Nettle tea with fresh leaves

Steven had suggested I make nettle tea with fresh leaves, something I would've never thought of doing because I thought dried leaves worked best (how I came to this conclusion I don't know).

I picked a bag full of nettles at the farm, rinsed them thoroughly (there were aphids all over them because they grew amongst the lettuce), put 'em in my french press to steep for 30 minutes (I like it strong) then voila-- nutrient-rich, organic tea, all sourced locally!  It tasted like a mix of green tea, yerba mate, with a hint of wheatgrass.  I think next time I will add mint leaves.

My other batch of nettle is now all dried up and waiting to be made into an herbal infusion.  Will post an update.


Wholesome collard greens soup

So, one of the things I wanted to do with the creation of this blog was to start sharing recipes and writing about my forays into sustainable eating.  I've cooked many new recipes and have discovered vegetables/ingredients I've never heard of since turning vegetarian last year.  I've been harvesting many organic vegetables at the farm and always come home plenty in hand, sometimes overwhelmed with the amount that I end up taking home.  I also think,  "Now what do I do with all these vegetables?  I gotta cook and eat all of this before they start to wilt in a couple of days."  And some of the vegetables I take home I've never eaten in my life!  This pressing matter then drives me to search up recipes for these vegetables and, in the end, I end up creating some delicious meals and new favorites.

A vegetable that I don't eat often is collard greens.  When I think of collard greens, I think of soul food.  And also I think of how unappetizing in looks in soul food dishes.  When cooked it changes color to a lovely green to this.  It's a color and texture, that to me, induces gagging.  My distaste for the color, though, was completely overtaken by the fact that the lovely collard greens in my fridge would soon go sour if I didn't cook them soon.  So I searched up a recipe on VegWeb.com and found this recipe which I've adjusted to whatever I had in my pantry.  I added potatoes and cooked wild rice 30 minutes before it was done.

Here is the result:
Click here for recipe.


Learning to feed farm animals

I go to work soon and I am soooooooooo tired from the 6:30AM wake-up call today to feed ALL the animals at the farm.  That's right.  ALL the animals (petting zoo with a slew of goats & lambs, 7 cows, 4 horses + mini horse, 3 pigs, 2 chicken coops, geese & ducks, buck & ram).  I wish I could've fit in a nap between farming this morning and going to work in the afternoon, but alas here I am updating this blog.  I'm also wired a bit from caffeine to sustain me through work tonight.

I was taught the feeding schedule today, and it is labor intensive and takes a lot of memorization.  It took about two hours (a task which normally takes one hour) because some things came up in the middle that Farmer Randy had to deal with while training me.  In addition to feeding and knowing the measurements of food that goes with each animal, I learned how to drive a tractor which has a manual transmission.  It's funny that I am finally learning to drive manually not on a car, but on a tractor.  I also learned how to handle hay bales (it is exhausting but makes you feel like a champ after).  I do it all over again tomorrow morning.  Now, uh, if I could just remember which name goes with which animal... Hopefully by then, I'll have memorized the majority of the feeding schedule and know the animals better.  Can't wait.

Feeding schedule board 1

Feeding schedule board 2


Industrialism and Agrarianism Contrasted

I got a handout along with last quarter's CSA share detailing the contrast between industrialism and agrarianism that I found to be quite informative and also gave me a stark reminder of how unfulfilling industrialism has made our lives to be.  I have this on my fridge and it inspires me everyday to live life simply.   This was taken from Wendell Berry's sociological imagination: Agrarian values and good leadership in a postmodern culture.  I have a pdf file of the exact handout here, but I'll type out the ones that struck a chord with me.

Industrialism: Physical labor is neither good nor enjoyable 
Agrarianism: Physical labor is good and can be a pleasure


Industrialism: Limitless opportunities/resources; expansionism ("More!")
Agrarianism: Recognition of limits; restraint ("Enough.")


Industrialism: Economic dependence on corporations
Agrarianism: Economic independence; sustainability


Industrialism: Free time for "leisure" and consumption
Agrarianism: Rest time for community and nourishment


Industrialism: Success
Agrarianism: Contentment/Stewardship


Industrialism: Fast-paced life
Agrarianism: Life based on rhythms


Industrialism: Utility
Agrarianism: Beauty


Industrialism: Virtuality
Agrarianism: Place

Wendell Berry says one need not be a farmer or live in a rural area to be an agrarian; whether you live in the city or country, anyone can be an agrarian in the sense that they live accordingly to agrarian principles--to live life in balance with the rhythms of nature and also through agricultural pursuits that will lead to fulfillment and a healthier, sustainable way of life.  I live each day with these simple principles in mind. 

Turkey slaughter

Last Saturday there was a turkey slaughter at the farm.  I was excited when Randy (farm manager) invited me to be a part of it.  I had never done anything like it before... aside from being witness to many chicken slaughters at my grandma's homestead as a young child.  I was excited yet somewhat grossed out for what was to come.

There were five turkeys that were slaughtered.  Or was it four?  I don't know. Either way, the turkeys that were slaughtered were huge (one ended up being 32 lbs after processing)!  It was an 8AM slaughter and by the time I got to the farm, Farmer David was in the middle of transferring one of the turkeys from coop to the slaughtering station.  The goats and lambs were making a lot of noise as we passed by turkey in hand... I think they sensed the ill-fated end to the turkey's life.

The slaughtering station was set up in three parts:  slaughter--dunk&pluck--gutting and final processing.  Slaughtering of poultry is usually done with a cone where the poultry is put in head first and then their throats are slit to get most of their blood out.  The cone works well because it contains the brunt of the thrashing that occurs after the poultry realizes... that, well, it's dying.  Anyways, we didn't have a cone so we resorted to using a rope with an adjustable grip hitch knot.  In lieu of the cone, someone had to hold the turkey in place when the thrashing occured.  It is ideal for two people to do poultry slaughters so one can do the killing and the other handling.  So, the slaughtering process went like this:

Hang the turkey by its feet and slit its throat quickly across the neck making sure to aim for the jugular vein and trachea.  Completely sever the head after blood is drained.

Hanging turkey

Then, transfer to second part of station - dunk the turkey's body in a large pot of boiling water (145 degrees F) for about 45 seconds.

Boiling water dunk

Transfer to table and start plucking the feathers expeditiously.  It is best to pluck the feathers as soon after it is hot from dunking because as it cools the skin constricts and makes it harder to pluck the feathers out.  Also, I learned from my mistake that you have to be firm and careful with plucking because you can pluck the skin off with the feathers at times.  Farmer David used pliers to remove the feathers on the wings as they were the hardest to pluck.


After plucking, gut it.  Give it a horizontal cesarean cut on the stomach and cut around the anus.  Then reach into the cavity and remove all organs.  I was surprised to see some developing eggs in one of the turkey's guts.  I was fascinated but also grossed out.  Also, cut the legs off.  Scion (David's daughter) fed the liver to one of the many cats roaming around the farm, which I thought was funny.

All done plucking, ready to be gutted.

Farmer David gutting

Finally, the turkey is given a final rinse and put in an ice bath before packing it up.

All done gutted. Huge turkey! 32 lbs!

Ice-water bath

It's funny to think that I was a part of this because I'm vegetarian.  However, I believe the slaughtering of animals is just as vital a skill as growing vegetables on a farm.  Industrial farming and modern food practices have made people so removed from the life and death cycle of their food, particularly meat.  People who eat factory-farmed meat do not know the history of the animal they're eating, and thus have no meaningful connection to their food.  (I turned to a vegetarian diet because of this; I didn't want to be part of a system that produced unsustainable and unethical meat.)  Some don't want to even think about how their meat was slaughtered (or even are indifferent to how it was raised).  There is a quote by John Robbins that, I believe, sums up the meat industry's agenda:
Awareness is bad for the meat business. Conscience is bad for the meat business. Sensitivity to life is bad for the meat business. DENIAL, however, the meat business finds indispensable.  
By being a part of this slaughtering process, I was going back to the roots of knowing where my food comes from.  It was a learning experience that helped me put the whole farming experience in perspective and also gave me knowledge that I can use for future slaughters.


Nettle not in my kettle

mentally depleted for two weeks now.  i'm not sure what the root cause is, but i think it's just bad energy emanating from a broken heart.  i'm not sure if i lost a potential earthmate, or if he just wasn't one at all.  i'm trying to get my mind to lean towards the latter.  i am trying to meditate to clear my mind and get some mental renewal but it's hard.  i wake up and immediately have the need to be at the farm and do work.  it's great for the body and mind anyways; it gets my mind off things.  also, i have to mention that i've been feeling very antsy lately.  my mind is going haywire. 

so, herb drying update: not going so well.  in my haste to want to create an herbal infusion, i've dried the nettles wrong. that is, i dried them with soil still attached to the roots. as a result, the soil drys along with the dried herbs and gets into the nooks and crannies of the leaves.  then, you have no choice but to rinse them while risking the dried herbs cracking and falling apart from the weight of the water.  anyways, i'm going to re-pick the nettles tomorrow (this time without the roots) and re-dry them.  hopefully, second time's the charm.  also, instead of laying them down flat to dry, i'm going to hang them upside down.  again, i wish i'd rather just do all this in a dehydrator, but i'll have to make do with what i have for now.

some things that have been going on lately that i haven't had the energy to write about (yet):

there are about five days until spring classes start, so i have to be diligent with my time and projects!!



p.s.  today marks a year since i've turned vegetarian! here is to health and sustainable eating!


Nettle Infusion

I'm in the process of collecting stinging nettle so that I can dry it and eventually make some herbal infusions to drink as tea.  I'm not sure how long it'll take to dry it since this is my first time, but I'm guessing about a week.  There is so much stinging nettle growing in abundance at the farm I volunteer at.  Because of this, I've decided that the stinging nettle would be my herb of choice to start experimenting with for infusions.  I wish I had a dehydrator for drying the nettle.  It lessens the drying time to just a couple of hours!  I also learned that you can eat nettle raw (stinging hairs and all) if you are gutsy enough to pick it off the stem using a special technique (you carefully fold it like a taco from the underside while pulling it off the stem).  Anyways, I'll update on how my nettle ends up drying (hopefully with success, fingers crossed).

Photo by The Kitchen Gardener

To make an herbal infusion, you basically dry the leaves of your herb of choice, then measure out 1 ounce dried leaves to 1 quart hot water.  You then let it steep for a minimum of 4 hours (or longer) preferably in a pint size glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (mason jars work wonders for this).  After the allotted time to steep, strain out the leaves from the water and you got yourself some nutrient rich tea!  Best with honey or salt to avoid bitterness.  You can get more info on how to make herbal infusions from herbalist, Susan Weed, here.