July 2009 Archives

Goodbye Duck a l'Orange...

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Our three Peking Ducks... Sadly, foodwise, the same number as my three kids

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Last Night's Dinner

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Photo and Recipe Credit: Jennifer Hess of Last Night's Dinner

The garden is on the verge of a tsunami of vegetables. Last night we enjoyed the finest of dining -- entirely from our farm with the exception of the salt and olive oil.

I made the following recipe for Calabaza and it was as fine a meals as I've had anywhere on this planet. In fact, it had a taste of Ecuador -- a flavor I was afraid I'd never be able to recreate. I harvested the first fresh garlic of the year, picked fresh oregano and corriander, put the hot peppers in my pocket, and gathered some yellow summer squash. All just moments before I added them to the dish. It was as fresh and delicious as a meal can be. On the side were roasted fresh beets and new potatoes so tender the skins peeled off in my hands. I also enjoy a glass of black current wine from Strawbale Winery in South Dakota. I've taken to buying wine by the case from these folks.

I have such a feeling of accomplishment that I can not only grow our food, but prepare a dish entirely from Big Stone County that makes me close my eyes to savor the pleasure of eating it.

1 chicken, skin-on, cut into pieces (or use your favorite parts)
kosher or sea salt
olive or canola oil
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 fresh chile pepper, seeds and stem removed, minced
3 medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut into evenly sized chunks
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into evenly sized chunks
dried oregano, Mexican if possible
fresh coriander (optional)
3 ears of corn, kernels removed from cobs

Season the chicken pieces with salt and brown them in hot oil in a large, wide skillet, in batches if necessary. Remove the browned pieces and set aside. Add onion, garlic and chile, season with salt, and cook briefly until the onion begins to soften and the mixture is fragrant, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the zucchini and tomatoes and stir to combine with the onion mixture. Add the oregano and coriander (if using), return the chicken pieces to the pan, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Add the corn and cook uncovered for just a few minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with rice or warmed tortillas.

Peak Civilization

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Father's protective hand on son- Mayo Clinic

I experienced one of those moments when I believed that we do, in fact, live in the best of times. We were at Mayo Clinic recently and are pleased to report that all is well.

While there I savored the beauty, humanity, creativity that we have built in certain corners of this world. I took this picture while listening to a spiky, bleached hair kid play the most incredible music on the grand piano in the Mayo Clinic lobby. Everyone stopped what they were doing to listen to this soul filling music-- pausing in their concerns and duties to be lost in the poingnency of life.

We received world class care at Mayo- calm, thoughtful, face-time care with doctors and staff. We also saw amazing sculptures, listened to brilliantly inspired live music, ornate and impossibly lovely architecture (Jens is still talking about the gargoyles we saw from the 16th floor walls of windows).

What's more- we waited in line (briefly) with real people. Dads in Harley t-shirts, moms in capris, kids pushing elderly parents in wheel chairs. It looked to me like a cross section of our country. This fine care of body and soul wasn't just reserved for princes, senators, or the wealthy (though you could argue the insured), but for the many.

Look at that dad with those protective fingers spread across his sons shoulder. I know that grasp- I practice it on my kids. Look at that boy hugging his teddy. All of us paused, breathless at the music. And me just so very grateful to be living in these times..

What's the big idea...

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EQIP Planning Project1.jpg Natural Resource Conservation Service Grazing Plan for our Farm
(EQIP = Environmental Quality Improvement Program)

Mike and I signed on the dotted line for the conservation plans for our farm- 172 acres total into grazing and organic agriculture beginning between now and 2011. We'll start by creating 92 acres of rotational grazing for beef cattle in 2010. This part scares me the most-- lots of fences, new well, many water lines and watering stations, big beefy animals that could step on little kids....

Across the driveway (not shown) we've enrolled 80 acres into the brand spanking new USDA Organic transition program. **Proud moment- we ranked 2nd in the entire State of Minnesota for this program** Mike is more intimidated by this organic 80 acres. In my mind, we could make this work just by force of will -- weeding by hand every day of the growing season if need be. Harvest with scythes, whatever... We actually calculated out the kids ages to figure out if they would be of good weeding ages in 2011 (7, 7 and 11).

So between the two of us we are confident we can make it work on the north and south side of the driveway (or conversely scared it won't work on the north or south side of the driveway).

In all honesty, part of my motivation for doing this (which my husband of nearly 15 years won't know until he reads this blog entry) is that we as a civilization have to-- HAVE TO-- learn (or remember) how to farm using sunlight as the major food source (grazing cattle) and making due with resources lower on the petroleum food chain (organic). Because in an uncertain future there will still be sunlight and some poop to keep this farm going.

So I am comfortable taking the risk of moving from conventional row crops (corn and soybeans) which we know can make the farm payments to experimenting with sunlight and crafty labor and inputs. When I say "Lord help us" that is not just a figure of speech.

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