Friday, November 11, 2011

Indie Travel - Feast

Woodsong Hollow Farm, PA

(I'm getting a bit blown away by how the 30 Days of Indie Travel prompts are folding into my current traveling existence. The prompt for Friday was Feast, and I'd just written this entire blog about food. Amazing coincidence, and so were the previous five or six prompts!)

Yesterday was the last full day of farming. Today I head to Philadelphia.

The morning was spent making breakfast (oatmeal) and cleaning up the dishes, a shower, then washing all those potatoes that had been out on the picnic table. The day dawned foggy and moist, so the potatoes were damp. I cleaned them off with a brush then dropped them into a bucket of warm water from the kitchen sink. After a few minutes, they were scrubbed with a thin wash cloth and put onto cardboard (open pizza boxes) on the dining table. The table was already covered with boards and a tarp because the day before, we'd brought in the barn doors I'd painted so they wouldn't get wet.

What impresses me about Nitya and Jeff's life here on the farm is how complex it is, and how geared to reusing, being organic, and the creativity of it all. Somehow, my limited city mind had no idea how much brain power and problem solving goes on, not to mention planning!  Nitya watches the weather daily and plans accordingly. Not something I think about very much coming from the Southwest where the weather is pretty much the same day after day, and rain showers last minutes, not weeks.


Rain was predicted for the afternoon, so many things needed to be done in the morning. Keenan's friend Amy came Wednesday night. She is a WOOFer also, and had worked here before, so everyone was excited to see her and have her back as a helper, even if it was only for one day. She and Keenan are headed off for a long road trip back to their respective homes in Texas and Georgia.

While I was cleaning up the kitchen, they built new turkey pens in the field next to the barn. Turkeys and chickens are housed in a neighbor's field about a mile away. Sometime soon, the turkey's go to the butcher and tomorrow it'll be the chickens. Turkeys need to be moved at night when they've relaxed and half asleep so they are easier to pick up. Nitya has tremendous knowledge of animal habits and behaviors. The turkeys can't see well at night so they were just confused about what was happening, rather than frantic. And there's a way to pick them up, holding their feet back and supporting the chest that discourages them from flapping their wings.

In the afternoon the rain came and by nightfall, the ground was soggy in places. We drove up to the field and loaded the turkeys into a trailer. Nitya parked the trailer next to the new pens and we had dinner. I'd made an Indian dish with some of the smaller potatoes and frozen organic peas. It was such a pleasure to work in a kitchen that has every spice imaginable, she even has hing, essential to Indian dishes, but not found in very many American kitchens!  Keenan had marinated a bunch of the free-range chicken legs and thighs from this farm in a yoghurt marinade with a dozen spices. Then he made a fire in the wood stove, knocked it down into coals and roasted the chicken inside the stove. And then.......he knocked my socks off by creating a masterful Bechamel sauce with cheeses from the fridge, a roux he whipped up with butter and flour, coconut milk, along with some of the myriad spices. Then he stirred it into gluten free macaroni. Hands down, it was the best Mac'n'cheese I've ever eaten.

After dinner, in a constant drizzle, the four of us headed out to unload turkeys into the new pens, and we counted them: 51. Then we sat down to Keenan's pear pie with whipped cream.

Keenan loading up pig
fat, he'll make soap from it.

Everything we've eaten so far has come from the farm, or neighbors, or a local version of Whole Foods. Nitya only buys organic dairy products from a local producer, makes her own yoghurt, and grows many of the vegetables. While I've been here, we ate an entire pepperoni made from one of her pigs by a local butcher. It was fantastic and not like any dried sticky pepperoni from a store. It was more like a summer sausage with wonderful peppery flavor.

The scrap stalks and leaves from the garden are composted. The potatoes I harvested were grown entirely in compost. All yoghurt containers, plastic of every kind, glass jars, paper, etc are recycled or composted. Cardboard is used as pathways in the garden. On the kitchen cabinet are two buckets, compost....and stuff the chickens will eat. Nitya gets out of date organic vegies and produce from the local market to feed to the pigs. And a local farmer grinds the feed for both pigs and poultry. It's a tough life, and after 8 years, the farm turned a profit last year. Jeff has a full time job, he manages a program for the county that purchases contracts from farmers to deed their land in perpetuity to be farm land so it can't ever be developed. It's a one time payment, and an investment in the future. Both of their lives, personally and financially revolve around promoting and saving farming and a way to provide people with wholesome food. From this point on, I will have a greater appreciation for what it takes to grow things on a small organic scale.

Free range chickens with their portable hen house.

Gorgeous Rooster