THE LAST TALE: A Chicken Tooth Fairy

Not a Poultry Experience

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At 4 years old, most children have the luxury of losing their first baby tooth in some uneventful yet exciting way, like biting into an apple or discovering their tooth at the bottom of a bowl of Lucky Charms. This initial surprise is usually followed by shrieks of excitement and the thumping of feet running up the stairs to shove it under a pillow.

I was not so lucky. In fact, on that eventful afternoon in the summer of 1994, as my 5-year-old, chubby-cheeked self crouched picking dandelions among the chickens, my first baby tooth was not lost: It was stolen.

Who, might you ask would be such a heartless culprit as to strip a child of the magical experience of losing their first tooth? The culprit was no person. My “tooth fairy” was, in fact, a very insensitive Plymouth Rock rooster that apparently didn’t give a damn about childhood magic.

It’s not that I wasn’t used to handling chickens. In fact, up until that point, I, Laura Field, had spent my entire life playing in as much chicken dust and dirtiness as any good mother would allow their little girl, before getting hosed off and ushered inside for supper.… Read the rest

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Ruminations of a Farmstead Cheesemaker

Key Ingredient: Time

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By Suzy Konecky, Cricket Creek Farm
Photos courtesy of Cricket Creek Farm

Dear Future (Cheesemaker) Self… Cheesemaking is about patience. Especially when it comes to the aged cheeses that spend those lucky months ripening in caves and cellars, where rinds grow crackly craters, a smearedmakeup finish or anything in between.

Cheesemakers must be patient in waiting to taste their cheese, patient in waiting for the cheese to reach its ideal age, patient for the cash flow. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so few beginning farmers venture into the world of dairy processing—it takes so darn long! Certainly, all of agriculture involves patience—waiting for the spring starts to come up, waiting for the baby chicks to grow or the sow to reach breeding age. With cheesemaking, done properly, it can take months or years to reach your finished product.

To oversimplify one of the most complex fermentations in food production, cheesemaking can be divided into two distinct processes: The first is the day of the cheese “make”— the day that the milk is transformed into a mass of curd that is then pressed or drained to release whey and water. The second process is the aging.… Read the rest

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Mobile Meat Processing

Not A Drive Through at Mickey D’s!

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Photo by Elizabeth Cecil, elizabethcecil.com

The American food system is something of a mystery to those living in the United States and, for many, purchasing food at the grocery store is an act of habit rather than inquiry.

Many shoppers simply place items in their cart and move on without questioning the route that the food took to get there. I’m guilty of this as well. We’re so busy with our dayto- day routines that asking questions about our food system can seem time-consuming and obnoxious.

But as we’ve also seen, there continue to be warnings about food-borne illnesses and contaminations resulting from current mass production, which prove that we must strive to better reconnect with our food system.

Throughout the past few years, large strides have been made in educating consumers about the failures of our food system. With the increased popularity of food-related TV shows, websites and publications such as the now-almost-90 Edible magazines across the U.S. and Canada, individuals have started to reconnect with their food sources.

This has created a large demand for locally raised, organic or relatively chemical-free food in cities and towns nationwide, making the role of small farmers and community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription programs more important than ever.… Read the rest

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IN SEASON EDIBLES SPRING 2014

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APRIL

Asparagus
Collards
*Edible flowers
*Fiddleheads
Kale
Maple syrup
Mushrooms
*Nettles
*Ramps
Sprouts

MAY

Arugula
Asparagus
Chives
Collards
*Edible flowers
*Fiddleheads
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce & greens
Mushrooms
*Nettles
Parsley
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Sprouts
Strawberries

JUNE

Arugula
Asparagus
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Bok choy
Broccoli
Broccoli rabe
Cabbage
Cherries
Cilantro
Collards
*Edible flowers
Fennel
Green beans
Herbs
Honey
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce & greens
Mushrooms
*Nettles
Parsley
Peas
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Sprouts
Strawberries
Swiss chard
Watercress
Zucchini

* Obtained by foraging, for the most part.

Source: Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Mass.gov/massgrown

You can download a full-color produce calendar of year-round
availability from website.

Additional source: FarmFresh.org/learn/harvestcalendar.phpRead the rest

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Feed Your Garden’s Soil and Your Garden Will Feed You

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When I moved to the Berkshires, I finally had space for a vegetable garden so I dug up some grass and planted one. The first year, the plants looked great and produced terrific vegetables with no pests. Joy! The next year, beetles arrived and the following year, aphids, cabbage worms and powdery mildew! Tomatoes had blossom-end rot. My vegetable yields went down.

I blamed myself—too busy, not weeding, not watering right. Then I blamed the weather—too wet, too dry, too cold or too hot—and rabbits! I didn’t think the earth needed extra help from me.

That first year of the beautiful vegetables was a result of growing in an untouched, nutrient-rich garden plot of living soil. No one had tilled it for years or stomped muddy paths through it. Previous residents had barely mowed it! The grass grew, and the grass was cut down; then, the cuttings broke down to enrich the soil with organic material for the next growing season.

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Some commercially available compost bins

I had removed the nutrient-rich vegetables but then hadn’t returned those nutrients to the soil for the next year. I needed a way to return organic matter, short of letting vegetables fall off the vines and rot on the soil.… Read the rest

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Food Vessel and Incubator, an Amazing Container

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Story and photos by Bruce Firger

The exterior covering of an egg— the shell—is about 95% calcium carbonate, which moderates soil acidity. The remaining 5% contains phosphorus, sulfur and potassium, all of which help to make plants healthy. The shell color of an egg varies depending on the breed of hen that laid it, and has no bearing on the mineral compensation of the egg. Eggshells are ideal for garden use. The U.S. food industry generates approximately 150,000 tons of shells a year.

So here is where we can fit in: Start at home and in your business to recycle the shells you generate.

The most direct way to utilize this by-product is to add the discarded shells to your compost bin, assuming you compost, or give them to someone who does.

Gardeners frequently add lime to compost to correct acidity problems in garden soil. Lime is made up of calcium carbonate, which is the main nutrient in eggshells.

The next suggestion on our list is to use them as a wonderful supplement to your plants and vegetables. This, again at its simplest, requires one additional step: After using the eggs’ content, run the shells under or through water and let them dry.… Read the rest

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Vermatzah

Passover Flatbread for a Mountainous Land

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Photos by Eyal Dolev

Passover is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery into freedom, a narrative that became a worldwide inspiration for people who fight for freedom and human rights. What is less known is that Passover was also a major agriculture festival, indicating spring and the barley ripening season, celebrating the awakening of the natural world in days when people’s lives were even more directly dependent on nature than ours. Passover starts with the Seder, a ceremonial dinner to commemorate how Pharaoh, after suffering 10 plagues, drove the Israelites off to the desert, where they wandered for 40 years, becoming a nation and settling at what is now Israel.

The Seder feast incorporates ritual foods, the first is the crispy flatbread known as matzah. “With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.” (Exodus 12:39). The Israelites prepared this substitute for bread out of flour and water, and hasty baked them over open fire. Even today, traditional matzah is made with pure water and grains that have been kept dry or since harvest; less than 18 minutes is supposed to pass from the moment water touches the flour to baking, to prevent leavening.… Read the rest

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An Ancestral Memory

Our Past Holds Key for a Greener Future

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Mary Hulett, Hulett Hill Road, Sheffield, 1800’s

Photos courtesy of The Sheffield Historical Society

There was a time in our past when we needed each other.

From the first settlement in Plymouth until the introduction of the telegraph and railroads, there was an interdependent economic glue that bound communities together. People, no matter where they settled, had to grow their own food. Agriculture was the primary economic activity of the self-contained and self-reliant villages and towns of New England.

Every stich that made up the everyday fabric of existence was woven by these industrious people with their own hands. People built their homes from trees locally logged. They made their own clothing and shoes from wool, flax and leather derived from their animals. They worked their land with primitive hand tools, growing all their own vegetables, fruits, grains and hay for the animals they raised.

Those animals—sheep, cows, goats and chickens—were pastured on acreage utilized by everyone, called the Commons. At night, the various animals were returned to safe shelters adjacent to the individual owners’ homes. Wool was sheared and spun by hand and then sewn into clothing.

Cows were milked, and butter was made.… Read the rest

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Bigger Is Not Always Better

Micro Dairies Show That Small Can Succeed

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Above, Leahey’s Jersey cows

The new size of dairying is micro. Stina Kutzer’s Gammelgården Creamery in Pownal, Vermont, and Phil and Jen Leahey’s Leahey Farm in Lee, Massachusetts, prove that it is possible to run farm businesses with just a handful of cows. For these farmers, big success comes in a small format.

Stina’s dairy couldn’t have been any smaller at the start. In the fall of 2011 she was milking one Jersey cow, Babette, a gift from her husband, Peter, on her 50th birthday. Now in her third year, Stina milks five cows and makes skyr, butter and cheese as Gammelgården Creamery.

“I’ve worked on big dairies, but I’m not a fan,” she said. The layout of Stina’s farm is on the human scale. Each day she descends the short slope from her little milking parlor to her compact stand-alone creamery building. Her modest pasture pushes out 20 acres to the northwest. It’s just enough land for the milking cows and a few heifers to graze. Stina works with a small pasteurizer designed for micro dairies processing as little as 20 gallons of milk at a time.

Some 40 miles to the south, Phil and Jen Leahey have revived dairying on land that has been in the Leahey family since 1889.… Read the rest

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EDIBLE NEWS AND NOTABLES SPRING 2014

newHighLawn

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Look out, Canyon Ranch: There’s a new spa up the street— HIGH LAWN FARM, home of fresh Jersey milk. They decided there is nothing too good for their girls. New spa facilities have been competed on their farm in Lee, MA. After a leisurely stroll around the track, the cows moooove on to a head and neck massage and then it’s time for a nap in a private suite on a waterbed. When properly rested, off to Lely’s, a gentle massage and cleaning of the udders leads to a robotic milking to relive the weight gain after a hard day, all this while munching on a serving of sweet oats. Oh, and then a quick dunk in the pool to rinse off the hoofs. The Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot, from the Netherlands, is heaven on earth to these girls.

Upon check in, each resident is assigned an elegant necklace with its very own transponder. This allows the staff to monitor their production and health through the milk. The Lely can keep tabs on the girls who just can’t resist an extra helping of oats by restricting double dippers. Everyone gets a chance, at their leisure, to partake twice a day in the offerings of Lely.… Read the rest

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