21 September 2017

I Ain't Movin'

     It's that season again.  Last year's meat supply is dwindling, fall's hogs are fattening in the woods, and my task is to organize, defrost, and clean the deep freezers in preparation to receive the winter store.  There is already a supply of frozen applesauce, broccoli, tomatoes, and other delights to work around.  I don't at all mind the moving, shaking, and shifting; I love to organize and consolidate anything.  What I do mind is when the food does not want to be organized and consolidated.  When we freeze large amounts of something, we often spread the packages out among several different freezers so that everything can reliably freeze, then I come back later to put like and like together.  Something squishy, like a quart bag of applesauce (we froze a very large amount of this), has a little time to settle into its spot before it freezes solid.  While doing my first round of consolidating, what should I find but one such bag that had squeezed into the slot of a plastic freezer compartment, frozen stiff, and stuck tight?  There was no human way to get it out.  The other packages underneath were trapped, but in desperate need of moving.  With some coaxing and scolding, I managed to wedge and wiggle an item or two out from underneath the bag of applesauce.  That broke the stalemate and slowly, one by one, I fished the other packages out as well.  Of course the applesauce stayed there, suspended more that twelve inches above the bottom of the freezer, but by golly, I had rescued all its captive neighbors.  I guess when I defrost this one, we will have a thawed bag of applesauce to eat.  I won't complain about that.

All the winter fruit and vegetables (save one) in their proper
place and all together.  So there!

28 August 2017

A Lovely Summer Morning and A Bee Hive

          The weather this morning has been gorgeous and the work has been exciting.  After the animals were tended, I gathered up the bee jacket, the smoker, the hive tool, and a box of matches, and I headed to the bee hive.  I expected the bees to be irritable because conditions are dry this time of year, and they were.  I planned to calm them with smoke, but a stiff breeze made it difficult to light the smoker and keep it going. I went through the topmost one-and-a-half boxes of the hive, frame by frame, before withdrawing to relight the smoker and snack on a piece of honeycomb that broke out.  The bees were hopping mad, but everything looked good so far in the hive.  Then I went through the remaining one-and-a-half boxes, surrounded by quite a cloud of bees and with very little help from the smoker because of the wind.  As I was putting a box back on the hive, I realized that I had a bee in the hood of the jacket.  (I think this is where the saying "a bee in your bonnet" comes from.)  I shoved the box into position and ran to a safe distance to unfasten the veil.  The bee attacked, but didn't make it past my hair before I caught him.  I zipped the veil back up and went back to the hive.  After a few minutes more work, I felt a bee crawling up my neck.  I ran off again, stripped off the whole jacket, and checked it over thoroughly before I put it back on.  Once jacket and dignity were restored, I went to get an empty box to add to the hive, not realizing that red wasps had built a nest in the stack of extra bee boxes. When I pulled the box off the stack, red wasps exploded out of it. I'm so glad I still had that bee suit on! I escaped the wasps unscathed, added the empty box to the bee hive without further incident, and returned to the house with a little honeycomb, no bee or wasp stings, and the knowledge that our bees seem to be doing well.
A frame from the bee hive
          My next task will be to mow the grass under the electric fences.  I hope that goes smoothly, but at this rate, I'll likely cut the top off a yellow jacket nest.  Maybe I should mow in my bee suit. 

16 August 2017

Bringing in the Sheaves

     The only thing better for a farmer than breaking new ground is eating the fruit of it after many months of care.  The new ground that we broke in the spring is bearing abundant fruit in the form of summer vegetables.  Those beans, tomatoes, and squash that have been at our booth and on our table came from that new ground.  Soon there will be sweet potatoes and ginger, as well.  We are currently keeping the okra for ourselves.  After all of our tilling, planting, weeding, watching, waiting, and praying, Mr. Jones's old garden is yielding its first crop in decades; enough to feed us, to feed you, and to put by for the winter.  What a summer.


23 May 2017

Breaking New Ground

     There are few things more exciting and meaningful for a farmer than breaking ground; the thrill of taking a patch of fallow earth and making it into something it was not, the rich brown of the fresh-turned soil, and the hope of good crops to come.  This particular patch of earth is special to the Greene farmers.  Many decades ago, Sherman Weaver, my great-grandfather, lived in the house we live in now.  His neighbors, Mr. Vernon Jones and Mr. Hoyt Carrol, lived in the next two houses down.  These three men worked together every year to make their three spacious backyards into one big garden patch, sharing a little tractor that they parked under a shed at the edge of the woods.  Many people say that farming runs in certain peoples' blood; perhaps it runs in land, too.  All three men have long since passed away and their land had said goodbye to its farming days, but not forever.  We were able to carry on the farming legacy on Sherman Weaver's land, cultivating and expanding it into what into what it is today.  Last fall, we purchased what was Mr. Vernon Jones's house and land.  This spring, that farm land is waking up after many years of sleep under the grass.  We have broken the fallow ground and planted the first summer crop it has seen in a long time.  Before the summer is out, some of you may help us taste that crop.      

Mr. Jones's backyard in December, with the back of his house in the distance. 

The groundbreaking begins...

...and the field is prepared.

The view from the other end.  The little shed that housed the tractor
still stands; if you look closely, you can see it under the trees.

      Anne Marie Greene

28 March 2017

Friday Night Feasting

          It doesn't take much to make a fabulous meal in a short amount of time.  During breakfast on Friday morning, Caroline and I made plans for supper.  We decided to have Daddy grill pork chops (we did ask him first if he would) and serve crowder peas, apple sauce, and mushroom Marsala sauce with the chops.  Anne Marie got some of our own farm-raised pork chops and a bag of homemade apple sauce out of the freezer, and Momma and I got mushrooms and Marsala wine from the grocery.  About 5:00 pm, I came in from checking on a bee hive to fix supper.  Momma had already started the crowder peas boiling in beef broth left over from a beef roast the we had cooked earlier that week.
          I put the apple sauce on the stove to warm, then mixed up the Carraba's Grill Seasoning from our Carraba's cook book to put on the pork chops.  In the meantime, Caroline washed the mushrooms for me and the Dutch oven heated for the Marsala sauce.
The seasoned pork chops waiting to go on the grill
           I browned the mushrooms, then added chopped homemade bacon, chopped onion, homemade chicken broth, and Marsala wine.
Browning the mushrooms
Chopping up the bacon
The Marsala sauce all mixed up
          The sauce reduced (i.e. boiled off some liquid) until the pork chops came off the grill at about 6:15.  All that remained was to load up the plates...
Mushroom Marsala sauce
Steaming hot crowder peas
Hot apple sauce
Grilled Greene Family Farm pork chops
...and eat.
Crowder peas, apple sauce, and a pork chop topped with mushroom Marsala and parmesan cheese
It didn't stand a chance.

13 March 2017

Bone Broth: Part 2

     Over time, the collagen and minerals in bone broth work wonders for arthritic joints, leaky and irritable bowels, and your own bones; I and my family have witnessed those benefits first hand.  I drink a little with my breakfast every morning as a dietary supplement.  I warm about half a cup of broth in a small saucepan on the stove, pour it in a coffee mug, and dilute it with an equal amount of warm water (it is quite rich).  That extra dose of nutrition in the mornings has done me tremendous good over the last few years. 

     Bone broth can be used to add flavor and nutrients to many dishes.  We love to substitute broth for water when steaming greens or cooking rice.  It also works well in place of other liquids when braising vegetables.  Use the yellow fat that you skimmed off the top for sautéing; it has a lovely flavor.  

      Of course, bone broth's most common use is in soup.   It is still soup season, after all.  Once you have prepared your broth, the rest is a breeze.  Brown a chopped carrot, a chopped onion, and a few cloves of garlic in the bottom of a saucepan (be sure to use that yellow fat for this, as well); add some leftover chopped meat from a roast chicken or baked chicken legs and thighs; add equal parts of broth and water until the soup is as thick or as thin as you like; and simmer it all for 3 hours.    

      Happy cooking and remember: the Foothills Farmers Market will resume its regular season and be back in the Pavilion next month.  Opening day for the new season is April 1.  We look forward to seeing everyone.

     Anne Marie Greene  

06 March 2017

Bone Broth: Part 1

     On the farm, making bone broth is the equivalent of striking oil.  Broth is flavorful, thrifty, and extremely nutritious.  It is a very simple matter to make.

     Start with our $5.00 Stock Pack, which we sometimes call a Soup Kit.  It contains one chicken carcass, a few chicken necks, a few chicken feet, and a piece or two of chicken skin lined with fat.  

     Thaw the frozen stock pack overnight, place it in a stock pot, and cover the pieces with water.  Add a teaspoon of lemon juice, vinegar, or wine to the pot; the acid in any of these will help pull minerals out the bones.  In the picture you can see a very big pot with lots if pieces in it; we make large batches because the seven of us use it quickly.  Simmer the pot on low-medium heat for 6-8 hours and it will become broth.  

     Once the broth has cooled and the pot is no longer too hot to handle, pour the broth into quart jars (we use half gallon jars for our big batches) and store the jars of broth in the fridge for up to two weeks.  If you do not use it that quickly, pour it into 1 cup plastic containers and freeze it; it will keep indefinitely that way.  The broth will likely thicken as it chills, taking on a jelly-like consistency, and a layer of rich yellow fat will rise to the top; skim that off and save it.

     We will have Stock Packs (aka Soup Kits) with us on Saturday at the Foothills Farmer's Market.  Come get one, make some broth, and get some nutrition in you.  Don't forget that we will be in Newgrass Brewery in Shelby.

Next time, I will tell you about the many uses we have found for bone broth.

Anne Marie Greene