Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why does grass-fed cost more?

I can't even tell you how many times I've gotten variants of this question. "Why shouldn't I just go to Sam's Club and I can buy a hundred pounds of all steaks for cheaper than I can buy lower grade cuts from you?" First of all, if you ask me that question, go to Sam's Club. Second, I'm not sure what lower grade means. The best part about a quarter of beef is the variety. The STC and I have done amazing things with cube steak, sirloin, and chunks labeled "Lunch" out of the steer we processed at home because he would have run through the front of the trailer leaving an outline like a Looney Tunes character had we tried loading him for the butcher. So this article struck really close to home for me, and while I haven't run the operating cost for our farm, they don't sound that outrageous.

Why I Can't Raise a $1 Cheeseburger

From WikiCommons

Friday, June 28, 2013

She's a Lady

Old McDonald Might Be A Lady: More Women Take Up Farming

Amazingly, my dad thought this statistic was awesome and seemed genuinely affronted that  after all the work my grandmother did, going gungho beside my grandpa all those years, wasn't counted as a farmer. Gram, for her part, just smiled and looked vaguely amused.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

One True Ingredient: Busy

Half a leftover seared sirloin steak, one zucchini, a cup of leftover sweet potato succotash, a bell pepper, and a caramelized onion. Add some garlic powder, salt and pepper, cook on medium high with olive oil. A summery shandy beer or sweet wine goes pretty well with this, to unwind at the end of the day.

That's this week  food story from a part-time single mom. Doesn't take much to eat well, but holy shit is it hard some nights. Luckily, this wasn't one of them. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The "Natural" McMuffin and Other Stories

Getting Real: Fast Food Companies Give Their Products the “Natural” Look

From Wikipedia

I'm not going to say this sounds a little shady, but the best marketing does like to hang out under the ol' willow tree, if you catch my meaning.
From Newsone

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's in a name? That by which we call a burrito by any other name would still taste damn good

Not Local Food, And Not Afraid To Say It

What's in a burrito is less important in this article than where did it come from, how was it raised, and how far should food travel?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Farm Free or Die!

Okay, so I just really like this title. But the article brings up some important issues that small farmers face as well. Brings to mind the old adage to mind about milk your cow and keep your teeth together. Also, "just keep shoveling" seems appropriate.

Farm Free Or Die! Maine Towns Rebel Against Food Rules by Maria Godoy

*And I made up the adage about the cow and teeth.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ingredient: Beef

 Grass-finished Beef is Taking Off

Since we grilled out on Sunday, the taste of fresh steak of the grill just makes my mouth water while reading this.

Where corn is king, a new regard for grass fed beef
 In the four years since he settled here, Prescott Frost has found himself set apart more than most. In a state where corn is king, he is on a quest to breed a better cow for the grass-fed beef industry — one that can thrive without chemical pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and, the clincher, grain — and to market his own brand of artisanal meat.

If you are what you eat, we need to pay attention
 Healthy soils, healthier food, healthier environment, healthier people.
‘Happy cows:’ do they produce healthier meat? The question in essence is, are pasture-raised cows indeed “happier” than their counterparts, and does this make a difference in the quality of meat? One can’t read a cow’s mind, of course, but common sense would tell us that an animal’s quality of life when roaming freely is superior to one which is confined and it is happiest in its native environment. It seems to be true that pasture-fed cows lead low-stress lives and thus there is less of a need to treat them with antibiotics and other drugs for disease control.

The girls. Whole herd shot.
Click to enlarge.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ingredient: Eggs

The Benefits of Farm Fresh Eggs - Is there really a difference? 
 Store bought versus farm eggs? I'm biased and proud.

Eggs and Labels
Confused about free range versus natural versus cage free? Hopefully this helps.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Save the Soil, Save the Planet

Holistic management? Soil is alive? Rotational intensive grazing? Whaaaat?! Craziness. Cows may cause methane, but they can also save the planet. I'm going to make Dad listen to this the next time he bitches about my cows lol.

'Cows Save The Planet': Soil's Secrets For Saving The Earth

Cows Save the Planet

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One True Ingredient: Family

This week’s food story is a little old-fashioned.

Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house have always been an important tradition in our family. We don’t make it every Sunday, but holidays and birthdays are usually a must, as are any random Sundays someone feels like making the effort to wrangle the troops and inform the others what they’re cooking. It’s a good way to connect at the end of the week, touch base with one another face to face, and have a meal together as a family.

Research has long promoted the benefits of family meals, even just once a week. They help reestablish bonds and help children feel more grounded, because mealtimes are storytimes. Our family is no different.

Some of my earliest memories are of eating at my grandma’s house, listening to my grandpa tell stories. He was a great story teller. I wish I could remember more of them. They were mostly family stories, something that happened to his dad or granddad, or farm stories, something the horse did that made him laugh or throw his hat on the ground and stomp on it in fury (the man had a temper but generally got over it quickly. And I wonder where my son gets it.) There was always a lot of laughing, a lot of food, and a couple bottles of beer. Living through the Depression made both of my grandparents appreciate a loaded table. They definitely passed that habit down to the rest of us. When my aunt and uncle visit there’s a running joke about that one time we almost ran out of something (this of course has never come close to happening).

Family dinner is supposed to be fun, a low-key time to relax with each other and spend time with each other. I didn’t appreciate the time when I was younger, before my grandpa died. I’m not sure any teenager can. No one ever forced me to go to supper, but somehow implicitly I knew that I would cause other people great hurt if I blew it off to go out with friends, or to stay in my room. Shame is a great motivator.

My favorite part has always been the stories. As we dish food onto our plates, my dad and grandpa were always the great storytellers. The act of sharing a meal, sharing a story, brings people together and reminds them that this is family, not all the bullshit that might go on away from the table, but right here, right now, the people you break bread with, share a scoop of food from the same pot with, these are the people who’ve got your back. And it reminds you, hey, I like this person, I’ve got their back too.

This concept of food sharing goes back to our ape roots. Primates use food sharing as a way to reinforce social bonds, between parent and offspring, between grooming partners, or even strangers. It’s a way of trading food for support, whatever kind of support that may be. And, science argues, that while giving away food shouldn’t help the individual survive, in the end it does because everybody needs support sometimes. Or more probably because they wanted to have sex with their dinner partner, but that’s another post.

Sunday dinner is also about history. It’s important to know where you came from. My STC and I both have a strong sense of family. When we named our twins, we looked to the archive of family names for inspiration. It was important our kids understand their history and be tied to it in a tangible way. And at Sunday dinner I’m sure the Offspring will have a chance to learn about the men he was named after. He probably won’t appreciate it at first; it’s easy to take family for granted. But when he gets older, and has those roots, and understands the kind of people he came from, my hope is that it’ll give him something to help ground him. My grandpa’s been gone fourteen years and gram, dad and I still think, well what would grandpa do? What decision would he want us to make? What would great-grandpa (who I never met but my dad spent extensive time with) think or say?

Having my grandmother right across the road has been a vital resource. She might be ninety, but she’s got more of her shit together than a person half her age. And though she’s slowing down, she can still babysit the Offspring for a couple hours her and there, and more importantly she’s there for support and to listen. With a new baby, a farm, a writing career, a job with USPS, and a STC in the military, there are a lot of challenges, and my grandmother has been around it all. So when I feel overwhelmed and sad she’s there to commiserate, empathize, and offer no wisdom, but a comforting “I been there, honey, it’ll work out.” Don’t ask me why that helps, but maybe it’s knowing how happy she and my grandpa were together and that they faced some of the same issues, jobs, a farm, babies, the military, loss. It wouldn’t be the same coming from someone closer to my age, but because gram is so far on the other side of it, it’s a comfort to have a visual that yes, this too shall pass.

That’s the importance of family dinner.


You might be asking where the food is in this food story. And when I started, I fully had the intention of describing the vegetables, the grilled sirloin, and how my son is mad for anything green: asparagus, spinach dip, squash, and key lime pie, but realized that part of this food story isn’t about the food. The food is a means to the end. It sounds corny, but this food story is really all about family.
Click to enlarge

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Horrific Truth About Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide

The Horrific Truth About Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide

Grain of salt with this guy, cuz salt goes with everything.

File:8103 Liquid Terragator.JPG
From: WikiCommons

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

9 Foods You Should Never Attempt to Eat

9 Foods You Should Never Attempt to Eat

And I just went off breakfast... :(

From: WikiCommons

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are Canned Peaches Just as Nutritious as Fresh?

Are Canned Peaches Just as Nutritious as Fresh?

From: WikiCommons

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Feeding the World

While I'm a perennial fan of sustainable agriculture, one of the major considerations with it is how do you feed people on a global scale with smaller sustainable farms? Industrial ag has its problems but it can feed mass amounts of humanity. The final product and environmental effects might be suspect, but it seems both methods could learn something from one another. Anyway, more thought-provoking information on food.

How do you feed nine billion people?

Feeding the World While Protecting the Planet

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Spring Chicken

This opinion piece caught my attention. End sums up why we raise chickens pretty well. Even with the unsustainable price of feed.

And more chicken! Celebrate the alternatives to industrially processed meat By Julianne Glatz

File:Grilled chickens.jpg
From WikiCommons

Friday, June 14, 2013

What to Eat?

Confused on what to eat organic and grass fed? Don't worry. I got your back. Someday I might even take my own advice.

Secrets of the Superhuman Food Pyramid: Benefits of Grass-fed Beef, Bison, Buffalo or Lamb
by BenGreenfield

File:Image of freshly prepared chateaubriand steak in the traditional style.jpg
From WikiCommons

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Healing Ginger

Food isn't just fuel, isn't just a diet challenge. Food can comfort us, nurture us, heal us. It's what the ancients knew, it's what animals know (think of the dog eating grass for an upset stomach, nasty but effective) and we're starting to rediscover it now that ideas about food are starting to swing back from "boxed is best" attitude from the 1950s onward. And really, when you think about it, that a food can do all this, instead of a pill, is pretty f'in' cool.

10 Healing Benefits of Ginger

From WikiCommons

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If I Was a Guy... I'd 'Like' the View out the Kitchen Window on Facebook from the Bed

Ernest Hemingway wrote to begin writing, start with one true sentence. I add that to start cooking, or eating, start with one true ingredient. And the truest ingredient on Barclay Farms?


I woke early on Saturday and went to writing while the STC and Dairy Low-Tolerant Offspring still slept. I work Saturdays, but don’t go in until eight. It starts getting light out shortly after five, so when I came out of the Dungeon… err… sorry honey, the laundry room… err whoops, I mean, my office, the sky was just turning pink and the mist lay low across the field. The cattle are on our side of the road now, so we wake up to them in the side yard, or laying down by the pond.

It’s quite a horrible way to go.

So I look outside and there’s this impossibly beautiful, almost heartbreaking view of the sky, clouds, water, and cattle. I couldn’t convince the STC to stop cuddling the Offspring long enough to come look, but he did like the picture I posted to Facebook. From his phone. From the bed. Five seconds after I posted it.

Anyone else notice the irony here?

Oh well. It’s a good thing he’s cute. And makes a mean batch of smothered onions.

Speaking of which, my random creation of the week involved a 9x13 pan and a bunch of vegetables. Being too lazy to dirty another bowl in the five or ten minutes I had to prepare dinner after the Offspring cried himself into a temporary coma, I chopped a sweet potato, two smallish onions, one russet potato, and three enormous carrots into the pan, coated them with olive oil, and added eyeballed amounts of salt, pepper, fresh chopped cilantro, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and garlic powder. This bakes at 425-450 degrees, stir every fifteen minutes or so, more if it seems to be sticking. Oh, and I added the half can or so of home canned tomatoes we didn’t use from a recipe last week. That was a nice flavor as well. Anyway, that roasts at least an hour, if not an hour and a half. I eyeball it and go until the vegetables reduce and start to char a little around the edges. The last few minutes I like to stir it all around under the broiler, which is low broil on our stove, but might have to adjust for yours. It’s a super easy dish, all you do is chop, stir, roast, and it’s very healthy and great as leftovers. The only thing I miss about it is meat, but when the cows are so beautiful, it’s hard to want to eat them.

Until they run you up over a gate or slam your hand between the chute and their foot.

Then it’s open season.
Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Respect Your Big Mac

This article reminded me, and I hope it reminds you, that in the grass v. grain debate, the thing we really should keep foremost in mind is animal health and happiness. I won't go so far as to say feedlot cattle are abused. They just do not have near the quality of life that an animal raised on grass does. We need to remember that the steak or the chicken sandwich we put in our mouths used to be a living, breathing creature with emotions and connections to other animals. We need to remember to respect that.

Wapato ranchers dedicated to health benefits of organic beef 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review

So this has nothing to do with food or anything food related, unless you count the 'srooms mentioned in the story. But as this is "Farm and Lit" (emphasis on the AND), here's a review I did for Reader Spoils on

Vogel House by John Forrester


As this article explains, grass-fed beef is leaner so it cooks differently than grain fed. Here's some recipes, as well as things to think about when cooking with grass-fed beef. Enjoy!

Lean meat requires lower cooking temperature 
By Savannah Tranchell Yakima Herald-Republic

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lady Farmer

This is just an awesome, awesome article. Really inspiring.

Hannah Breckbill [farms] “to work in something real and be the change I want to see happen in this world.”

With women accounting for 30% of U.S. farmers, there's a shift in agriculture. Be interesting to follow this trend of women and the move toward sustainable agriculture.

Breaking the grass ceiling: On U.S. farms, women are taking the reins By Lori Rotenberk

From: WikiCommons File:Old farmer woman.JPG

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Grass, It's Not Just for Antelope Anymore (3.5 Million Years Ago)

The anthro student in me loved this article, as did the grass-farmer and the comedian. How often do those interests all line up? While we're harvesting grass from our lawns, let's graze livestock in the unused median on freeways. Just need some incredibly sturdy fence. Enjoy!

Grass: It's What's For Dinner (3.5 Million Years Ago) by Chris Joyce

File:Anna Panorama.jpg
From: WikiCommons

Friday, June 7, 2013

Michigan Tart Cherry Revival

More Michigan News: After last year's wacky weather, the importance of crop diversity becomes more important than ever. Check out these cherry stories to see.

Inside A Tart Cherry Revival: 'Somebody Needs To Do This!'

A Hungarian Cherry Tree's Long Trek To Michigan

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On GM Crops from TIME Magazine

This is the most balanced view I've seen of the GM debate so far. Makes a very good point at the end about how GM and traditional plants and methods of intense and sustainable farming practices need  to co-exist.

Modifying the Endless Debate Over Genetically Modified Crops

Read more:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Garfield Monday, Food Story (in which I am attacked by a turkey), and Book Rant

(Apologies in advance for the downer nature of this post, but this was one of those days. All attempts at humor have been scrupulously maintained and enhanced to maximize your amusement at this blogger's expense. Thank you.)



Some days are just bad. Some books are just stale. Some meals just don’t turn out quite the way you think they should. Sometimes no matter how good your intentions, things are just a go to hell. On a Monday. When you have half a field of hay cut and the mower breaks. And there’s rain in the forecast. And the baby won’t stop crying. And a ewe is lambing. And you’re out of coffee and chocolate. And your book sucks. And you’re walking in the rain after your boyfriend kicked you out. On your period. Without tampons.


Ok, so maybe Monday wasn’t that bad. (The tampon thing for instance. Stories like that are why I love working at the post office. Someone is always having a worse day than I am.) But by the end of the day I did lay in my STC’s lap, curled up in a fetal position, letting him rock me while we watched Brain Games. It was less a day that everything went wrong, and more one where nothing went right. The baby was restless and wouldn’t stop fussing, I was exhausted and there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to put me to rights. And Dad did break down, to the point that we’re going shopping for a new mower conditioner today. Of course, our old one had cut hay through military conflicts in Vietnam, Egypt, Somalia, Granada, the Persian Gulf, Libya, Desert Storm, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so maybe it’s time to retire the cranky old bitch.

We did find the missing Cowardly Dog, who’d run off over the weekend and managed to get himself picked up by a good Samaritan, who almost hit Cowardly Dog in the middle of the night. Cowardly Dog being cowardly like he is, someone opens a truck door and he jumps inside. Cowardly Dog made himself right to home at the Samaritan’s,  and seemed in no desperate state to come home. He probably got more attention at his weekend retreat than he does at home, and with a swamp right next to the house, Cowardly Dog was in heaven.
Heeler dogs.


I’d had great plans for dinner, had a recipe and everything, planned on actually cooking for the STC, instead of him cooking for me, as per usual. But like everything, it went awry. Not bad, just not right. The recipe I began with (get it here) called for New York Strips. I substituted loin. In a pan, grill each steak (or steak substitute) 2-3 minutes per side (or if you like your meat more done, go a little longer. Trust me. Meat will be just medium rare at 2-3 minutes). Remove meat from stove top and let rest in a marinade. We tweaked the marinade as well, by using a 9x13 pan and layering the bottom with a generous amount of cracked red pepper, salt and pepper (be generous with the salt, especially if you go with rice at the end), fresh chopped cilantro, olive oil and basalmic vinegar. Let steak rest 2-3 minutes per side in the marinade, then remove to cutting board and slice into strips. (Go with bite size strips. Again, trust me.)  After all the steak rested, we layered home-canned tomatoes on top of the marinade and added the steak drippings from the pan for flavor. Our meat is really thin, so fat isn’t much of an issue. Layer in the steak strips in the 9x13 with the marinade and tomatoes and cook under broiler for a few minutes until all is heated through and steak is desired level of doneness. (Use your own discretion here. I don’t mind my steak a little purple, so long as it’s warm through. STC likes a little less moo to his meat. So it’s up to you.) We served it all up with seared asparagus and bread. If we did this recipe again, we’d add brown rice, after its cooked about 40 minutes, then mix it in and let it finish cooking with the meat and tomatoes under the broiler. We were a little heavy on the spice, but thought brown rice would level it out. So while the meal was good, it certainly wasn’t what I started out trying to make.


We ate and it was getting dark, so I drove across to shut poultry in. They were all in except for the tom turkey. He and I had an, erm, altercation, so to speak and, well, let’s just say I can’t decide if I’m more upset over losing to a turkey or that he wasn’t eaten by coyotes on his night out of the coop.
(It was after this that found me curled on the STC’s lap.)

Despite barely surviving Frustration By Turkey, what really rounded out the day was since I had fiction off my desk and no book reviews pending, I had a chance to “free read,” as they called it when I was in school, meaning read what you want, baby slapping you in the face optional. It seemed like every book I touched, even one by an author I like, was just bad. Whoever puts a steak (wood, not beef) through the heart of the book idea “wise-ass sarcastic hero/ine inherits mystical powers that s/he doesn’t understand but everybody and their tom turkey does, then hero/ine becomes embroiled in magical shenanigans while trying to save the world/ master their powers/ solve a murder” gets a big kiss from me. It’s gotten ridiculous. Like Shaun of the Dead ridiculous. Some really solid writing advice I read the other day from Remittance Girl was that if your characters don’t want to have sex, making them have sex is akin to literary rape. Too often in books like these, the character just wants a stiff drink and a hot shower. Running them hither and yon, battling ancient forces, with old contacts stuck to their eyeballs just feels like literary abuse. Even Buffy liked saving the world from apocalypse at one point or another. There’s no joy in these stories, just formulaic banter that too often feels forced and miserable. If these characters hate life so much, what the f*&% do they fight for? At least give them a motivation, like they want to get that macaroni necklace from their incarcerated lesbian girlfriend who calls the girls from “Fora good time, call…” (Good movie, by the way.) Something. When I’d rather read Goodnight, Moon by myself after the kid’s gone to bed than suffer through one more page of moaning urban fantasy hero/ine, there’s something seriously wrong with the writing process somewhere.  

And yes, I realize I sound like a whiny bitch but trust me, the day was just rough. So here’s to a better tomorrow and hoping this chai tea turns into a whiskey and coke.

The meal I’m looking forward to next? Not sure what it is, but our one true ingredient will be turkey.