipes I'm interested in trying, since many (like kimchi) tend to be quite strong or spicy, but I would like to try lacto-fermented pickles and sauerkraut. Both are supposed to be fairly straightforward recipes and a simpler method of preservation than canning is. Fermenting also preserves more nutrients than canning, since heat is not usually involved, so that's another great plus. Another benefit is that it doesn't require any extra equipment beyond a mason jar or crock of some kind and I like things that I can do with what is already in my kitchen.

Have any of y'all ever tried your hand at fermenting? Any good recipes to share?

This Week on the Farm: June 27, 2014

We've had quite an emotional week here at Haven Homestead. We celebrated Josh's birthday (31!), slaughtered our favorite hen, dealt with a ram who is becoming increasingly aggressive, and had a series of unfortunate events after moving six baby rabbits to a new pen, including two escapes of babies into the neighbors yard and one eye injury. We've tried to take it all in stride - the difficult parts of farming come right alongside the enjoyable parts. Our animals are a lot of fun, but a lot of work and sometimes a lot of heartache.

We've been spending a lot of family time outdoors these days. It's buggy and hot but we wear long sleeves and pants to fend off the mosquitos and are mostly at peace with all the sweating that happens along the way. Around 7:00 Josh usually goes off to tend the animals and I go off to tend the garden, with Maggie bouncing back and forth between us assisting in sundry tasks (turning the water hose on and off, picking beans, pulling weeds, feeding rabbits) and hunting down insects to study.

Maggie will tell just about anyone that she's a "nature scientist" and she loves our outdoor time when she can explore our tiny piece of land. She's getting into garden work as well, particularly getting excited over our harvests. In the spring we volunteered some with a local food organization and Maggie learned to make kale chips. Ever since, she's been making them almost completely on her own from our garden-fresh kale.

Our sheep have been enjoying the weeding we've done this week in the back garden, which is up against the pasture fence. All kinds of weeds are getting thrown to them and they seem to especially love these huge thick tall ones. Tiberius the ram is especially enthusiastic about weeds, yanking them out of our hands when they are offered.

I love our outdoor cats Harriet and Charlemagne -- they're a lot of fun to have around and not much work. I often glance out one of the kitchen windows to see one staring at me, perched either on the car or on the porch railing. They spend a lot of time sunbathing stretched out on the back porch, but with all that laziness still manage to be hunting machines. Almost every other day we find a vole, or a field mouse, or a baby garter snake, or a lizard, or a bird lying dead in the driveway in front of the car, a disgusting token of feline affection.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reflections on the Slaughter of a Favorite Hen

Yesterday we said goodbye to Ruby, our Rhode Island Red hen. She's an old bird with a lot of personality and has always been our favorite hen: independent, feisty, plucky, the boss lady of the flock. From the moment we got our first chickens about two and a half years ago, we knew this day would come. Chickens don't consistently lay forever; once they hit a certain age they go through a kind of menopause and don't produce eggs as regularly. We were able to sell our younger hens, but Ruby is a year older than them and no one wanted to purchase her. We knew what that meant we had to do.

Josh handled the processing while I puttered around the kitchen trying to avoid an emotional breakdown by not thinking about what was about to happen, but I glanced out the window just as Josh walked through the backyard, gently carrying Ruby in his arms to the slaughter location. I know death is quick with a sharp scalpel, over in a matter of seconds, almost painless to the chicken, but I dissolved into tears when I saw our perky feisty bird going quietly to her death.

Possibly the hardest part of farming with livestock is getting to know the creatures you will eventually be eating. Maybe it's easier on a large commercial farm, but here we've got so few animals and interact with each so regularly that we get to see personalities and quirks of each animal. There is no emotional distance when you feed, hold, and care for an animal daily. Your heart becomes entangled with theirs as their wellbeing is so important to your own. When our animals suffer, we suffer. When they are content and healthy, we are happy. We laugh at their antics and rejoice in their good health. We are privileged to care for them and live side by side with them.

I am grateful for the life we've given Ruby and all our hens, a natural life filled with roaming the pasture foraging for clover and insects, taking dust baths, resting in the shade during the heat of the day, and coming back to roost in the coop at dusk. Yet as I rejoice in the life we're blessed to give our livestock, I am also reminded that it is a privilege for us to be able to give our animals a last parting gift in the slaughter process. When we intentionally end the life of one of our animals we do all we can to ensure that death comes swiftly, quietly, painlessly, and without fear or stress. This is more than can be said for death in commercial slaughterhouses, places filled with the smell of blood, an undercurrent of fear, loud noises, terrified animals. Whether in a commercial slaughterhouse or here on our small farm, death is never easy or pretty, yet I do believe it can be handled with dignity and in a way that honors the animal that is being killed.

I've been eating more meat outside our home since getting pregnant, excusing my choice by telling myself I need more protein. That excuse seems flimsy when I think of all I know about factory farming and the processing that occurs in commercial slaughterhouses. I feel there is an emotional toll taken every time I consume meat that has not been raised with the animal's wellbeing in mind. I can never eat that meat with a clear conscience; it is always haunting me even as I attempt to smother my moral qualms.

I've written impassioned views on wanting all of mankind to see the suffering of factory farmed animals and rise up in arms about it, but what I'm seeing so clearly now is how much it harms me personally to be complicit in the factory farming system. The only time my passion wavers is when I crave a specific food item and choose to ignore my morals in order to satiate my craving. Every time I do that I am indulging in my senses rather than in my morals and it chips away at something in my soul.

When I consume factory-raised farm animals I purposefully ignore their suffering and it makes it that much easier to ignore, justify, or turn away from any kind of suffering in the world. I don't want my soul to become calloused in that way. The life of a chicken may seem insignificant in the face of all the human suffering that is in the world, but if my heart is calloused rather than tender than I cannot respond appropriately when I see human suffering.

It is said that sociopathic individuals first show their lack of empathy through cruelty towards animals, which often later progresses into harming humans. Engaging in cruelty, whether explicit or complicit, has its consequences on the heart and soul.

As I wrestle with the issue of us slaughtering our livestock and what that means to me emotionally and morally, I see that my grief over the loss of a hen is both healthy and morally necessary, a vital reminder of the importance of each life. It will never be easy to slaughter an animal we have cared for and I believe that is how it should be.  Life, whether human or animal, is not meant to be meaningless. Life is precious no matter what creature it inhabits. It is a force to be honored and respected.

Sometimes in this farm business I find myself wishing I could be more numb, to care less about my animals. Yet Jonathan Safran Foer writes, "You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness." And it is true, the sadness of animal slaughter is tempered with a great sense of fulfillment and even joy. Caring for livestock is a wonderful privilege and one we take pride in.

Today as I mourn the death of a hen that I loved, I'm reminded of how I want to live and eat. I want to consume food with my emotions fully engaged and my brain active and aware. I want to be able to truly enjoy what I eat and that means eating knowledgeably rather than in chosen ignorance. I've found there is something different about eating food that is produced here on our farm. All my emotions and senses are fully engaged when I eat a hearty meal of lamb chops from our own lambs, when I eat chicken and dumplings from our own chickens, when I eat mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans from our own garden. I feel a joy and pleasure that goes deeper than my tastebuds. I'm satiated both sensorily and soulfully. I can rejoice in the sweat and tears that has gone into the meal.

I want my soul to be enriched when I eat, to be made larger rather than depleted by my culinary choices. I am grateful to Ruby for the life-force she has given for us and for the privilege of getting to care for her. I am grateful to be reminded that life is precious and meant to be honored and that I have the great privilege to do so every time I choose what I will eat.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This Week on the Farm: June 14, 2014

Summer is almost here! Wild blackberries are growing profusely and everything everywhere is green and growing so quickly. All the animals have been spending large parts of the day stretched out in the shade, trying to stay cool.

This week we had to begin tying up our ram Tiberius before going into the pasture to care for all the animals in there. He's just been getting too feisty and mean, beginning to challenge us by lowering his head and pushing into our legs or simply refusing to back up when we're trying to walk near him. Rams can be dangerous animals and we knew from the start that we couldn't make a pet of Tiberius. He's a big boy of at least 200 pounds and full of testosterone and a desire to keep his ladies safe. At any rate, tying him up keeps us safe and him from being sent to the freezer for becoming too dangerous towards us. He definitely doesn't like it though and using the one halter we have that's bright purple probably doesn't help his dignity.

We've gotten so much rain in the last week that our pasture was practically a swamp. It began stinking to high heavens and all the animals were coated with mud. Thankfully we've had a few dry days and I've been able to get back into the garden to tackle some of the weeds that sprang up during all the rain.

Tonight I made the first big harvest of the year: a giant bunch of kale that I blended up to be frozen into ice cubes for smoothie making, a couple handfuls of green & yellow beans, a gorgeous Autumn Beauty sunflower that sprouted from last year's scattered seeds, a small bowlful of Yukon Gold potatoes, and three big ol' zucchini that are a cute round variety. 

We've also got a crazy amount of eggs sitting on our counter. Really, something like 6 dozen. It is out of control. Since getting pregnant I've had so many food aversions and have been unable to cook without getting nauseous, so the eggs have been piling up as the hens diligently laid 3-5 per day as usual. We ended up listing the hens on Craigslist and all but one sold. It was sad to see them go but all of them went to homes in folks' backyard where they'll be well-loved. The 2 month old chicks we've got will begin laying towards the end of my pregnancy and my fingers are crossed that I can cook by then!