|Our new Gloucestershire Old Spots gilts on arrival day at our farm|
When I first met JR, way back in the early 1990s, he was raising Black Angus cattle. He was a little ahead of the curve in his cattle-rearing (like 20 years or so), as they were grass-fed.
And this was a good thing, because they were tasty, but also a bad thing, because technique for cooking grass-fed beef wasn't exactly well-known back in the day. And among those who lacked knowledge of grass-fed cooking technique was JR.
As a result, many a friend who bought beef from JR complained of shoe-leather textured steak. Twenty years on, this is still a topic that is brought up when we attend our friends' summer barbecues. Steak plus JR equals tough (however, other cuts were just fine, as many were slow-cooked at lower heat. Fortuitous!).
By the early 90's, JR had also already raised two pigs, which he had named Lunch and Dinner. A friend told him that they had to be named, and, given our current experience with pigs, these do seem like two of the safest of all to-be-eaten pig names.
Around that same time, JR had been selling fresh eggs from his hens to a local golf course for their weekend breakfast service.
This went on for most of the summer, until one fateful morning.
First, there was the crack of the shell, next, the hiss of the grill, and then, lo and behold, two little chick eyes stared back at the elderly woman who was frying the eggs. A little shocking for the golf set. The chicken egg order ceased.
My own entree in to raising my own food was blessedly free of all of these issues. No tough steaks, no naming pigs after mealtimes, no baby chicks staring back at me from the fry pan. Primarily because I didn't start with livestock. Oh, no, my own grow-your-own exploits were not without failure. No. They were not.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I was living in an old Colonial house, circa mid-1800's or so, that had been converted into an apartment building. The landlords were very sweet people, and they had given their blessing to my request to plant a garden.*
One particularly muggy June Saturday, I set out to plant my plot. I had started creating rows - rather neat rows, in fact, ones that my organized Virgo self could really feel proud about - then poured the tiny seeds into my palm and started placing them gently in the rows, spaced 1-foot apart.
As I carefully covered the seeds with soil, another tenant, an octogenarian gentleman, came outside and asked what I was planting. I looked up from my task and replied, "Tomatoes," with a big smile. Boy, was I excited.
He hesitated a bit as he figured out how to break the news to me, then he said, "I believe that tomatoes have to be planted a little earlier in the year."
"Oh, really? Like, how early?" I asked.
"Um, like March," he said.
Gardening and raising livestock are learning experiences, of course. If you're a beginner, there's a high likelihood that you'll be humbled in your initial attempts, but the rewards are so well worth it, and it becomes easier with each passing year.
For us, this winter's addition of pigs to our homegrown enterprise has proven the source of rookie mistakes (oh yes, I will be sharing), but they've also provided a renewed sense of purpose here at our tiny farmhouse, and I'm thrilled to be able to share that with you here.
As has been the case at Poor Girl Gourmet, I'll be sharing recipes here as well, usually with a budget-conscious bent (though I do hope you'll forgive me if we splurge from time to time, and if I don't do quite as much math over here).
There will also be stories about our farm and garden - the slug-eating hens, the sent-from-the-devil-himself squash bugs, as well as tales from our travels (as our vacations are typically food- and farm-focused - shocker.), occasional stories about food artisans, and tidbits about the (primarily pretty) things that make a house a home.
Thank you so much for stopping by!
*a longer version of this gardening story was included in my book, Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget, though I felt I had to share it again, as it shows that though the learning curve is steep, you can level out rather quickly.