A Winged Elm Farm Scrapbook, With Soup!

What Your Well-shod Farmer Is Wearing

On the farm I wear my steel-capped wellingtons 80% of the time.

Daily footwear

Daily footwear

For muck, and high wet grass and sheer ease to put on they can’t be beat. When working in the woods or going for a walk to check on the cattle, I reach for my Timberland work boots. And for fine warm afternoons in the garden, Birkenstocks are ideal.

I Got Your Polar Vortex Soup, Right Here

During one of our single digit nights I fixed this Scotch broth. A perfectly simple soup made better by using the “odd bits”.

2lbs. lamb neck or soup bones

2 tbsp. barley

½ cup of finely chopped carrots, turnips, onions, leeks, celery and parsley

Use a large Dutch oven and fill with two quarts of water. Add meat and bring to a boil, skim off any scum. Add barley, salt and pepper. Reduce to simmer, partially covered for an hour.

Add veggies, partially cover. Cook for one more hour. Remove the meat and let cool. Separate the meat from the bones. Add meat to soup. Season and serve.

The wind is up, the brush pile is large, give me some matches

An elderly neighbor stepped out his back door two weeks ago on a fine wild fire 016blustery day and burned his brush pile, then burned a couple of acres of his in-laws. Then to keep the fun rolling his fire burned another few acres of an adjoining property before being stopped just shy of a house. Having been stymied in that direction it took off and burned six acres of our winter pastures before our volunteer fire department in South Roane County arrived and put out the fire.

Woodlot Management in the Anthropocene

The modern urban life has made a fetish of the idea of wilderness, a landscape untouched by human hand. It is a powerful image that has done much good in the past century by helping preserve from grasping industrialists some real gems of the natural world in the form of national parks.

But one might argue persuasively that the very act of setting aside some land to remain “untouched” albeit with interpretive nature centers, hygienic toilets, washrooms and campgrounds and state of the art asphalt roadbeds for scenic motoring, has led to greater exploitation of the non-wilderness world. After all, if we are preserving some beautiful national parks then the rest of the landscape is fair game.

This fetish is one that we all have internalized. I know for myself how powerful the allure of wilderness is in how I view Cindy’s and my farm. But the concept doesn’t hold up upon closer scrutiny. The human species has impacted life and terrain across the globe. The unflattering term ecologists now use for the current epoch is Anthropocene: a period in earth’s history when the impact of human existence shapes both the natural world and its climate.

All of this brings me to discuss our decision to begin working our woods as part of our productive use of our land. The current model for woodlot management is to strip it of every tree of even the remotest possible economic value every fifty to sixty years. Bring in heavy equipment, build roads to get the logs out and abandon the land to heal itself. We only have to walk to the back of our property to gaze out at that example, fifty acres of former forest, denuded into gullies getting deeper after every storm.

I have many old farming texts in my library that remind me that the idea of sustainably managing woodlots so that they are in continual production is not new. It makes sense and I understand the concept intellectually and practically. But we both wrestled with the idea of cutting any trees down for base commerce. There was a sense that to care for our land meant farming the open pasture areas, that the woods were somehow sacrosanct. Even though the woods have been logged, and not well, countless times.

The man must surely get tired of being referenced, but a recent article by Wendell Berry on sustainable logging had us rethinking our relationship to our woods. It inspired us to devise a template of sorts to allow us to harvest firewood and timber on a rotating basis. The template divides our woods in eight woodlots with a two-year harvest timeline.

This is all in the preliminary stages of execution. The next two years are a learning period. And there is a lot to decide on and discuss as we move forward. The practicalities of selecting cull trees and market trees, cutting bulk firewood, cutting and felling trees safely and without damaging other trees, removing the logs without scarring the land or removing topsoil, dividing the woods into woodlots, selling timber on the market or to farm customers are things I’ll try and address in a second post in the next couple of weeks.

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Reading this weekend: Garden Earth: from hunter and gatherer to global capitalism and thereafter by Gunnar Rundgren.

Farm Scrapbook: January

Farm Cast: Brian

Farm Cast: Brian

Farm Cast: Cindy

Farm Cast: Cindy

Farm equipment at rest

Farm equipment at rest

Where work gloves retire

Where work gloves retire

His days grow short

His days grow short

 

An attempt at a scrapbook of our life on the farm starts with a bit of a cheat. The pictures of Cindy and me are from last summer. The other three are from this weekend. Change is in the air, however. We are to reach a balmy 52 degrees today, snow tonight and a high of 12 degrees on Monday.

I’ll return to a regular post next week. The next scrapbook will be in February.

 

Final colors

Winter’s magic trick: pictures from four weeks ago and one from last week.

By the asparagus patch

By the asparagus patch

Covered with pollinators all season.

Covered with pollinators all season.

Outside the kitchen window.

Outside the kitchen window.

Purple cone flowers Zinnias

Located across the farm.

Located across the farm.

Butterlfy Bush

 

 Fall Color 005 

Small fish pond

 Is it too early to wish for spring?

 

 

 

A Winged Elm Farm Alphabet: “X”

X is for Xylocopa virginica

Sitting on the back stoop under the pergola lacing up my work boots and a cascade of sawdust drifts down over me. Looking up at the rafters, I spot a neat, symmetrical 3/8- inch hole. Similar holes are found throughout the barn and other outbuildings, all testament to the industry of the native pollinator the Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. A constant presence, the carpenter bee is busy across the farm, drilling holes to lay its eggs and raise its larvae.

The piles of sawdust are one indicator of its activity. Another is the high-pitched buzz emanating from a wooden post as I pound in a fence staple. Eventually the carpenter bee flies out to angrily confront the disturber of its domicile. But it virtually never stings and is a rather benign partner on our land, one whose work is admired and cascades of sawdust deplored

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Reading this weekend: Vintage Pellegrini: the collected wisdom of an American Buongustaio by Angelo Pellegrini (the author of the wonderful The Food Lover’s Garden)

A Winged Elm Farm Alphabet: “U”

U is for Udder

A last minute difficult lambing before guests arrive on the farm. We pull the still lamb from the ewe. Grabbing the back legs we swing it back and forth. It begins to breathe. A quick rubdown with straw and we push the big lamb to its mother. As a single it has both teats on a full udder to itself. It will do fine. We head out of the barn to greet our guests. We are gore spattered with afterbirth but satisfied we could help.

Whether two teats on a ewe or four teats on a cow an udder is nature’s delivery system giving health to newborns. A lamb or calf nursing an udder swollen with milk and life enhancing colostrum is your sign as a farmer that all is as it should be with your charges.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………Reading this weekend: The Humanure Handbook: a guide to composting human manure by Joseph Jenkins.

A Winged Elm Farm Alphabet: “T”

T is for Turnips

And what did you expect? Of course “T” is for turnips. In spring or fall a few rows of turnips feed the eye and feed the stomach. Your greens and root vegetables in a perfect package: a glorious green with a pretty tasty root crop. They yield 15,000 pounds per acre for the root and 3,500 pounds of greens. That is a lot of food for the table. Or simply till them in as a cover crop and you will have just put a significant amount of biomass into your soil.

On this farm we like our greens. We like them in a stir fry or in long simmers with smoked pork and new potatoes. We like the greens and turnips in our kimchee or cooking the roots with potatoes for a spicy mash. Turnips make the garden look good and this gardener feel good.

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Reading this weekend: A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. If, as a former boss once told me, you can predict the future by looking at the past, then “progress” doesn’t end very well.