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Introducing…

17 May

Foxy Brown.

foxybrown

and

ginger

Ginger.

Not original or poetic, but you know, they are goats. I’m keeping Foxy, and Ginger will be for sale in a few months. They come from champion Nigerian Dwarf milking stock.

A few people have inquired about the boy, Eeyore.

futurewether

I hope to borrow my friend’s tool, the Emasculator, and make Eeyore a wether, fatten him on grain and milk for a few months and then have him star in an animal processing class I’m putting together with the talented primitive skills teacher Tamara Wilder. (The date is set: September 13, if you’d like to sign up for the class. We’ll be killing two rabbits and one goat, processing all their parts, and starting the process for fur-on hide tanning. We may have a guest appearance of a local chef for a how-to cook lean meat demonstration. The class will cost $100 and is limited to 10 people. Send me an email if you want to sign up: novellacarpenter at gmail)

As for  his hermaphroditic sis/bro, Hedwig, here in this photo you can see the extra part (what I’m calling the angry millimeter) on her vagina.

hedwigsangrymilimeter

Hedwig  is really sweet and fun, like a puppy. She/he doesn’t try to hump everyone like Eeyore (I know, already!) and she’s very people-focused. But on a practical note, intersex goats are not useful: they can’t be mated, they don’t make milk, they can’t stud, but they may smell strongly, like male goats. So, it’s a quandry. If I give her away to someone then I lose money on stud fees and feed, and perhaps that person gets a goat with problems. So, if anyone has a suggestion, let me know what you think.

Despite these issues, I’m having tons of fun with the little ones. I take naps out in the goat area and have them scamper across my body. Orla sometimes sleeps on top of me, and Bebe keeps a safe distance except when she wants a quick neck scratch. In the mornings, I milk Bebe and am in the middle of training Orla to behave on the stanchion. Things are lovely and I’m looking forward to a great, goat-filled summer. Let me know if you’d like to come by for a visit.

We All Live in the Ghetto Now

24 Feb

Yes, it’s all doom and gloom out there. Since we Americans live in an economy, not so much of a culture, it often feels like our entire way of life is crumbling as the stock market crashes and banks struggle.
People point out that I don’t need to worry because I have a garden and farm animals. It’s true that I recently started selling my eggs ($5/dozen) and sometimes sell a rabbit or two. That money goes toward buying things I can’t make, like parmasean cheese, beef, bananas, and french bread (thank you French guys at Oakland Farmer’s Market!) But of course, I’m not immune to the trials of the economy, as I watch friends lose their jobs and their homes, I realize how fragile our society is.
Last weekend I went to a Long Now event and saw doomsday-er Dmitri Orlov speak about what happened when the Soviet Union fell. The winners were the ones who could adjust and adapt quickly. Orlov lists the most important things for people to worry about during collapse: food, shelter, transportation, security. I was surprised that all of the descriptions of food post-collapse involved growing your own food, allowing animal husbandry in cities, even planting wheat on college campuses (after their endowments become worthless). If Orlov had spoken even two months earlier, I’m sure there would have been a lot of eye-rolling in the audience. People were on the edges of their seats. Including me, I found myself slapping my forehead about the wheat growing in Memorial Glade. Genius! Timing, for doomsday predictors, is everything.
Funny thing, though, here in the ghetto where everyone is poor, no one is grumbling about the economic crisis. It made me realize that for as long as this crisis goes on, we’re all going to be living in the ghetto. We’re going to have to forage, scrimp. Many of us may chose to do things that are considered illegal (selling drugs, selling rabbit meat). We’ll start sharing living space with our friends and families. We’ll spend more time chatting on the corners (no jobs to go to). And, I predict more and more people will arm themselves.
For awhile, I was sort of gleeful about the downturn, but lately I’ve recognized that it’s fun to choose to do all these self-sufficiency things, maybe it won’t be so if it’s forced on us.

P.S. Farm Tour Saturday, March 7. 10am

Meat and Greet

8 Jan

There’s a meme going around, it’s called Meat and Greet. On January 10th, there’s a M and G at 2nd Street in Oakland for the latest incarnation of the Bay Area Meat CSA: http://bamcsa.pbwiki.com/.

The following day, January 11, MeatPaper magazine is hosting a Meat and Greet at the Acme Chophouse to celebrate their latest issue of the meat-y magazine. (I have an article in the mag about meat powered cars.) http://www.meatpaper.com/mailings/081229/index.html

I’m curious to see how both these organizations will address the issue of eating meat on a budget, or ask the question how we can eat less but better meat.

baconprepped

I’ll be doing two meat-related things on the farm this weekend. One is smoking the last of the pork bellies from the pigs we raised on dumpster scraps.

bunny

The other is finally harvesting the rabbits from the last litter. They are getting so big, I can barely afford to keep them fed (they eat greens from the dumpster and Templeton Rabbit Food which costs $25/bag). I figure that if I sold the rabbits, they would have to cost $25/rabbit just to recoup their feed costs. It’s part of the crunch of being a small-scale farmer. No matter how wiley I am by feeding the animals scraps and stale bread, they still need some feed to thrive. And feed is getting more and more expensive.

Which makes me know that meat should be more expensive than it is. And that we should probably eat less of it.

OPEN Restaurant

3 Jan

amaranthFood–it’s so boring.  I mean, yes, it should be delicious, and lovingly prepared. And plucked fresh from the earth. But with the economic crisis exploding around us, all of a sudden our (my) food geek tendencies seem a little trivial. During the fat years, we all had more time and money to natter on and on about what we were eating, and making food consumption into a meta experience. I remember checking out a book called Food Is Culture at the library at UC Berkeley, and the librarian couldn’t help himself when he snarled, “No, food is just food!”

Well, that’s one way to look at it. But. There’s a group of food world folks who know how to geek out on food in a way that isn’t annoying. They are called OPEN, a group of food professionals who host awesome events in the name of food. They aren’t caterers, mind you, but more like storytellers. For instance, they did an event at SFMOMA where they deconstructed a pig before the eyes of the eaters. After what sounded like an amazing porky dinner, everyone took home a bit of pancetta to cure at home. They sometimes make donuts in parks and give them away, for free.

Now they’re hosting an event at Yerba Buena that sounds really fun. Here’s the scoop, from the YB website: “Participants will share a simple meal while chewing on the question: How can the urban landscape be productive? …enjoy dinner and a glass of wine while learning more about urban farming, foraging and gleaning from people directly involved in these practices. Entry to discussion is open to everyone.

The menu includes a stew made of white beans, greens and pork (there will also be a vegetarian stew), pork rillette, dessert (not yet determined) and a glass of wine.”

I’m going to be there–I hope some of you can make it. Here’s more info:

YBCAlive!: OPENrestaurant with Slow Food Nation
Tue, Jan 6, 7pm • Grand Lobby
Meal Ticket is: $20 General / $15 YBCA Members
Discussion is FREE
For tickets, please call our Box Office at 415.978.2787.

Teaching turkey

24 Nov

In 2005 I killed my first Thanksgiving turkey.

Since then I’ve killed quite a few more, written articles about it, even took part in a turkey harvesting photo shoot (I’ll never do that again, though I loved the photographer, when he asked me to step to the left just before I cut the turkey’s throat, I realized art and practice sometimes shouldn’t meet…) My experience raising a turkey takes up a whole section of my memoir about urban farming. Turkeys–because they are part of Thanksgiving and our American heritage– make great metaphors.

This year was very special in that I got to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the last three years with some students. Did you know there’s an urban agriculture class at Berkeley? Lucky undergrads get to grow their own vegetables, learn about international urban ag, and visit local farms. I gave a lecture/presentation to the class one day and then had them come out for visits over the past two weekends.

The first weekend, my friend J graciously offered us three roosters. The neighbors had complained and she called me out of desperation: “can you kill these roosters?” she asked. I walked her through how to do it herself. She listened patiently and then asked again: “can you kill them?” I forget how hard it is the first time.

So she brought the handsome fellows over and the class, with my help, dispatched them. We used the loper method, which I think is fast and humane. Of course we burned a little incense and said our thanks to the birds. The students were great. None of them had ever killed an animal before (on purpose at least) but most of them ate meat and so they wanted to face it. One of the most curious and best entrail cleaner was a vegan! He wants to become a veterianarian, so this was like a lab for him. Awesome. While I showed the students how to kill, pluck, and clean a rooster, I thought of all the people before me who shared this knowledge with me. It felt great to share in an experience I find very anxiety-producing yet full of life and love at the same time.

J took one plucked and cleaned rooster home and gave me the other two. I braised mine. Delicious in a rooster pot pie made with a wee bit of leftover lard in the pie crusts.

The next weekend, just yesterday in fact, it was time to say goodbye to Archie 2 and Edith. The class came out again (different students this time) to assist. Killing a turkey is a bigger deal than the roosters. They’re big. They’re full of life-force. Their feathers are so large, their bodies are so warm. The males have some special parts like the beard and the snood which add some level of mystery to the birds. I hadn’t realized how fat Archie #2 had gotten. He must have weighed 25 pounds! Edith was much smaller, only a bit bigger than the roosters from the previous weekend.

The students gathered in the garden. I had set up workstations: the plucking table, the cleaning table, the dipping area. We stood near the killing area, which featured a pair of enormous lopers, incense, and a bucket. I retrieved Edith from the backyard first. We burned incense and I described her life, which was going on two years. She never did hatch out any baby turkey poults, and for that I was sad. But she had a good run, enjoyed bossing the chickens and Archie around. But now it was time for her to go. I gave her a kiss, then a student loped her head off. It’s nice to have someone around who didn’t *know* the turkey. We plucked her and cleaned her entrails. Her gizzard was happy and full of rocks and grains. She ate well, that’s for sure.

Next came Archie#2. Enormous. My arms ached carrying him from the backyard to the front. We usually have heritage breeds but Archie looked to be just a Standard White. He had grown so so fast. After some kind words (but not too many, he was heavy!) the Berkeley instructor held the turkey’s feet, I hugged the turkey’s wings, and a student loped the head off. As the life-force drained out of the turkey, I accidentally let go of his wings which caused (I later found out) a horrible jolt to the groin of the instructor. Oops! It’s dangerous out here on GhostTown Farm, I reckon. Sorry N! The plucking and cleaning proceeded as normal. Archie had a gizzard the size of a softball and a crop the size of a football. No wonder the chickens are always hungry competing with that guy!

The students lingered in the garden after all was said and done. It was a sunny late November day. The bees were out, the greens were so bright. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the moment, when things felt so real. I felt a little proud that I could show someone something I knew how to do. That finally, I have some knowledge that can be passed on, remembered, used, and hear stories about where that knowldege led other people once they knew too.

I brined Archie and Edith. I think I’m going to deep-fry Archie. Edith, as her age dictates, will be braised.

Late afternoon addition: Can’t find anyone to deep fry the turkey. So I’m turning to Chef Edwards and he will be smoking the turkeys all day long tomorrow!

What does Kuzzin eat?

24 Oct

You might wonder–if she’s killing geese with her bare hands, what does their cuddly gray cat, Kuzzin, eat? Mostly he loves the cheapest cat food we can buy. I once bought the expensive, free-range stuff. He refused to eat it. It was back to Friskies. He was once an alley cat and lived outside. Bill and I used to think he was evil (his eyes are sort of strange). After our cat Sparkles died, though, Kuzzin somehow squirmed his way into our hearts and we adopted him. Like all cats, he spends most days sleeping.

But lately it’s gotten pretty exciting for Kuz, as I bought an amazing mouse trap that catches the mice that he can’t (he’s too busy sleeping). When he first moved in, he used to catch the mice skittering around our house and garden. But lately he’s slowed down–maybe the plentiful cheap ass cat food has made him soft and weak. I was forced to take on our home’s rodent control into my own hands. There’s something….satisfying about setting a mousetrap. It’s kind of like being a French Canadian fur trapper. You set the trap, then come back–and ah! a prize! But there’s also something…terrifying about trying to get the thing set without snapping your own fingers into the trap. That’s why the best trap ever is made by D-con and features a little lever to trigger the trap. You just press a button and it’s good to go. You can also use it over and over again. Sorry, I’m starting to sound like a spokesperson for D-Con. Sheesh. Unlike being a French Canadian fur trapper, I’m not in it for a mouse fur (though I’m sure that’s nice), just for the trapping. But, of course, someone in the house *loves* mice. So now I tip the mouse trap over Kuzzin’s food dish and in he pounces. He eats a mouse in about 2 minutes flat. Beginning with the head. The noise of his clashing jaws and mouse flesh is surprisingly loud. The other day, maybe with the taste of a young mouse in his memory, Kuzzin went hunting again. He got a bird. I know–that’s terrible! It was one of those ubiquitous sparrows that hang out on the deck with the rabbits. Kuzzin ate its head first too. There were tiny gray feathers all over my kitchen. And that’s what Kuzzin the urban farm cat eats.

Cook your goose

22 Sep

As promised, I unearthed the goose from the freezer…and killed the two living ones to boot.
My downstairs neighbors finally complained about the incessant honking of the geese, and like a true country bumpkin, I slaughtered them the minute after the complaint was lodged. Good relations with neighbors are more important than two slightly more fat geese come X-mas time. But I wonder if I could ask them to make their dogs shut the hell up with their infernal barking? I don’t think they’d return the favor, somehow.

Here’s what I did to the geese. After killing and some plucking, I ended up just skinning them. Getting all the feathers out requires a rubber fingered plucking machine. Those rule. But I don’t have one. So, skinning. I know–the fat? It went with the skin (into a shallow grave). There was some internal fat, though. Plus, I have pig fat.

After a day of resting in a salt brine, I deboned the geese. The meat was red and looked like beef, a bit. With the carcasses–carcassi?–made tons of stock, which eventually became gumbo and a tomato ragu (but that’s another story). Then I put the chunks in the freezer to get very cold. Meanwhile, I cubed up some pig back fat (oh, the decadence).
Then all of that went into the meat grinder. It’s called a waring “professional” meat grinder, but it sucks. Someone said a Kitchen Aid grinder works well, but I wonder. I bought casings at Taylor Sausage in Old Oakland–nice guys, lots of casings for $12.
Then I mixed everything up–the meat, the fat, herbs, wine. And fed the meat into the stuffing attachment of my wanky grinder. I think the meat and fat did something Michael Ruhlman calls “breaking”, which he says in his book Charcuterie, makes the sausage taste like paper maiche. Oh lord! They did look kind of smeary and weird. After a night in the fridge, I pulled them out for Sunday pancakes. As the sausages fried, a full-on geyser of liquid fat came streaming out of the crackling skillet-bound sausage.

As for the taste–yes, a little dry, but with maple syrup and cornmeal hotcakes, they were nothing to feed to the dogs.