and we're off

at dawn tomorrow. pigs are in the barn. the honey bees are gathering last minute blossom nectar. the chickens are eating old micro greens. bella had a morning bagel. this time saturday i want the stress to be lessened. the distanced closed. the animals freed. my shoulders relaxed. a beer in hand. the farm abuzz.

think happy trails for us.


the wait, the pull -Ngo Family Farm

one of the most magical parts of blogging is the community of women in which you find yourself. i have relished meeting other women farmers through longestacres and jamie of ngo family farm is no exception. jamie and her family have a 2-acre farm in colorado. which is the state where nick and i really want to live. after vermont. they have goats, dogs, a garden, and of course chickens. jamie writes this beautiful blog which is always full of good, honest, seasonal recipes and a precious glimpse into their colorado farm life. when i asked jamie if she'd write a little post here, while i'm moving, she thought to write about the early spring for farmers. so without further babbling here is jamie. 

the wait:

So much is just barely beginning to grow at the start of spring - garlic rises from its long winter's nap, and tender green shoots of all manner of good vegetables are slowly reaching the surface, stretching toward the sun. And so we wait. The pull to eat fresh lettuce and sun-kissed berries once again is ever-strong, but it's not quite time just yet.

Yet, what is most bountiful right this very moment is eggs! The chickens can eat all those fresh green shoots well before we can, so while we wait, we eat a lot of egg-centric food. As the garden wakes up, we enjoy a bit of luxury in the form of Hollandaise sauce to hold us over just a short while longer - for anticipatory early spring quickly becomes abundant mid-summer!

Beautiful and Simple Hollandaise Sauce  
~serves 4-6

3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
pinch of salt 
pinch of cayenne pepper
8 Tablespoons butter, melted 
Tarragon sprig to garnish

1. Using a blender or food processor, combine the egg yolks, 1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. 
2. Slowly add the melted butter, while continuing to blend until thickened, about 30 seconds or so. 

3. Taste. Adjust seasonings, adding up to another 1/2 Tablespoon of lemon juice if you prefer. 
4. Garnish with a fresh sprig of tarragon.
5. Serve over eggs. Or greens. Or fish! Eat with asparagus. Or as a dip for artichoke leaves, and any other way you wish. Just be sure to relish it as you wait.

the pull:

The pull to be out-of-doors has been drawing all of us decidedly out. At any excuse to drop what we're doing inside, we succumb to being called outside. For who knows how long this warmth will last until the next spring snow? We must take the opportunity to soak in a little sun, to dig in the dirt while the breeze is just right and still a little cool. To dream of what's to come as the days grow longer, like a simple fire pit by the pond. To notice the greening of the pastures. To watch the chickens flurry about, excitedly scratching all around the field and bathing in the depressions of new earth. To laugh at the goats running toward the house, bleating for treats of apple cores each and every time the front door opens (and it opens more than just a few times each day). To let ourselves be overwhelmed by just how much there is to do. To remember just how very fortunate we are to be here, knee-deep in this life, and in this place we so love.


thank you jamie!


go north young WOman

i'm a horrifically inefficient packer. i've known this about myself for years. in fact, i can say, there hasn't been one trip i have ever been adequately packed for. and yet. i am a bossy packer. i don't want help. so i shun nick's offers (as meek as they may be). i feed myself beer and old cold pizza. and baking chocolate bits. and i pack. 

my method is to use as many small boxes, bags and crates to create many many fragile, rigid, awkward, heavy trips. from home to truck. from truck to home. i'll never learn the u-haul method. the purchased cardboard and bubblepop. i suppose i justify the cheapness of my moving with the frequency of the moves. neither i nor the blessed earth could possibly afford to buy new boxes and wrap each damn time when i have versions of both that would do just ok. 

the next few weeks we will be packing and unpacking. home and farm. i won't be around too much here while we settle. but i have lined up some fine ladies (of various sorts of farming interests) to blog in my stead. they have beautiful families, farms, and writings. so stop by and meet them over these next few weeks. and think dearlordgoodluck thoughts for me and my brood as we move north. 

also, if you'd like to follow us on our move i'll be updating twitter more regularly. i believe i have 5 followers. one of them is nick.  so careful. and be impressed. things are very important and busy and terse for me over there. @longestacres.

i cannot wait to be on our new farm. i cannot wait to introduce you all to the land there. 

see you on the flip side. 


counting the days with cake

we move to vermont a week from tomorrow, at dawn. between that and the summer temperatures i have been walking on clouds all week. despite the packing. the cleaning. the farm prep. the general worry, and anxiety.

so to put that all aside i have baked a cake. yes, i have been neglectful with this resolution. bake a cake a week. hah. i can only thank the lord i haven't had the time. i would find it mighty difficult to fit into my overalls had i been more serious with this.

but today a cake. for we have a trifecta of birthday celebrations tonight in nick's family. nick, his nephew, and his brother in law. all april babies. but things such as this are accelerated a bit to accomodate our departure.

so, 7 more days until vermont.

the cake is just a simple, made-from-scratch chocolate cake with magnolia bakery's buttercream frosting on top. and of course, some forsythia for pretty-ing it all up.


so long, shopgirl

if you aren't outside today, you ought to be. i am indoors. but, i have an excuse. it is my last day as shopgirl. my last day working in boston at the farmstore. my last day of missing the beautiful sun, wind, rain, fog, snow, and sleet. tomorrow i revert to being a farmer. full stop. and that is music to my un-sunlit ears.

i celebrated with a chocolate cupcake.

i am ready to throw myself at the mercy of the unforgiving weather once more. i am ready to see my fingers and palms turn a shade of dark soil brown. i am ready to have briar scratches on my knees. i am ready to have the sun attempt her best to beat me down. i am ready for the chill of early morning feedings. i am ready to see my right arm muscles develop faster than my left. i am ready to be a human ox. i am ready to feel the complete. total. all consuming exhaustion at the end of the day.

i am ready to be the person i love to be again. i am ready, i am anxious, to be a farmer once more.


death and the equinox

Today is the first day of spring. And I will mark its occasion by respecting the rules of Capitalization for the day. For kicks. But I'm afraid what follows is decidedly winter in it's thoughts, for this is what plagues me on this fine spring day.

We have had a group of a half dozen chickens, mainly araucanas that we have affectionately dubbed the sicklies. For, that is what they were.  Their growth had been stunted, probably through a combination of cold and malnutrition.  And, most likely through my own neglect.  In a defense it is quite hard to bring two hundred chicks through winter without the use of mother hens. With artificial light and warmth it is neither natural, nor is it something I ever intend to do again.  But circumstances insisted,  and we obliged.

A smattering of chicks were found dead, on various somber mornings throughout Winter . Most lived. And then these six sicklies; stuck somewhere between life and death.  They were suffering --very clearly-- and so I began to intervene. I began to try to save them and then I began to care for them and then I became consumed by them.

Because...I can't not intervene when I see a sick or injured animal.  I'm a farming masochist. I attract the dying. Or rather, they attract me.  I do what no self-respecting farmer does. I humanize them. I see them grunt and hop to me in the coop and it breaks my heart into five thousand unreasoning pieces. And sometimes these sick and injured turn that proverbial corner and become the Health I've wished and worked for.  Like Vangogh and Bella and Rose. They are all animals we could have easily ignored in the field and left to a certain death. And we didn't and you all know how much those three light my life so I needn't justify that here.  And sometimes you rescue them and they don't live, like Oscar, but you comfort yourself in knowing that life was better because of that sweet soul and that you wouldn't have been paid a million dollars to not have taken him in from the field...that bloodied mess.

And then there are times like now where you find you are running more hospice than hospital. And then you are faced with questions from your loving partner about What Next To Do.  Questions of unnecessary suffering. Questions of the sustainability of care given. Questions of who will take the post as chicken-nurse once we leave (as these sicklies are the farm's chickens and not our own). All this questioning while gently skirting the god complex I had created around the chickens. Now it was Up To Me; whether they live or die. And if they were to die; whether that be gradual through deliberate neglect or sudden through execution. At first I thought I had a choice between the former but I realized with a cold heart it was a choice between the latter. Death this way or that.

Nick offered to kill them. Which, sounds perverse but is one of the kindest things he could do for me. I knew I couldn't break their little necks. I saved one of them, she was the healthiest, which is, of course, all relative being one of the sicklies. But we've named her Spanky.

This sounds cold and cruel, and I thought in writing this I would elicit the emotional response I have come to expect of myself with such things. But a truly new and rather unsettling me is emerging. Surely, I blubbered and stumbled and asked Nick to find me another solution. But at their death I was able to keep in check and not allow myself to think about their little faces and their little souls. I write this, not with pride, nor with peace, just with a vaguely deadened realization that I cannot save every creature that comes to me. That I don't have the space, in my heart nor in my body to help them all. And I, quite honestly, hate that. I am not at peace with this. Yet, I know I need be. I know my past actions cannot be sustained on our future farms. I know I will need to pick the battles more wisely.

So, that sucks. And, that is about as eloquently as I can put it on this beautifully sunny first day of spring.


the chicken and the egg....

at the risk of beating a dead horse....you cannot separate the two. your eggs come from chickens. the chicken gives us her egg. they will forever be tied. so treat her with respect. this ought not be the heavily one sided relationship that it is. we need to give her life on beautiful land and the freedom of fresh air in exchange for her eggs. so, please read this if you haven't.

yesterday i got this note from a reader in denver, colorado. she had read my words about eggs and did something about it. sutton, you made my day. and knowing that you have changed your egg buying from store to farm has put a smile on my face i dare say will last through the weekend and into next summer. thank you.

I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know I read the post on longest acres about eggs & chickens-- as a result I decided to no longer purchase the organic eggs, we usually eat in our house (from the grocery store). I sought out and found a farmer about 30 minutes outside of Denver (where we live) and starting this Sunday, my husband and I, along with your two year old little boy (Hawke) will be driving out to pick up 2 dozen eggs every two weeks from him. The small farmer, Craig, is helping his son earn money by selling the eggs from his son's chickens. He told me how the chickens have the run of their small farm, are cuddled daily, and well loved, as well as what they eat. He said they are very spoiled chickens, which really made me smile. He encouraged me to bring any kids we may have, because they have horses and 4 week old chicks for kids to touch and see first hand. I am really excited about this! I was also stoked when he gave me directions to their farm and they included "past the llama farm after the road changes from concrete to dirt"-- Thank you for opening my eyes about this important issue! -sutton 3/15/12

if any of you want to change your egg purchases from store to farm and are having a hard time doing so, please let me know! write to me and i will do all i can to help you find a farmer who will sell you their eggs. i promise. it means that much to me. 

**update** several readers have found GREAT help through searching for "eggs" in their local craigslist. definitely try that! but please don't hesitate at all to contact me here or through kathryn.maclean@gmail.com for further help!!


read a book!

i don't have ANY photos of me reading or otherwise fraternizing with a book. so, you must take a cute photo of rose as a piglet cuddling in the grass in it's stead. but i do promise you, i read, on occasion. and i think others should too.

morning computer dwellers! i thought i'd start this thursday with a friendly command i don't obey too often myself. to read a book! with all of your comments/emails from the so you want to farm....woman? post of two weeks ago i was a bit taken a back by all of the Things you would like to learn more about. so instead of yammering on about how cute rose is covered in the spring's mud (horrifically cute, if you must know) i thought i'd begin a reading list of sorts. you can find it under the read a book! tab underneath the longestacres banner. i will be updating and revising and adding to this definitively incomplete list. but i thought i'd give you a Place to Start. so there you have it. feel free to continue reaching out by comment by email by car or by ship as to what sort of information you are searching for by book and i will try my hardest to find the like for you.


to want.

to the easter bunny.

please help me sell twenty five hundred dollars of eggs so that i can replicate this on our farm. a greenhouse on wheels.

thank you,



a soapbox full of eggs

the way chickens ought to live.
good monday morning to you all. i have been writing for the past couple of months, on the side to longestacres about the more political part of farming. in particular, about animal welfare and animal rights and the general disregard factory farms have for these two. i wanted to share with you all a piece i have recently written about the new "egg bill" that will be put before congress this year. it is a bill sponsored by both the uep (united egg producers) and the humane society. there has been a lot of very optimistic and positive press about this in recent months and i wanted to be the debby downer to dissect it for you a bit and explain why 1) this is not a bill we should be happy or satisfied with 2) you should never buy eggs from the grocery store. 

so...if you would oblige me in reading. and giving me any feedback. and thinking of the chicken in her painfully small box when you go to buy eggs next. i would be forever grateful. 

***warning, i use capitalization AND punctuation in the following. it was written for somebody else and they insisted on both....typically you know, i wouldn't be so bold***
At first glance the new bill HR 3798 that will be brought in front of Congress this year, is a victory for animal rights advocates and their feathery friends. The bill, known as the Egg Products Inspection Act of 2012, is the result of an unprecedented compromise between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP).  The bill lists a set of improved living standards for laying hens in battery houses. It makes deplorable living conditions for the birds marginally better. It also sets in legislative stone the conditions the birds must live in for the duration of their lives. In other words, the passage of this bill, while seemingly progressive, allows the UEP to get away with minimal changes to their operation while broadcasting the support of the HSUS.

In order to understand the consequence of the bill let us first look at the lives of birds currently in confinement housing across the country. Over 250 million laying hens live in what are known as ‘battery’ houses in the United States. The houses are long, windowless, warehouses outfitted for confinement egg production. Most of these hens (such exact numbers are extraordinarily difficult to come by) live in cages that are hardly bigger than the hen’s body. She drinks, eats, sleeps and lays her egg in the same spot. She does this inside. Without seeing the light of day, or spreading her wings, or taking a dust bath. She doesn’t get to do much at all but live and work, briefly, for the pathetic state of our current food system. As confinement farming goes in this country she is a cog in its proverbial machine.  

Understandably, with conditions as inhumane as these organizations like the HSUS have fought vigorously against the UEP for years. The HSUS has supported undercover investigative reports in battery houses. They have stood behind legislative attempts in many states (most recently in California) to try to make the UEP treat their hens more humanely through legal channels.

The HSUS and the UEP have for all intents and purposes been each other’s classic nemesis.  But, recently, the UEP came to the HSUS with a proposed collaboration; they would make some concessions about the hen’s welfare in exchange for the HSUS backing off their attack on the egg industry. The UEP was reportedly concerned about the money and time they would waste fighting the HSUS state by state over the treatment of their hens. They decided that it would be in their interest to compromise with the HSUS on one national legislative change instead. When the UEP came to them with this proposed deal the HSUS saw this as perhaps one of their only realistic opportunities to better the lives of factory laying hens and thus was born HR 3798.

The problem is that the UEP gets away with legislative murder with this bill and the HSUS is humiliated with their concessions and with a partnership that is very clearly one sided.

Currently, factory laying hens, are allotted about 67 square inches of space. That is smaller than a sheet of paper.  A sheet of paper is typically 8.5” x 11”. That is 93.5 square inches. I encourage you to stop reading and study a piece of similarly sized paper. Could you imagine any creature living in that space for their entire life? HR 3798 is going to, 15 years after it’s enactment, require that laying hens have somewhere between 124 -144 square inches of floor space (depending on the breed of the hen). Taking the larger number, 144 square inches is one square foot. Not even the size of 2 sheets of paper.

One of my juvenile chickens (not yet, full grown) trying patiently to stand on 2 sheets of paper for 30 seconds. 144 square inches is NOT a lot of room.
There are other improvements they have put forth in this bill.  The bill will, if passed, require by law, that egg producers humanely euthanize their chickens when necessary. Another such improvement is the allotment of nesting boxes. This is important as hens prefer to nest in a small dark private place as opposed to the exposed and bright cage they currently lay in. They have also called for a sandbox of sorts in which the hen can dust bathe. With these additions their cages will be renamed “enriched” cages, and their cartons will be labeled as such.

Labeling is one of the final proposals in HR 3798. The proposed law would require egg manufactures to put on each carton how their chickens are raised. The labels would use a concise description such as eggs from cage free hens or eggs from free range hens or eggs from enriched cages. This is an important step to educating the consumer on how their food was raised. Sadly, a definition of each label is not included on the carton. Should a consumer read eggs from free range hens they may wrongly assume the hens live outdoors. They only have “access” to the outside, with typically, one door open at the end of a large and very crowded warehouse. The chickens that are fortunate enough to be perched next to this door may be able to venture outdoors but it is doubtful that many of the hens are ever able to go outside.

It pains me to speak out against the HSUS. The organization has done such good for so many animals all around this country. I don’t believe their intentions to be malicious with their compromise to the UEP. I believe they must be exhausted from a never ending fight with the egg industry and with every factory farming industry. But, this doesn’t mean we should praise them for any form of victory here. Nor, should we praise the UEP for reaching a ‘compromise’. We certainly shouldn’t praise this bill as a “good egg” like the LA Times did last month. This bill will do too little to change the lives of the hens.

If you’d like to speak out against the Egg Bill you can do so here. BUT I hope you, and I, and every egg-consumer in America will vote firstly with the dollars in our pockets.

Don't stand for enriched-caged e ggs or cage-free eggs or even free-range eggs. They're all bullshit. When you boil it all right down to it chickens are sentient animals. They deserve living conditions that no legislative measure will ever grant them the right to. They deserve fence-less green pasture. They deserve a warm and safe place to roost at night. They deserve clean water and simple, healthy grains. They deserve to flap their wings in an open space. To dust bathe in the dirt. To feel the restorative power of the sun on their combs and waddles. Sadly, no large scale egg operation will ever give chickens what they need and deserve. Only you and your neighbors and your local small farms can give them what they need.

So, don’t buy eggs from the grocery store. Buy eggs from farmer’s markets. Buy eggs from your neighbor. Get a couple of chickens and put them in your back yard and never buy eggs again. Ask around, you’ll be surprised at how many people you know have chickens or know somebody who has chickens and would be willing to sell you a dozen here and there. You don’t have to buy eggs from producers whose hen’s live in a 2-sheets-of-paper world.

The only way we can help these hens, and future hens, is to stop giving our grocery dollars to the big producers. Buy local. Love the chickens. Eat delicious eggs.


how to buy a family cow...(?)

i'm going to go ahead and guess that very few of you actually need to know how to buy a family cow. but you have, by reading this, expressed interest in my life as a farmer and i oblige by showing you photos of our life, which i find to be rather pretty. (see above).

but there are times when farming is all about reading. and researching. and Trial and Error. and long car rides to distant farms to look upon others' animals in a discerningly fashion (or at least pretend as though you are). it can be about price haggling. or boasting. or trying to figure out if the woman you have just spent an hour with standing in cow manure is trying to pull the sheep's wool over your eyes.

and so, i thought, i would walk you through how to buy a family cow.  not that we know. we still don't have one. in fact, we are going rather mad with the ever growing list of what you want in a cow, i wouldn't wonder if we gave up milk drinking altogether. but just in case you were thinking of buying one too. here is a rather pedantic and abbrev'd list of things to which you ought to pay close attention. if anything you might be interested in the juggle of things we have to consider while we are cow shopping.

for those of you who i lose after this have a Lovely Spring Weekend.

the first thing you must decide upon is ...

what kind of cow: the cow's milk that you drink from the superestmarkets are primarily holsteins. these cows are bred to produce. they milk over 10 gallons a day. they are not what you are looking for in a family cow. that is too much milk for a family. they are also a) huge b) bred for machine milking c) have a smaller ratio of cream to milk.

instead of a holstein, you must decide upon a jersey (PDF), or a milking devon, or a dutch belted, or a guernsey, or a milking shorthorn. if you do visit these links, please excuse the rough nature of each website, farmers are notoriously unimaginative web developers. if you plan on selling her calves you will also want to know if she is registered or registerable (get the paperwork!!).

the age of the cow: i'm not sure if this truly matters as cows can live to quite a ripe age, but surely, you don't want too old of a cow. and you don't want one that is too young either. as this will be your first cow you want an experienced but not aged cow.

when she will freshen: this is the term farmers use for when a cow will calve (have her baby) and start producing milk. the weight of this timing is entirely dependent on where you live in the country. but say you live in the mountains of vermont (read : cold winters) you would like the cow due to freshen in late spring. this is because it is most healthy for a cow to calve on pasture. and a calf will be most strong if it starts eating grass within the first weeks of its life, right next to mama.

how she has been handled: for your first cow you want a tame cow. a cow that is familiar with the Song and Dance of the stanchion. of you taking milk from her. of sharing her milk between you and her calf. you want a cow who has been hand milked. ---if you are going to have just one family cow, you needn't machine milk, the cleaning of the machine is more time consuming than hand milking one cow would ever be....AND it isn't nearly as peaceful and serene of a morning/evening moment with the sound of a vacuum pump--

her disposition: a farmer told us monday if you get one dem wild cows, she'll kill ya. she won't hesitate twice. she'll kill ya. wonderful. so, don't get a 'wild' cow. not that you would. but you don't want to have delusions of cow whispering for your first cow. you want to be able to approach her and feel safe. you want to be able to touch her udder without her kicking.  ---this is not to say that cows are angry lumbering creatures that kill at will. i suppose some can be. but it is more to say that cows are huge. much LARGER than you will ever be, so show deference to her.  respect her size. 

what she eats: cows are ruminants. meaning they are biologically designed to eat grass. not grain. a little handful of grain at milking is pretty standard practice at most small farms. its like giving her a little treat to teach her that coming into her stanchion is a good and happy thing. thus associating milking with treats. but it shouldn't go much further than that. milk is healthiest when the cow is 100% grass fed. (fyi; holsteins that produce for big dairies are fed almost exclusively grain....not healthy milk)

talk to her vet: ask for the farm's vet and talk to her about the history of the farm, the farmer, and --if possible--the cow in question. there is no better 3rd party resource for the health and demeanor of the cow than this.

ask for references: this will most likely only be possible if you are buying your family cow from a farm that sells cows with some regularity. but ask, just in case, it could be very helpful to talk to somebody who has bought a cow that is of the same stock as the one you are looking at.

why are they selling her?: hopefully you can trust the farmer to give you a candid answer with this. it could be simply, that they need the money, but there could also be something there that you need to take into consideration like she isn't good with children or she is a bully to the barnyard.

read read read: our current favorite family book is keeping a family cowother great books about milk and cows include the untold story of milk and the family cow handbook and the home creamery. experience with dairy and milking and cow husbandry will be, undoubtedly, a Learn as you Go process. but you must arm yourself with any knowledge you can find from books, if only to save face when a farmer mentions genetic testing for a2a2 and you can nod and say "we should pull some tail hairs" rather than awkwardly change the conversation and google a2a2 later.

if any of you cow folk have additional things to consider whilst cow shopping, please add away.


a taxin' life

i made $13,683 for the 2011 tax year. which is a little less than $3000 over the poverty line. which is a nice, comfortable spot for me. i don't believe $13,683 makes you rich in this country. especially not when douchebags like this guy exist. and i won't pretend that paying my taxes this year wasn't insanely hurtful. i owed $323 to north carolina, for reasons i can't understand but that turbotax insists are legitimate. taking $323 from somebody that only made $13,683 is kicking a man while he's down. and i don't understand it. i don't understand most tax laws though. i happen to think i make a pretty damn good contribution to society by growing food for its members. but the government insists i need to give more. and so i do. and so we all do.

feeling rather angry and empty-pocketed and emotionally drained after finishing my taxes (i quite literally screamed, cried, laughed, and threw things throughout the blasted process ---poor nick) and mailing off my checks i thought i'd take stock in the things i do have. that make me irrationally happy. because its not in the money that you have but the life that you lead. and i love this life. despite all the crap, taxes, and farming regulations the federal government throws at us.

so in photos the things that brought me joy this weekend:

1. chocolate chip cookies. my cure all.
2. my little duck, pascal, who started laying these beautiful big eggs just this week.
3. discarded, dying, lillies from the farm store that i took in. their smell floors me. every. time.
4. the seeds that finally arrived. thank you sophie for the hudson valley seed library tip.
5. my boyfriend makes a bomb kombucha.
6. a tray found at a rummage sale on sunday.
7. a cold glass of raw milk in place of tea this morning.
8. seeing my printed words in the winter issue of wilder that arrived this friday. which was a first.

and not pictured, my old man who came into town to have lunch with me today. and for a little stroll. dads are the best.

*editors belated post script i do not intend to liken my financial situation to those truly struggling through this country and to whom living on/near/below the poverty line is a very serious and life altering situation. i don't have any school debt and my livelihood revolves around making food, so i am never hungry.  nick and i are very fortunate to have four parents who are tirelessly supportive of our lives and have vowed to 'never let us go hungry'. i live a very beautiful and blessed life and i don't mean to imply otherwise.  i do intend, someday to write a post more about the subject of the financial feasibility of farming. but that topic is a bit to much to wrap my little taxed head around right now. 


shopping for a cow

our cow bible is sitting shotgun with me as nick drives. we are headed north to a couple of farms in the search of a milking cow...or two.

shoddy iPhone photos to follow. hopefully. wish us luck. a milking cow will certainly change our lives. for the good. the very very good.

milkshakes all around! if this goes accordingly.


backcountry how-to right here in the city

its been hard to do any true back country how-to posts whilst living in such dangerous proximity to the city. but perhaps that is due to my indolent-self more than anything. you can see my first and last one from september here on making a simple ricotta. despite the prevailing circumstances, we had a couple quarts of milk that were going to go bad at the farm store so i took it upon myself to rescue them and yogurt them.

making yogurt is insultingly simple. it does take all day. but the grand portion of that time is the yogurt culture doing her work. the process only requires minimal human intervention. so hop to.

what you will need:

-1 quart of whole milk (don't mess around with skim, it simply isn't as delicious)
 if you have access to fresh raw milk, for heaven's sake use fresh raw milk. 
-2 T yogurt culture.  in other words: 2 T of yogurt. use an unflavored organic whole milk yogurt that says it contains live acidophilus cultures.
-double broiler 
-1 meticulously cleaned quart-sized jar & lid
-thermometer that measures to at least 185F
-small insulated vessel that can at least fit 1 quart (e.g. a small cooler or an ice bucket)
-cheese cloth *not necessary if you have a very fine strainer.


1. heat milk to 185F on a double broiler. put a lid over the milk to speed this process & check the temperature every 5 minutes or so (about 30 minutes).
2. remove from heat and let cool to 115F. allow to cool with lid off. unless you have many flies in your house --don't judge, some of us live with cows-- in which case, use a cheese cloth to cover.
to hasten the process i replace the bottom section of the double broiler with ice water and sit the saucer of milk in that for rapid cooling
3. scoop in 2T of yogurt culture to clean quart jar
4. using the funnel pour cooled (115F) milk into aforementioned quart jar. you may have a little bit of leftover milk. give this to your kitty cat.
5. seal quart with lid and place in an empty cooler or ice bucket.
6. fill this insulated container with the hottest tap water you can muster. fill up but do not completely submerse your jar (and be sure your lid is water-tight).

yogurt incubates best at a temperature of 110-115F. hence the insulated vessel filled with the hottest water. you want to try to keep the milk at about this temperature. 

7. secure the top to the insulated container. and leave in a relatively warm place for SIX HOURS (!!). this is a minimum of time. the longer you leave the milk to incubate with the yogurt the more tart she will become.

i recommend doing steps 1-7 right before bed and then when you wake up your cultures will have incubated.

it is important to note here that the less you agitate the incubating milk the better. try not to move the milk or disturb it in anyway during incubation. do not stir the yogurt culture in with the milk. just let everything sit still and do her own chemical thing. if you agitate it, she will become LuMpY.

8. after incubation you can take your quart out of the isolation/insulation and open her up. she should look like yogurt with a little bit of yellow-green whey floating on the top.
9. put the strainer into a large bowl and pour your yogurt through the strainer. if this strainer isn't very fine, put a cheesecloth over it as you don't want to loose to much of the yogurt.

     for regular every day yogurt one quick simple strain is fine.
for thicker 'greek style' yogurt leave it for a longer 2+ hour strain to bring you deliciousness.

10. when you have finished straining the yogurt ladle it out into a clean quart or into two clean pints and label it clearly with the day's date. 
11. give the leftover whey to your dog or cat or pig or chicken. it is wonderfully nutritious and they will love you for it. 
11. this yogurt will be good for several days. i have eaten homemade yogurt well over a week after its creation without any complaints. 

*AND thank you (!!!) patti for letting me make a brief mess of your kitchen to make yogurt.


so you want to farm...woman?

i have had a shockingly euphoric number of emails of women asking me how best to get into farming. how they can 'dip their toe' as one lovely woman just wrote. or how they can dip their whole body. and i thoroughly love writing to each woman and talking to her about farming and how she can join in. because, well, i love farming.

i absolutely adore the men who read this blog too....but for editorial purposes i nearly always use the feminine pronouns when they are available to me. so, apologies to all you sirs. 

but i was wondering if i couldn't consolidate some of this information so i don't bore you with my repetition. i was thinking of creating a tablet up above...next to who AM I and how did i happen on this life? and so i wanted --from those of you are interested-- any questions about farming.

from keeping a duck in your closet (not a very good idea) to traveling afar and living on farms (a very good idea) to growing salad greens on your window sill. to navigating the grouchy farmers at the market. to re-purposing your family's old orchard.

i certainly don't have all of the answers to these questions but i hope to create a form of reference for you to Know What I Know.

so, comment here. or email there [[kathryn.maclean(at)gmail.com]] and i will try to put something rather coherent together in the next weeks.

also, tomorrow, i will tell you how to make yoghurt! easy-peasy.

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