The End

After four years of updating Legume Loyalist, it’s time to retire. For more recipes and stories of farm life, you can now follow me and my goats on my new blog www.goatsandhopes.com.



If you’re interested in my work on farm women, please see my farm women page and other work for more information.


Homemade Buttermilk and Buttermilk Biscuits

So what do you do with all that milk anyway? We’re just in the beginning stages of establishing our dairy here at the farm – our processing room is fully functional, but our milk machines lay dormant in the garage, the milk parlor just an outline on sketchbook paper. In the meantime, we’re all scrambling to use up the milk before it turns.

So what do you do with all that milk? You make buttermilk, a whole bunch of buttermilk. It’s incredibly easy: heat the milk to 86 degrees, stir in the culture, and let sit at 72 degrees for 12 to 24 hours.

With buttermilk you have a baker’s dream. Think buttermilk cookies, buttermilk scones, buttermilk muffins… And of course, buttermilk cake. 

This amazingly easy cake recipe is courtesy of the great Smitten Kitchen. It’s even simple enough to whip together after evening milking (think 11 PM, swollen hands, milky hair, etc.) and bake in our toaster oven, which is a true test of a recipe’s feasibility. Try substituting the raspberries for another of your favorite toppings like strawberries or chocolate chips.

Easily our favorite buttermilk recipe is Mark Bittman’s buttermilk biscuits. They’re perfect for greasy breakfast sandwiches, and yes, even sustainably-minded farmers eat fatty foods.

Buttermilk Biscuits from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 to 5 tbsp. cold butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk

Preparation

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or food processor. Cut the butter into bits and either pulse it in the food processor or, if you’re using a bowl, pick up the dry ingredients and rub them with the butter between your fingers and drop them again. All the butter should be thoroughly blended into the flour mixture before you proceed.
2. Pulse a couple of times or use a large spoon to stir in the buttermilk, just until the mixture forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 10 times, no more. If it is very sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick slightly to your hands.
3. Press the dough into a 3/4-inch thick rectangle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the biscuits are a beautiful golden brown. Serve within 15 minutes for them to be at their best.


Learning to Spin

The newest addition to our already cozy studio apartment: a handmade spinning wheel. Noah bought it off craigslist last weekend for an early birthday surprise. The woman warned us that it would need a few pieces – a peg to hold up the wheel, a belt – but we were confident we could easily replace any and all of the parts. Niether of us knowing anything about spinning, we were chuffed to have a gorgeous handmade wheel displayed in our apartment.

In calling around to local craft and fiber shops, I realized that spinning wheels are just about the most complicated luddite device to survive the digital revolution. Not only can I not find parts for the wheel, I’ll have to fashion most of them from scratch and adopt all of the available spinning info for my unique wheel. The first line of warning in my teach yourself to spin book? “Do not learn on a handmade wheel.” Awesome. The only indication as to the wheel’s origin is a carving on the underside of the body that reads “Licky ’79.”

Nonetheless, I certainly have plenty of raw materials: two of our farm companions happen to be a mother-daughter team of curious alpacas who are ready for their summer shearing.


62 Mail Order Chicks Later…

So, we’re raising 62 meat chickens.

After finishing up evening chores yesterday, I walked into our make-shift greenhouse (the room below our kitchen area where I’ve been nursing various seedlings) to find a whole new set of tender challenges. In a metal incubator set on the seeding table were 62 tiny chicks peeping and scuttling like 1st graders let out for recess after a week of rain. The owner purchased them online and they arrived during the day with only one chick DOA (a good turnout).

The chicks are Cornish crosses, so they’ll quickly lose that adorable yellow-fluff and transform into dirty white little monsters. Their legs will forever be too bulky for their bodies; their breasts will grow heavy and tip the pullets toward the ground. Cornish crosses are the meat industry standard: their modus operandi during their short lives is to eat – constantly and furiously – as they mature to processing weight within six to eight weeks. Past that? They die off by ten weeks.

Totally crazy, right? After working with both Heritage meat birds and some gorgeous layers, I’m a little apprehensive to work with these franken-chicks. Plus, this will be the first time I’m raising something solely for slaughter. I’ve been on most sides of the animal industry equation (distribution, retail, slaughterhouse, dairy), so I guess it’s about time that I take on the system as a whole.

{Beautiful and healthy layers, a far cry from a mature Cornish cross}

My newest venture notwithstanding, I’m definitely not eating meat anytime soon; I’m viewing these next eight weeks as an experiment in sustainable meat production. To begin, I picked up a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Until next time…


The Year of the Goat(s): Unemployed and Homeless in Washington

It’s been about one year since I donned my purple graduation cap and gown. At the time, I had no job prospects; my immediate post-grad plans were to travel to Europe for three weeks and deal with the realities of adulthood after a binge in the French and English countryside.

One year later, I’m living in an a-frame  studio apartment above a shed in Washington state; from our porch door I can see the summit of Mt. Rainier peeking above the tree line of the field across the street. I’m surrounded on all sides by goats, alpacas, hens, and cawing roosters.

Our set-up is not too bad. Of course this is only after a minor life crisis: a week and a half ago Noah and I were literally homeless and unemployed in a state unfamiliar to both of us. We drove all the way across the country with our belongings in tow to begin the second installment of our farm apprenticeship, only to experience something like anaphylactic shock at seeing the disarray that ruled our newest farm-stay. We lasted six days, the whole time cringing at the mal-treatment of the animals, the disgusting condition of the cheese room, and the complete battiness of the farmer. That’s what we get for taking an apprenticeship on blind trust. Early on a Saturday morning, we broke our six-month contract just in time (we were still within our week-long trial period), re-packed our car and headed to the nearest cafe to begin our research. Adrenaline pumping, we remained in a state of hazy disbelief until the following day. We camped that night in the Wenatchee National Forest (gorgeous), drinking beers by the fire and having minor existential frets. Both of us college educated, largely cordial and cooperative, and passionate. What the hell were we doing living out of our car in the middle of Washington state with no income and nowhere to call home?

What followed was a Jack Kerouac-esque adventure, with us sleeping every night in a new place, camping or motel stays. We spent our days surfing the ATTRA Internships and Apprenticeships and WWOOFUSA at cafes in random Washington towns, making phone calls, and visiting farms. Our friends and family all offered us the names and phone numbers of anyone they knew on this side of the country. We were determined, though, to make farming work. If all else failed, we were headed to Portland (I’m totally not kidding). In five days, we toured four farms and crossed the Cascades three times.

We ended our adventure here, at Left Foot Farm on the Western side of the state, only about an hour outside of Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. We’re charged with evening milking, chores, and feeding kids. We’re also gardening a quarter acre lot on the farm – we’re both super pumped to finally be getting our hands in some real dirt, but there’s a serious learning curve as the largest garden we’ve worked was our tiny porch in Brooklyn last summer. Nonetheless, we’re ready for the challenge. Pictures to come soon.

I’ve started reading Margaret Hathaway’s The Year of the Goat (given to me by the wonderful farmers at Willow Spring Ranch in Montana). It’s the story of a former Magnolia Barkery manager and her photo-editing boyfriend who leave their comfortable life in Brooklyn to travel the country for one year visting various goat farms and dairies. It’s refreshing to know that we’re not the only ones totally insane enough to leave behind our former selves, all in search of the perfect goat farm.


The Trip Begins

Once again, our car is packed with all we care to carry with us to our new home. Primarily work clothes, books and mix cds.

Our cross country route is above – we’ll be passing through the Hudson Valley, NY; Toledo, OH; Chicago, IL; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; the Badlands National Park, SD; Billings, MT; Yellowstone National Park, WY; Willow Spring Ranch, MT; Couer d’Alene National Forest, ID; and finally Omak, WA. We’ve refigured our route a few times as most of the mid-to-north west of the country is still snowed in! Apparently winter is still a thing in some places.

And we’re off! First stop, Toledo!


A Grand Change

It’s been almost 6 months since my last post, and in that time I’ve managed to quit my full-time job, buy a car, rent our Brooklyn apartment and pack our most necessary belongings into the trunk of our Subaru Outback. It was about time that Noah and I began realizing our dream of starting a farm: post-grad life in the city was making us restless. We said bittersweet goodbyes to all of our closest friends and moved our lives (temporarily) to the great state of Vermont where we begin our farmer training. Of course, we threw ourselves a bangin’ goodbye party in our gutted apartment for all of our friends. Balcony, keg, beer pong, good company, what more?

Our journey began here, interning at Consider Bardwell Farm during their busiest time of year: kidding season, when all of their 92 milking does give birth.



Sadly, our time in Vermont is already coming to an end. We’ve fallen head over Muck boots for this tiny village called West Pawlet and of course, the farm. We’ve met some pretty incredible folks during our time here, not the least of whom are the farmers. It’d be impossible to sum up all that we’ve learned in just a single post. Instead, I’ll offer a video of what fills our days:

Next up? Grand ol’ Washington state. Barring any more car trouble (check engine light blinked on yesterday), in four days, we’ll be packing up our lives once more and trekking it across the country where we’ll be interning at Pine Stump Farms. I’ll be posting a map of our route later this week; we have just 10 days to get ourselves across the continent!