An Evening with Joel Salatin

If you are in the Dallas area April 16, you can contribute to a good cause and be at a small private dinner hosting Joel Salatin. Rather than trying to say much about him, simply go to this Google link and read one or two of the 57,000 hits they have recorded for him. We are sharing some of our blackberries for the dinner and Eva and I will be attending. It should be a fun evening.
Even if you do not attend, reading about him, his books and farm are very interesting.

Chef Eva in the News: Learning Vacations in Texas

LEARNING VACATIONS From camping to cooking, these trips will keep you coming back for s’mores
By Jody Horton

LEARN THE CHEF’S SECRETS
On Greer Farm west of Daingerfield, Maine-Anjou cattle graze in lush pastures around a restored circa-1850 Texas home. Guinea hens bob around the herb gardens, and goats mow grass near four guest cabins overlooking a stocked lake.

This working farm makes a perfect setting for Cooking with Chef Eva, aka Eva Greer, a graduate of the Art Institute of Houston’s Culinary Arts program whose work reflects a Belize upbringing, European parents and world travels with her husband, Sid. A recent class focused on roasted meats, which attracted Bob Hewes, his son Greg and son-in-law Jay Boerner. They spent the weekend at the farm’s guest cabins, where their wives and children relaxed during the midday class. The attendees also included two women from Dallas celebrating a birthday and several repeat customers from nearby towns.

During the whirlwind three-hour class in the spacious, well-lit kitchen, we watched Eva prepare beef roast, lamb chops, pork loin, butternut squash soufflé, potatoes, mint sauce, gravy, roasted fruit and toasted pound cake. She handled this complex dance with practiced ease, even managing to involve us in pureeing, seasoning, turning, beating and mixing. Delectable smells permeated the kitchen, and we dug appreciatively into the finished dishes. Chef Eva made it fun and had us convinced that we could cook like this ourselves. And while I likely won’t tackle such a complex menu at home often, if at all, Eva shared general cooking tips in addition to teaching specific recipes. Placing the roast on a rack inside the pan, for example, keeps it out of the drippings for more even cooking. Kosher salt’s larger grains make it easier to tell how much you’ve applied. (And Chef Eva uses a lot of salt and pepper, rubbing it into the meat with her hands, which she washes constantly.)

Besides, with her enthusiasm, the hands-on opportunities, easy banter among the students and delicious food, it felt more like an afternoon with friends than a cooking class. The only thing better than heading home inspired to upgrade my cooking would have been the chance to stroll across the green lawn, through the shade of tall trees, and onto the porch of one of the cabins to digest a wonderful meal while watching the breeze ripple the pond.

The Hewes family got to do that and apparently left the next day suitably inspired as well. “On our way home, we got a call from our daughter, who was at the grocery store buying a roast,” Bob Hewes says. “We had it that Sunday night, and it turned out great. Then Greg made the pork loin and squash soufflé for his in-laws when they came to visit.”

Cooking class students can work off their homework by visiting area attractions such as the Daingerfield and Caddo Lake state parks or Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg, which offers tours and live jazz in the dining room on weekend nights.

Greer Farm: 1444 CR 1125, west of Daingerfield. Classes range from $60 to $75 per person. Cabins are $135 a night for two people, $10 a night for each additional person. Can sleep four adults, includes kitchenette. For a schedule and directions, call (903) 645-3232 or visit www.greerfarm.com for more information, including about pick-your-own berries.

From Texas Co-Op Power magazine, April 2010

What is Good About Day Light Savings Time?

Earlier than ever the clock sprung forward and those of you in the city can play ball later or get in a round of golf after work. For farmers, it just means we work a longer day. We get up in the near dark, then as there is so much wonderful day light we just do not stop until we drop in the near dark. About 8:00 pm we have finished dinner and can get ready for bed!. Gosh in a month or so we can work until almost 9:30 pm.

I suppose it should be logical to work 8 hours and stop, but that does not fit the mold if you farm. There is never enough hours in any day to get half of what needs to get done. A few days ago there was only one stretch of fence we had not rebuilt in our quest to be hog proof. Well you guessed it, they rooted under the fence and got into the goat paddock. The spring bottom is all nicely tilled as if we were going to plant there.

We dropped into emergency mode and knocked in a few t-posts to hold down the fence for a few days and instead focused on the two gaps we have on the house side of the road.... our driveways. We installed gates on each entrance that can be closed each night. this way the hogs running down the road looking for a place to do no good can just keep on running.

Today we got a small part of the fence rebuilt in the goat paddock, but need to set new braces, weld pipe, take down wire and re-stretch it, lay barb wire on the ground under the fence and basically start all over in this area.

It is never dull here.

Winter Has Passed

The last several months on the farm have been busy and more difficult than most years. After the holidays, we went from being cold to colder. This did not keep us from planting a variety of new fruit trees, raspberry plants, replacement blueberry plants, grapes, other berries more common up north and other plants. The cattle ate more hay than ever and the heavy rains made it more difficult to distribute. Now that we have had a weekend snow, I think we can say spring is here.

The plants set in the orchard in the cold days of January and February are showing some signs of life. Not all will make it. The asparagus bed is waking up. There is a hint of green in the pastures and the cows are eating very little hay now preferring to snip off each and every new green grass blade as they emerge. tTe spring garden has something we can pick. Eva's flower gardens are full of color.

Most important, the blueberry field is turning into various shades of pink as the flowers start to open. Late next week we will get our pollinating bumblebees. All our fingers are crossed that we will not have a late freeze.

It will not be many days until the farm forest will be a hundred shades of green. Winter has passed and we go forth once again on our dreams of a good farmer's season. Tonight it rains hard and it is easy to sleep.

Death of the Archbishop

I often say that it is one's obligation to leave the world a better place because of what you did while you were here. In my work in various organizations and in all ways in my life I have tried to follow the philosophy of "trying to give myself away". Few of us are ever tested in anything of great significance or given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. Archbishop Oscar Romero was one such person. He was a good man who rose to that rare occasion few find ourselves in. He did not seek to be a hero or the father of a cause. Today is a time to pause and remember him and all of those Oscar Romeros among us.

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor
WEDNESDAY Mar. 24, 2010

On this day 30 years ago, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated, sparking El Salvador's 12-year civil war.

Romero was appointed San Salvador's archbishop three years before, in 1977, at a time when violence in El Salvador was rapidly escalating. The conflict was largely one of class warfare:  the landed wealthy — who were aligned with the rightist government and paramilitary death squads — against the impoverished farm workers and other laborers who had begun to ally themselves with leftist guerilla groups looking to overthrow the government.

Romero had a reputation for being bookish, conservative, and even for discouraging priests from getting involved in political activism. But within weeks of becoming bishop, one of his good friends was killed by the death squads. His friend was an activist Jesuit priest named Rutilio Grande, who'd been devoted to educating peasants and trying to bring about economic reforms. He was gunned down on his way to a rural church, along with a young boy and elderly man he'd been traveling with. It was a clear moment of conversion for the previously apolitical Oscar Romero, who suddenly felt that he needed to take up the work his friend had been interrupted from doing.

Romero canceled Masses all around the country that week, and invited all to attend the funeral Mass on the steps of the National Cathedral, which he presided over along with 100 other priests. One hundred thousand people showed up at the cathedral for the funeral. He also broadcast his sermon over the radio, so that it could be heard throughout the country. He called for government investigation of the murders going on in rural areas, and he spoke of the reforms that needed to happen in El Salvador: an end to human rights violations, to the regime of terror, and to the huge disparity in wealth, with the landed classes getting rich from the labor of the poor. He announced to his congregation that he wanted to be a good pastor, but he needed everyone's help to lead.

He was called to Rome. The Vatican didn't approve of his activism. Romero had become a proponent of liberation theology, a way of viewing the teachings of the Christ from the perspective of the poor. Poverty and oppression came from sin, it argued — institutional sin or structural sin, such as an authoritarian regime or unjust government. In liberation theology, the Gospels are not so much a call to peace or social order; instead they're a call to action, even unrest, to eradicate the sin that is causing poverty and widespread suffering.

On March 23, 1980, the day before he was shot, Oscar Romero gave a sermon in which he pleaded with low-level soldiers and policemen carrying out murderous orders to choose God's command over their government's. The very next day — March 24, 1980, which was 30 years ago today — Romero was killed by a paid assassin while consecrating bread at the altar during Mass. A single bullet from an M-16 assault rifle was fired down the center aisle of the church, striking him in the heart.

Romero's funeral was attended by a quarter million people from around the world. The events galvanized many previously apolitical poor people, who then supported leftist guerrilla fighters trying to overthrow the Salvadoran regime. The 12-year civil war resulted in more than 75,000 deaths and more than a million displaced people. In 1992, peace accords negotiated by the government and leftist rebels were signed in Mexico, with the United Nations and Catholic Church looking on. It included a 70 percent reduction in armed forces, programs for economic growth and to alleviate poverty, and an outside observing system to monitor elections. The accord included a nine-month cease-fire, which began February 1, 1992. That cease-fire has never since been broken.

From The Writer's Almanac produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media.

Hugo Speak

On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées.
One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas
Victor Hugo

My Tractor Got Dirty

We have had quite a wet winter and feeding our cattle herd at Rocky Branch has been an effort. Our John Deere four wheel drive tractor has more than paid for itself this winter as we continue to feed seven large bales of hay every other day. This started in November. That is 8,400 pounds of hay at one time or in something easier to understand, it is the equivalent in weight of 840 five pound bags of flour every day. The cattle also get alfalfa hay daily as a supplement.

Our other John Deere tractor a the home place got sick and we had to bring the larger tractor home to push it up on a trailer to take it to the shop. As you might expect, it started the first time once in Mt Pleasant at the John Deer repair facility. We took advantage of having the tractor home and gave it a good bath before sending it back into the trenches for another two months of feeding.


Magic in the Kitchen: Chef Eva's Cooking Classes

The winter cooking classes have been a great success and they have been in addition to a number of group private classes. Chef Eva conjured up all sorts of magic in the kitchen as savory snacks for a Super Bowl party. A private group feasted on their own French onion soup, avocado fries with habanero ketchup and more on a cold January evening.

February saw a variety of pot pies including seafood, wild mushroom and blackberry. Sid got into the act and grilled romaine lettuce outside for a special salad. Chef Eva even ordered special hand ground grains for this class and from the frozen north, leaf lard to make an extra crispy crust.

Last, but not least, a large group of friends from Dallas stayed in cabins and tackled a special topic; cooking from Julia Child's first cook book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As in the film Julie & Julia, lots of fresh butter and cream ruled the day as mouth watering dishes were prepared and enjoyed by all: Potage Parmentier, Flambeed chicken, risotto pilaf, timbale de Brussels Sprouts and reina de saba.

All of the classes have been a culinary adventure for those that made their way out to our farm. The year has just started and the beginning of spring brings two classes in March; a culinary celebration to honor the Irish and a special Easter dinner.



It Snows On The Farm Sometime

When I was a boy, five decades ago, we had a lot of snow in northeast Texas. It was not such a rare event. For better or worse, our climate has changed. Even the planting zone map for gardeners is different and we have slipped into a warmer zone. The weather we used to have is now being enjoyed by those just north of the Red River.

Last month, we were blessed with a special event. A winter snow storm that left over 10 inches of light snow all over the farm. The berry field was magical. Alas, it lasted only a day or so and as luck would have it, we lost our electricity for thee days.

I have no intention of living where the winter is harsh and the snow endless for months, but we did enjoy our snow day on the farm.

Happy the Man

Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born in Venusia, December 8, 65 BC and died in Rome, November 27, 8 BC. He is known in the world of literature simply as Horace. He as the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.

Occasionally you run across a poem that has as much meaning today as it had several thousand years ago. I try to live every day for today, not yesterday or tomorrow. I seldom if ever look back on my yesterdays, I normally enjoy all my todays and except for an addiction to making lists of what needs to be done, do not look to far into my tomorrows. I too want to be happy for for what has been.

Happy the Man

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite or fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

"Happy the Man" by Horace, from Odes, Book III, xxix. Translation by John Dryden. Public domain.