Rotten to the core: How one bad apple can derail the farmstand honor system

I get mixed comments about my “honor system” farm stand. Most people say this “old-fashioned concept” brings back childhood memories of visits to roadside stands with their parents — “simpler times” when people were generally honest and crime was something that happened somewhere else — you know, the often cited but probably mythical “good ole days.”

Other comments are more colorful. “You’d better bolt that refrigerator to the ground or someone’s going to come along and take it,” from one 20-something man. A woman who’d been in the country for 15 years said, “You couldn’t do this in Romania, they’d cart away everything.”

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Here comes Peter Cotton Tail …

0321170831Maybe it’s a temporary phase. Maybe there are just boundaries we realize we can’t cross. But I haven’t been able to “process” the rabbits. Correction: I can’t kill rabbits. This puts a bit of a kink in my “learn how to live independently” journey.  Continue reading

Never a dull moment

One recent morning, I opened the back door to fill the dog’s food and water bowls, and to let the cat inside. Sam Cat is nearly always at the back door first thing, standing on hind legs to look through the upper glass window pane in the door. He uses the house as a short-cut, walking from back to front door, where he then eats his breakfast on the front stoop.

This particular morning, only Ursa, my Great Pyrenees dog, was on the deck and she was standing over the partial remains of an animal. I registered white and black fluffy fur and two severed hind legs laying in a bed of leaves. The other two-thirds of the creature was not immediately obvious.

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Fainthearted snake wrangling

There will come a time in your farmsteading adventure when you’ll encounter something you fear. For those of us with a natural dislike or even terror of snakes, this can put a real damper on the enthusiasm for farmsteadinInside view of snake caught in doorg activities.

I was reminded of this today as I tried to close my front door to shut out farm sounds in advance of a conference call.  When the door met resistance, I realized I’d inadvertently trapped a black snake. With the outer glass storm door closed, the snake had no place to go but inside if I released the main door. I had to dial into my call, so I anchored the door in place with an end table to keep the snake pinned while I came up with a plan.  Continue reading

Backyard grocery store

Eight years into this farm experiment and I’m still tickled by the idea that I can step outside my back door and walk the aisles of my own personal “grocery store.” I’m lousy at planning for dinner in advance and often find myself wandering the garden just as the sun is setting, looking for whatever’s “on special.” Tonight, broccoli and turnips won me over with their beautiful colors.

BroccoliThe broccoli gets a few minutes in the steamer, just long enough to tenderize, yet keep the deep green. Add a smidgen of butter and a sprinkle of kosher salt and it’s ready in no time.


The lovely purple top turnips are peeled, cut into chunks, thrown into a pot with just enough water to cover, and simmered until tender. I drain off the water, add a pat of butter and kosher salt, then use a potato masher. Add a little half and half or cream for richness. The finished product resembles mashed potatoes without the carbs. I think turnips are one of those vegetables you either grow up hating or, like me, don’t discover until you’re well into adulthood. I have to confess it was the beautiful artwork on the seed packet that first drew me in. I didn’t think I’d actually like to eat them, but what do you know? They’re not only pretty to look at, but the taste is pretty interesting.


Stuffed_freezer_fullPork arrived from the processor this morning—neatly wrapped packages with the farm’s name printed along with a USDA inspection sticker. A new 20.5 cubic foot freezer had looked like overkill until I stuffed it full of ham steaks, ribs, loin chops, roasts and sausage. This was my first year raising pigs. It looks like it was well worth the effort.

Cooked_sausageI immediately pan fried a package of the mild sausage and some of the mild Italian. Delizioso. This is what raising good food is all about. Happy, healthy pigs that foraged on green pastures, felt the warm sun on their backs, socialized with other pigs, and were never confined in crates. These pigs were fed with food from the farm: sweet potatoes, goat milk, duck eggs, whey from cheese making and produce from the garden, along with the food gifts brought by friends: leftover restaurant baked potatoes and “compost” vegetable scraps from Weaver Street Market.

Pork on the hoof

IMG_20150912_182153_823.jpgA couple of hours spent wrestling three little pigs up the hill and into the barn today in preparation for their trip to the processor tomorrow morning. Lunch and Dinner were mostly cooperative, easily coaxed with bowls of food to make the walk. But Breakfast, the biggest pig (and the most important meal of the day), suspected we were up to no good.

Three of us coaxed, cajoled and tried to maneuver him into our “walking crate,” a four-sided cattle panel “box” outfitted with a bowl of food. Breakfast bulldozed his way out of the box, leaving a “u” shape in the heavy gauge galvanized metal panel that sent one of our interns lunging for the truck bed.

Next  up: lassos. It looks so easy in old westerns. Just run up alongside the cow pig and sling that baby over his head. Except the pig ran for the mud pit and we all found ourselves losing boots in the muck. Apparently, the secret to lassoing pigs is to be fit enough that they tire out before you do. After a lot of wheezing and gasping, we managed to slip a harness around the pig. By now, he was as tired as we were and wasn’t budging. We eventually got him up the hill by tying the rope to the back of the truck and slowly inching along.

Later that day, a more seasoned farmer told me his secret for moving the pigs from the pasture. Two weeks before the processing date, he moves a livestock trailer into the pig pasture. At meal time, he throws food into the trailer and in they go. On processing day, it’s easy to close the door behind the pigs. Another lesson learned.