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Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Daisy and Zingo Closeup

Zingo, left, and Daisy, sensing some snacks headed their way

(Continued from Part 1.  When last we met, my ex-boyfriend had just decided to breed his pair of Salers-Limousin cross cows.)

From the start of the plan to breed Daisy and Zingo, everything that had gone so perfectly—so stereotypically—so far got turned on its head.  Now everything that had been easy was nearly impossible.  Cow intercourse turned out to be beyond the calves.  When Charlie the bull showed up and trundled off his trailer, Zingo, apparently feeling threatened again, charged him and then tried to mount him.  Charlie hung around for a few days with his unwelcoming pasture-mates, and then, evidently sensing that nothing fun was in the offing on John’s place, deciding one evening to go walkabout.  He literally walked through chest-high pagewire fencing, onto the next property, and off into the sunset. (more…)

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Daisy on the left and Zingo on the right, looking protective

Daisy on the left; Zingo on the right, looking protective

Much of why I became so interested in the environment—maybe more than half of the reason—was the six years I spent dating a Canadian who had five acres and a yen for homesteading.  John had read an enormous amount about permaculture, peak oil, going back-to-the-land, country living, and on and on.  More than that, he was raised in a rural part of Canada in the 50s, and he grew up with a rake in one hand and a shovel in the other.  He was a natural and skilled gardener, and he had a great touch with animals.  He deserves his own blog post, at the very least, and I hope to tell a little more about what I learned from spending weeks and weeks outside of Kingston, Ontario, in his fine company. (more…)

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My mother and I just got back from a trip to Kansas and Missouri, where my parents grew up.  We were visiting my 94-and-a-half year old grandmother and staying with my aunt and uncle—my mom’s little brother and his wife.  It was a great trip in terms of family—my grandmother was warm and loving, even though she’s in a nursing home with round-the-clock care, and the rest of my mother’s family was as hilarious as usual.  We had a nice lunch with my aunt Mary’s brother and his wife and told stories.  We saw an old friend of my mom’s from college and got to go to my second cousin’s first birthday and to meet another cousin’s new girlfriend.  All the human parts of it were pretty wonderful. (more…)

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Detail, "Still Life With Cheese", van DijckAs I mentioned in an earlier entry, I’ve been working one day a week at a dairy on the Eastern shore of Maryland.  I’ve had some experience with rural living, and I’ve definitely been interested in food for many years, but before working at Chapel’s Country Creamery, I hadn’t had a glimpse of what it takes to make food for a commercial market.  (Selling a bucket of rhubarb to a pie-making neighbor doesn’t really count as “commercial”.)

It’s both easier and harder than I would have guessed to produce cheese on a small, artisanal scale.  Making cheese is certainly complicated, and if I had to figure it out without the benefit of owner Holly Foster and the other women who work in her dairy, I’d be lost.  But the steps we take aren’t difficult.  In terms of what we’re physically doing, making cheese is about as hard as making biscuits.  You need to put in the right ingredients—culture and rennet in the case of cheese—in the right order at the right time.  You need to stir the curds and whey properly, not too much and not too little.  You’ve got to pour the curds in the molds, flip them when you’re supposed to, and put them into a cave with the right humidity and temperature.  It requires care, but it’s not rocket science. (more…)

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For the last month, I’ve been volunteering once a week at a dairy farm–Chapel’s Country Creamery, in Easton, MD.  The experience has been absolutely terrific in so many ways.  The owner, Holly Foster, is a lovely person and so eager to share her knowledge, as are the other women who work with her.  And it’s fascinating to have a window into rural life, with 4H fairs and pet goats and Bambi-eyed calves.

There’s lots to say about the creamery work, but today I just want to write about the farmers’ market I helped out at on Saturday.  Working at the creamery is pretty tiring–we’re on our feet for six straight hours with just a couple of short breaks.  The market felt more like play.  I have a friend who owns a wine bar in Baltimore, and once during a tasting he told me that serving folks wine was the best people watching ever.  This weekend I understood what he meant. (more…)

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