Posts Tagged ‘farm’



Laura had a dream the other night that we owned a farm for orphans and puppies and the orphans and puppies would be delivered to us each day by the bus-full and we would give them all hugs and they’d understand that they were understood and then the orphans would play with the puppies, and the puppies would chase the orphans around the farm, hiding underneath hay bales and running across open fields. 

I asked her what happened after the puppies become full grown dogs and the orphans were ready for college.

She said she woke up before she got to that part.


I woke up from a dream recently upset because the fox in the dream was acting far more cat like than dog like and I got upset questioning the science of it all.


Sometimes, my dreams have the Ken Burns effect throughout. Those dreams are really boring. 

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This past week was a week of incredible extremes.

From the grandest endless expanses…

… to the most intimate proximity of living space.


From the most touristed of places…

… to paths unimaginably less traveled…

From the most grandiose forms of human expression…



…to the most simple…



and all the while reminded of the importance of time, of music passing, of moments taken and stored in a memory box of snapshots and familiar scents, of sunsets just missed and the endless lapsing of ocean waves.  This week, I was reminded of the importance of taking time to dance…

…to build…



…to reflect?…

…to laugh at the most silly of things…

…and to always continue walking…

…but most importantly…

…always, always the love.  

I had the most wonderful of vacations.

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            The paint on the side of the barn up on the hill was chipping badly and I leaned against it to escape as the rain came down.  I had just run up the hill, up from the fields and my hair was soaked now and I watched the rain come down hard across the valley.  These were big summer drops.  The sky went on far and was covered with grey until a splash of blue on the horizon.  I wiped the water from my face with my shirtsleeve, protected now underneath the barn overhang.  I watched the stream past beyond the fields pick up and run faster with the rain.  I caught my breath and heard only the rain hitting the roof and in the fields.  It had been four months since my father’s death, six since my mother’s. 

            Abby came running out of the house getting wet to join me.  She wore cut-offs showing long tanned legs and a gauzy shirt that clung to her skin in the rain.  Her hair was pinned up and the loose parts were wet to her face.  She came next to me, leaned against the barn wall too, and tried to blow the hair off her face, which did not work and looked at me and let out a quiet smile.

            “Nice stems,” I said.


            “This is where they met,” I said.  “My parents.”

            “I know,” she said.  “Wasn’t it a pig farm?”

            “Yes.  But no more pigs now.”

            “I hadn’t seen any.”  She moved closer, leaned her head against my shoulder.

            “Vegetables… Did you see some of those?”

            “Yeah.  I saw some of those.”

            “You see that stream just beyond the trees,” I pointed.  “My parents said they went skinny dipping there and often.”

            “I was wondering when you were going to ask me,” she said.

            “Ask you?”

            Her sandals off, she charged down the muddy hill, her bare feet splashing through puddles toward the stream. 

            “Wait!” I yelled out, “It’s dangerous… It’s….” Dammit.  I ran after her.  She tossed off her shirt and I followed suit.  I kicked my shoes off under a tree and watched her jump in, feet first, her willowy arms swinging overhead drawing her shoulder blades together and then apart, her skin already wet from rain.  She disappeared under the water, her head popping up, her shoulders, bare, and just high enough to reveal her collarbones above the surface.  She looked up to me and I stared for a moment and then jumped in after her.  I swam toward her and the current took us both downstream.  I caught up and brought her body to mine, her legs wrapped around me.  The water was warm and comfortable and moving quickly and we kissed and my hand held her tight on the small of her back and she dropped her head back to feel the rain and down stream we went locked together, the inside of her thighs resting on my hip bones. 

            We went like this and entire summers of my life had not lasted as long as this one dive.


            After, in the house, drying off, Abby put on a Spanish guitar record and we played a game of chess, both wrapped in towels.

            “This was my pops’ board,” I said.

            “Of course it was,” she said.

            We sat staring at the board and at each other.

            “When was the last time you were here?” she asked.

            “Must’ve been fifteen or so years back.  Our parents took my sister and me on a road trip through some of their old spots.” 

            My eyes followed the exposed beams on the ceiling to the window.  You could feel the moisture come in from outside, cooling the earth, a much needed soaking my mother used to say.  The farmhouse had been around for quite some time but had switched hands periodically.  The owners told me they found what they kept calling “archives” in the cellar of the house.  There were old photos and letters dating back to the late 1800s.  They had not had the place too long, only a decade or so, but were generous to share it with us when we arrived with our story.  They asked us questions.  I showed them pictures of the pig farm back in the sixties and they asked for copies.  I told them I would send them on over after we got back.  I told them when it was a pig farm, they used to get young people up as interns to help get some energy into the place, energy they did not have to pay too much.  They let them eat the food, have a bed, and enjoy the big skies. 

            The family now says they keep it rather local, “market farm” they kept calling it, though they do sell the extra eggs to a restaurant upstate.  He drives them up himself, he told me, every Sunday. 

            They seemed to like having visitors though, invited us to stay as long as we would like.  They were downstairs now, leaving us some privacy. 

            “We should go down soon and help with dinner,” Abby said.

            “Did you see the table down there?  He told me he made it out of an old barn door, cleaned it off, fixed it up, and put it in the dining room.  We should do something like that.”

            “We will,” she said taking my rook.

            “My parents always told this story about how they needed to move one of the bigger pigs from one pen to another and it became my pops’ job.  But this pig was ornery, they said, weighed more than a ton, and wouldn’t budge without a fight.  My dad wrestled him around the pen all day until finally he was able to push the pig through the gate and shut it behind.”

            “Tough guy, your dad.”

            “Just wait, that night, my mom wakes up to my pops kicking her out of bed.  She tries to wake him.  Doesn’t work.  He kicks her so hard she falls straight out of bed.  My pops wakes up to my mom hitting the floor.  ‘What are you doing?’ she says and he should have just apologized there.  But no, he tries to explain himself. ‘I thought you were the pig,’ he says.”

            Abby laughed, took my knight.  “Mate in two,” she said, took off the towel from around her shoulders, put a t-shirt back on, and walked over to the mirror to put her earrings in.

            “We should head down,” she said.

            I came behind her and hold her hipbones and we made eye contact in the mirror.  She turned her head and kissed my neck.

            “We gotta figure out what door to use for our table,” she said and left the room and I had the thought that we had seen a lot of doors open together.  I walked over to the window and watched the rain fall once more.  It came down, feeding the earth, cleansing away the rest into the stream, flowing down and out to who-knows-where.  And there I was, new owners, old creaky floor, new table made out of the door my pops once opened from one pen to another, piling now my food and my story on top of theirs.

            It is just those same beams kept a roof over their heads, and now, it kept a roof over Abby’s.

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Boris the Boar.

I had begun writing this post when the delivery came. I live with a family here in France and though all of my food comes from the local farmers’ market, the family gets a large delivery, eight or so full sized boxes, of processed food from the supermarket. There are yogurts and frozen pizzas and frozen veggie combos and sterilized milk, crustless white bread and endless amounts of Nutella. And let me say that I have an odd relationship with food. I have learned entirely too much about food systems to ever shop at supermarkets again. But it is my responsibility to put the delivery away if it comes when I’m home. So I do. And I was. And as I put away the canned peas, bathing in preservatives, as I thought about why it is that these have such a long shelf life, that they are void of any nutritional value, as I pictured the monocropped, pesticide ridden fields, the processing plants, the effect on our bodies, as I pictured all this, I threw up all over the kitchen floor. Just like that. Next to all the boxes to be unpacked was a pile of freshly digested organics from the farmers’ market.

And it got me thinking about the stories behind our food.

And I remembered this story I had heard.  Now that I have prefaced with a gruesome beginning, I shall warn vegetarians now, that perhaps you should go back to your tofu smoothie in lieu of reading this.

To meat eaters: savor it.

Blue Hill Farm occupies 138 acres in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It supplies the renowned Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City with almost all of its farm fresh food. I came across a story about the farm told by Dan Barber, the head chef of the restaurant, about time he spent up on the farm.

He recalls seeing Boris, the farm boar, trying to make love to one of the sows. Boris would lunge at her, try to mount her, and she would scurry away. He had never seen this happen before. Boris simply couldn’t get it up. Craig, the livestock manager on the farm, said that the week after, he simply would have to shoot Boris.

“What do you mean shoot Boris? He’s our man,” Dan said. Boris was in charged of impregnating all of the sows, and frankly, he was falling short of his duties. But it seemed a waste to just let the 750-pound mammoth of an animal simply go to waste. But what does one do with a boar when he can no longer perform as a boar? Dan thought that they couldn’t be the only farm with this problem.

But seemingly, they were.

No one uses boars to impregnate sows anymore. As Boris has clearly demonstrated, it is entirely too much work, entirely too messy, and time consuming. Almost 100% of the pork on our plates today comes from frozen semen, what many farmers call, “boars in a bottle.”

And it wasn’t that Dan Barber is squeamish about killing the boar; he’s a chef. He wanted the meat. He wanted the, in his words, “delicious, aged, luxurious, fatty meat.” Yet after some research, Dan found that when you leave a boar, like Boris, to get that big, you create in their blood system something called Boar Taint that has a taste “comparable to sweat, urine and feces.” It is tainted meat. Smelly. Inedible. What causes Boar Taint? Testosterone. The boar’s sexual maturation causes his meat to be completely unsavory. (How is that for a metaphor of life post-puberty?)

This, however, apparently is why pepperoni was invented. If you take tainted boar meat and add enough spices and red wine and salt, you can cover up some of the tainted taste.

But who wants 750-pounds of pepperoni?

Dan was left with three options:
1. Shoot him and bury him.
2. Go through a butcher and process him into Dog Food


3. Castrate Boris and anywhere from six weeks to six months, Boar Taint will have entirely left the system.

So what was the problem?

The problem was that Boris had testicles the size of basketballs.

And Boris, with his protruding tusks, and almost half-a-ton of body weight made him a force with which to be reckoned.

There were no vets willing to do the operation. Dan spent his days calling up and down the North East coast looking for someone, until the affable Dr. Steve Sanford answered the call.

“A boar, 750-pounds? Never done anything like this before. Couldn’t be more excited. You just pay for dinner for my wife and me the night before,” Sanford said.

“What is this? You’re bartering?” Dan asked.

“That’s right pal. Barter for the balls.”

Sanford showed up with a makeshift pharmacy in the back of his truck. “Boris is gonna by Lucy in the Sky,” Sanford said. “But we’re taking the diamonds.”

On the day of the operation, Boris settled quickly after the drug. Sanford took a razor and extracted two enormous boar testicles. Boris didn’t twitch. They were literally the size of basketballs.

Six months later, according to plan, Boris was slaughtered.

And Dan, Dan made sausage.

“You know,” Dan said, “it would be tough for me to sit here and say, ‘yeah, the sausage was okay. It was pretty good. It wasn’t great. It was fine. It was good.’ But the truth was it was the best sausage meat I’d ever had and I’m not the only one who felt that way.”

In the days after the restaurant first served Boris, they received many phone calls, e-mails, and worker comments, all with ecstatic remarks about how delicious the boar was. There is, indeed, a physiological explanation for this. Aged meat with its complexity of fats gets marbled into the dry meat in a way that causes a true culinary experience.

But there is, perhaps, a psychological explanation as well…

Dan had expected those who knew Boris to cringe at the idea of eating him, but he found the opposite.

Customers wanted to know the whole story; why the meat turned out as it did, how the operation worked, who and where and when they all asked, all at the same time slicing into Boris with their knives and forking some more of the beast into their mouths.

They were, in their own way, celebrating his life.

Dan argues that we are somehow hardwired as humans, as hunter-gatherers to sit around the fire at night and talk, tell stories about our food, figure out what is poisonous or dangerous, and what is nutritious.

Food companies now tell our food stories. They tell the stories with label promises and nutritionism. But the stories are empty, as the flavors are.

And so to each and every chef, I encourage you to use stories. Tell your eaters about the farmers’ market, about the republican farmer who has a gun in his hatchback, about the college educated farmer who quit his job on wall street to get his hands back in the soil, tell them about the fact that you got the last artichoke or that orange roughy is entirely too hard to find on the East Coast. Really, tell your food stories.

It will honestly make your food taste better.

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