Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Pasture Walk with Farmer Richard

By Richard de Wilde

     This article was originally printed in our vegetable newsletter in September 2013. After a recent walk through our pastures this fall, Richard and I were reminded just how important it is to continue to manage our land, including our pastures and woods. It’s a big job, and one that is never finished. It takes a diligent effort to keep things “under control,” but the result is healthy pastures that are pleasant and desirable for our animals to live in and graze. We find joy and fulfillment in watching our cattle graze and live peaceful lives on our lush pastures while the pigs keep us entertained with their pig-like behaviors. Thank you for supporting us in our efforts to do the best we can to raise meat in the most respectful manner we can. 
--Farmers Andrea & Richard
     Our farm, like most farms in the Driftless region, has land along creek beds, dry washes and steeper hillsides that is not   suitable for farming and has traditionally grazed animals. Our hillside pastures were cleared and planted to wheat in the late 1800’s and it was an erosion disaster! The scars are now healed and grass covers the hillside, preventing erosion. This month’s Edible Madison magazine (September 2013) has a very well-written article on the birth of soil conservation and contour farming which started in the 1930’s in our own Vernon County, Wisconsin. The present day NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) was started and Aldo Leopoldo was actively working in the field with them to turn around 70 years of disastrous farming, which had destroyed the productive capacity of most of the county’s farmland. Animals, grass, and strips of non-erosive hay between cultivated crops saved the land. Now our county is experiencing a new crisis as animals leave the farms to go to big feedlots and confinement dairies and contour strips and grass waterways are being torn out to accommodate only two crops, corn and soybeans. As a result, erosion is on the rise once again.
     I milked cows on this farm from 1984-1986, but sold the herd to devote my time and resources to full-time vegetable farming. In the years that followed this transition, we saw the results of abandoned pastures. Prickly ash, willows, box elder trees, black locust, honeysuckle, multiflora rose and garlic mustard took over and choked out the hillsides. Our beautiful little Spring Creek disappeared in a tangle of brush and the stream no longer flowed openly. With the grass overtaken and the stream banks eroded, the trout were choked out. In recent years, we have spent considerable time and resources working towards reclaiming our beautiful Spring Creek, as well as learning from our mistakes and working hard to maintain other waterways and river banks on our property. We have removed huge patches of prickly ash, multiflora rose and invasive honeysuckle by pulling them out and then grading and reseeding these areas to establish new grasses and clovers. We built new fences and brought animals back to our hillsides to graze these areas to help us maintain them. We have cleaned the trees and brush out of the creek and fixed stream bank erosion with large limestone rocks lining the banks. Many areas we can now mow once a year to keep down invasive plants and prevent trees from taking over. Despite all our efforts, the single biggest help in maintaining our improvements are now the cows, pigs and goats that graze our pastures. 
     While we realize that not all of our customers choose to eat meat and our focus is on vegetable production, we’ve chosen to include animals on our farm because they have a very important purpose. Unlike feedlot cattle and pigs that exist solely to gain weight and be taken to slaughter, our animals have a greater calling. Their purpose is to graze and fertilize our hillside pastures, thereby maintaining them and improving them for years to come. This is a very different lifestyle for these animals in comparison to industrial animal production.  
     Farmers are stewards of the land, but we can’t forget that part of that calling is honoring and respecting the land and animals we care for. As we walk through our pastures and look out across the hillsides, we see the beauty that is the result of all of our hard work. We are blessed to live in a beautiful, unique location and will continue to strive to maintain our land.

Meatballs in Pineapple Sauce

Yield: 10 as an appetizer or 4 if served as a main entrée
Photo Borrowed from Shannon Hayes' blog
For the Meatballs:
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp finely chopped onions
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 pound ground beef
2 Tbsp olive oil
For the Pineapple Sauce:
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 can (13 ¼ ounces) chunk pineapple, in natural, unsweetened juice 
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1. Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large bowl.  Shape into 1 ½-inch balls.  
2. Saute meatballs in the olive oil over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.  Pour off the fat, remove the meatballs from the skillet, and set aside.
3. Mix together the brown sugar and cornstarch, and add to the skillet used for the meatballs.  Pour in the pineapple and juice, and add the vinegar, soy sauce, and chopped pepper.  
4. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat immediately, add the meatballs, and simmer 10 minutes longer.

Recipe borrowed from Shannon Hayes’ book, The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook.

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage-Radish Slaw

Yield: 6 Servings
Photo Borrowed from the Real Simple website
2 ½ to 3 pounds stew meat (May also use round steak or chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 Tbsp chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
4 radishes, halved and sliced (may use fresh red radishes or beauty heart radishes)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
12 6-inch corn tortillas
Sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers and hot sauce, for serving

1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, toss together the beef, onion, garlic, chipotles, bay leaves, oregano and 1 tsp salt.  Cover and cook until the beef is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours.
2. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, radishes, and cilantro with the lime juice and ¼ tsp salt.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the beef to a medium bowl (reserve the cooking liquid) and shred, using 2 forks. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl and toss with the beef to coat.
4. Fill the warm tortillas with the beef and slaw.  Serve with sour cream, pickled jalapeños, hot sauce and lime wedges.

Recipe borrowed from Easy, Delicious Home Cooking by Real Simple.

The Easiest Ribs You’ll Ever Make

Yield: 2-3 servings

Photo Borrowed from Alexandra's Kitchen 
1½ to 2 pounds pork spare ribs 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika 
¾-1 cup brown sugar
Heavy Duty Foil

1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
2. Rinse off the ribs and pat dry.  Liberally coat the ribs with the kosher salt, pepper and the paprika.  Pack on the brown sugar.
3. Lay out a piece of heavy duty foil that is large enough to fully wrap the meat in.  If your spare ribs are in more than one piece, you can wrap each piece individually if it’s easier.   Wrap the ribs into a packet and make sure it’s closed on all sides.  Place the ribs on a sheet tray and place in the oven for 2 ½ hours.  
4. Remove the tray from the oven.  Let sit for one hour.  Do not open the pouch during this hour.
5. When ready to serve, reheat the ribs in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350°F (this is assuming the ribs have not been refrigerated) or open the pouch, baste the ribs with the juices and place them under the broiler for five minutes.
6. Serve immediately with cornbread and a simple salad for a yummy yummy meal!

Chef Andrea Yoder’s Note: This is the easiest method I’ve ever used to cook spare ribs and they come out tender and delicious.  The prep time is very minimal, so I often prepare these the night before or first thing in the morning and put them in the refrigerator.  If I have enough time in the evening after work, I’ll cook them for dinner that night.  If we’re hungry and don’t want to wait, I’ll heat up the oven and cook them anyway while we’re eating dinner.  Then they’re ready to just reheat for the next night’s dinner!

Recipe adapted from the blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen:

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