The Weeks That Were: September 21 -November 25

Wow! Time has really slipped by since the last time I caught up on our farm activities. Two months have passed. We have been working on so many small farm tasks, keeping up with a very busy cabin visit season and working on hog proof fence.

The hay season went on and on waiting for bales to dry that were left in the field when we had a foot of rain. We have a lot of hay; almost 800 big rolls. That will carry us for a few years in the event of a drought next year. We started to feed three weeks ago.

It was one of the wettest fall seasons we have ever had. We were not able to plant winter grasses (rye, oats, etc.) since the paddocks are too wet to get equipment in.
The heifers and steers we had at the home place did their job and ate all available grass and weeds in the areas we let them graze in and they were moved to Rocky Branch for the winter. This is the set of cattle that escaped some time ago. The grass at rocky Branch had grown lush and thick after we cut hay. It was 18 inches tall and beautiful. Then, we were hit by army worms. In a matter a days, the fields were reduced to stubble. I made a decision not to try and salvage the grass with massive use of pesticides. Beside it being too wet to use a sprayer with a tractor, we have enough hay to not subject our cattle to the chemicals. It is tough just go out day after day and see the grass disappear. I suppose the worm poop will be good for the soil and next year's grass.

The first new calf of the fall calving season came October 11. This is a day earlier than last year. We have had a lot of calves and once again we have had more bull calves (future steers) then heifers. We had a set of twins this year. Unlike the last set we had that were both heifers (same sex), these were a bull and a heifer. This means the female heifer will be fallow and not able to reproduce. She is a freemartin. We will use her as a beef calf the same as a steer. We brought her, her brother and mom to the barn at home so we could be sure the cow allowed each to nurse. Sometime the cow will favor the first calf born. In this case, the bull calf. He was very aggressive and the heifer calf did have problems initially getting milk. We brought another three cows to the barn after they had calves too. One cow did not drop her milk initially; an odd situation for a mature cow, and her calf was born light. We were able to get the calf to nurse and she also got milk off the mama of the twins. Another cow brought home had mastitis in two of her four tits. This is an inflammation of the udder. If you do not treat it, the cow will lose the ability to produce milk in the quadrants affected. We milked out her blood-stained milk and treated her with an antibiotic. In a few days, she recovered and has a very large, good-looking bull calf. The other cow we have in the barn had a calf that weighted only 20 pounds. Very odd situation. The calf lived for a day and died in Eva's arms in the cool of the evening after we had given it some of its mama's milk. The mama was very upset, but since that time the bull calf of the twin set has adopted her and is nursing her. Out at Rocky Branch where the cows are, we lost two calves. One was born still born. A totally mature healthy looking calf dead on arrival. This seems to happen once every year for no good reason. The other calf we lost was a case where we had to call the vet out. The calf had twisted the uterus during its attempt at birth and in the process died. Raising cattle is not for the faint of heart. Your hope for the best, but expect some bad luck.

Now that all these cows and calves are healthy and happy I wanted to take them back to Rocky Branch. Javier talked me into keeping them here for a few ore weeks for the guests in the cabins to see, and for the grandkids to play with the calves.

We had a few season ending tasks in the berry patch and have applied a pre-emergent to try and control grass and weeds next year that affects the growth of the newer plants. This may be the last year we will do this and in time use a weed trimmer and hand weed pulling to control weeds. The blackberry bushes are all pruned and look good. They will get a small clipping in February. The blueberry need a touch of pruning on the first bushes planted in 2005, but not much. This is done about this time near frost. If you did it earlier, they would re-sprout and the tender new growth would die when hit by frost. The blueberry bushes are turning a bright shade of red as the leaves prepare to fall. I have flagged all of the plants that are weak or died and need replacement. We will order replacement soon and plant them near New Years.

The fencing project drags on and on. Javier and I took a welding course at the local community college and learned to weld plate and pipe; so building new and re-building old braces to handle the woven hog wire took a lot of time. We are down to the last 2,900 feet but have run out of wire and post clips. The clips will be available next week and the wire is in Mt Pleasant to purchase. Hopefully just a week or so of work will finish this project to keep wild hogs out of the farm. This has been a major project than enhances the value or our land.

Out at Rocky Branch, we will tackle another fence project that has not been done but needed to be completed. This is adding a hot electric wire in the paddocks that contain our breeding bulls. The breeding season starts just after Christmas and without a hot wire, the bulls will jump the fence to get to cows in heat even though they have hot gals where they are. I guess they think the cows across the fence are sexier. We need to get up 5,000 feet or so (a mile) immediately and up to 9,000 feet if we have time. This is a permanent fix to a problem we have every year. We are going to use a 25 Joules energizer. This will make even the toughest bull think twice about taking on the fence. One touch and it has a "born again" experience or at a minimum a real epiphany. Karl wanted to get this fence up several years ago, but we just never got to it. Lat year Eva and I had to re-capture and move the bulls many times. We start on this work now.

We harvested a number of steers for beef and used a new processing plant in Mineola, Tx. Our customers appear to be satisfied with the new arrangement. This is a USDA inspected facility and we have some beef for sale here at the farm. This includes ground beef and other cuts. We have more steers that will be ready for harvest in January, so if you have an interest please get in touch.

Eva has been very busy with her scheduled cooking classes that were all sold out in November and October. She also had a number of private classes for groups that wanted their own class and menu they selected. We took a stab at catering to a wedding party here on the farm. A sit down served tenderloin dinner for 80 under a tent. Thanks but no thanks. It was an elegant evening, the food was wonderful, but I do not think we are going to be wedding caterers on the farm. We did an away reception with tenderloin and more for 250 that went very well. We also had a few dinners and lunches at the farm. Some were associated with large groups that rented all the cabins.

I will try to be more timely on what is happening on the farm.





Twain Speak

"When one has tasted watermelons, one knows what angels eat."
Mark Twain

The Bears Are Back: Anyone Have Bear Bells?

We live less than a mile from Boggy Creek which is part of a primitive watershed that stretches over 35 miles and is a one to five miles wide no man's land. Most of the year it is a narrow swampy creek, but this fall it has been a flooded bottom many miles wide. It is here that you will find wild hogs, bald Eagles, Black Bears and more. The Caddo Indians had their camps and villages along its bank farming, catching fish and game.

When we were approached to be part of the
East Texas Black Bear Habitat Program, supported by Texas Parks & Wildlife TP&WL), I was interested. I found we had just the right environment in our forest and wetlands for bear habitat; oak mixed forest and our berry farm! I suppose we will eventually participate as it does bring in wildlife biologist and other specialist from TP&WL, which will offer suggestions on how to improve our forest for wildlife habitat. There is also limited funding cost shares to improve the habitat with fruit bearing wild trees and bushes. We are already using TP&WL for deer management after deer hit the berry bushes a few years ago.

A few years ago we went to western Canada to visit some cattle ranches and took off on a weekend to the back woods in British Colombia. At the cabin we stayed in, by the door, were sets of
bear bells. If you walked on the trails you were encouraged to wear them to alert the bears you were in their neighborhood. I am not sure if that might send them running or attract them to "dinner".

When we finished our cabins and were decorating, I thought it would be a neat idea to put a small glass box on the wall by the door and have bear bells inside. Eve vetoed it. She said it would scare our urban guests. A few months ago we received in the mail a set of brochures from TP&WL for each cabin to tell our guests how to react if they walk upon a bear. I guess my bear bell idea was not so bad. It was just a bit premature.

If we run upon a bear we will let you know. I have cancelled by dream of using a canoe of going down Boggy Creek from below the farm to lake O' the Pines. Too spooky.

Bears migrating into East Texas at growing rate
The Dallas Morning News
November 4, 2009
By RAY SASSER Outdoors Writer rsasser@dallasnews.com

Mike Ford won't forget the first black bear he saw near his home in Red River County, about 120 miles east of Dallas. It was the middle of a hot summer day in 2007. Ford, a former SMU quarterback raised in Mesquite, was driving along a dirt road when he noticed a black animal well ahead of his truck.
"I first thought it was a turkey because we've got lots of wild turkeys in this area and they're pretty dark colored," Ford said. "Then I saw that the animal was too big for a turkey and I figured it was a wild hog but that didn't look right, either. As I got within about 200 yards, I thought I was seeing a black calf.
"Then it moved and there was no doubt what it was. I've seen lots of black bears while I was fishing and hunting in the Rocky Mountains, but I didn't expect to see one in northeast Texas."

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As wild bears spread into eastern Texas from neighboring Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, more Texas residents can expect bear encounters. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Ricky Maxey has logged reports of 14 bear sightings in the last year.
That's a record number but Maxey wonders if it translates to more bears or merely a heightened awareness from the public, which understands the importance of documenting the animals. Most sightings are like Ford's experience – from a vehicle at a distance.
Outdoor enthusiasts will just have to put up with the bears, protected from Texas hunters. Deer hunting season starts Saturday and with moderate temperatures conducive to increased hiking and camping, more Texans will be in the woods. Curious and intelligent with an insatiable appetite for almost any fruit, vegetable or meat, bears can be highly mischievous.
Nathan Garner, TP&W district wildlife biologist for the Tyler area, said he has two reports that were up close and personal, but both witnesses declined to be interviewed for this story. One encounter occurred not far from the Neches River near the proposed National Wildlife Refuge site in Cherokee County. The other was in the Sulphur River area. Garner said close encounters with East Texas bears are very rare.
Maxey credits habitat conditions for the erratic increase in bear sightings reported to the state agency. When conditions are lush and there's plenty to eat, bears are less visible. In the 1980s, there were five East Texas bear sightings. That increased to 34 in the 1990s and 49 since the most recent turn of the century.
Since 2000, bear sightings were documented in 23 East Texas counties, and the bruins are showing up more often on remote game cameras used by hunters to monitor deer feeder activity.
"A black bear is essentially a 200-pound raccoon," Maxey said. "Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and most of their waking hours are spent following their noses to a food source. The food source is often corn or other bait that hunters use to attract deer."
Twelve of the counties where bears have been seen in the last nine years border Oklahoma, Arkansas or Louisiana. Five others are one county removed from the border with those neighboring states, lending credence to the theory that bears are migrating into East Texas.
No confrontations between bears and people have been reported, but encounters are most likely during deer season, when hunters spend a lot of time in the woods. Maxey cautions hunters that bears are strictly protected by law.
Since black feral hogs are sometimes mistaken for bears, hunters must be absolutely certain of their target when hog hunting. It would be less expensive to travel to Canada and pay a hunting outfitter than to be convicted of killing a Texas bear.
Maxey said the bears in Red River County are probably young males forced out of Oklahoma by mature males.
Maxey added that the only bear killed by a car in East Texas was a young male run over on Interstate 30 near Mount Vernon in May 1999.
Texas officials have no idea how many bears have drifted into East Texas, but Chris Comer believes the number is small. Comer is an associate wildlife professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. For three years, he's overseen graduate student studies designed to quantify bear numbers and habitat quality.
"We had a graduate student in Red River County who put out more than 350 hair snares to collect hair samples from a bear that brushes up against them," Comer said. "He only got one hair sample. I suspect the number is much less than 100 bears and possibly no more than 20."
East Texas black bears were common in the 1800s and Comer said a bear was reportedly killed in Sabine County near the Louisiana border as recently as 1964. Bears were hunted for meat, their fat was used as cooking grease and their hides were tanned. The large animals were also viewed as threats to settlers' livestock and crops.
The Big Thicket of southeast Texas was the region's last stronghold for bears. Still largely undeveloped, the Big Thicket is a vast expanse of bottomland hardwood forest north of Beaumont.
In Hardin County, "Uncle Bud" Bracken was considered the bear hunting champ, with 305 hides accumulated during his career in the 19th century. Two hunters in Liberty County reported killing 182 bears from 1883-1885. All their hunting occurred in a 10-mile radius of the Trinity River drainage. Another prominent Big Thicket bear hunter was Ben Lilley, who reportedly killed 118 of the animals in 1906.
Because of shrinking East Texas habitat, black bears will never return to those numbers, but the animals are thriving in southeastern Oklahoma. Joe Hemphill has been monitoring bears for Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for 20 years, and he conservatively estimates as many as 800 bears in the four-county area across the Texas border from Red River County.
Oklahoma had its first modern bear season in October with a strict quota of 20 bears. Archery hunters bagged 16 bruins during the initial 23 days of hunting. Then the season was expanded to muzzle-loading firearms. The biggest bear reported by an archery hunter weighed 345 pounds after it was dressed and quartered. Its live weight was more than 400 pounds.
Hemphill received more than 40 nuisance bear reports last summer. He managed to trap and relocate three of the problem bears.
"Most of the nuisance bears are young males," he said, "but we're trapping more nuisance females, and that seems to indicate an expanding bear population. People want to make pets out of these bears, and that's a bad idea. Bears are powerful animals, and they can be very dangerous when they lose their fear of people."
Part of the Red River County ranch that Mike Ford owns has been in his family for more than 100 years.
"It's exciting to think that the bears were here when my family first owned this land and now they're coming back," Ford said. "The landowners that I've talked with are excited about it. They appreciate all the native animals, whether they're turkeys or bears."

Black Bears At A Glance
What: A large omnivorous mammal once native to most of Texas.

Size: Adult bears are five to six feet long and weigh 150 to 400 pounds.

Diet: Bears eat just about anything, including leaves, nuts, berries, roots, fruits, tubers, insects and meat. About 90 percent of their diet is vegetarian.

Habitat: Bears can survive from the deserts of the Trans-Pecos region to the deep forests of the Piney Woods. They den in hollow trees, brush piles, thickets, rock crevices or caves.

Personality: Intelligent, shy and secretive. Most bears work hard to avoid contact with humans. Mothers with cubs are protective of their offspring.

Reproduction: Females mature at 3 to 5 years. On average, they give birth to two cubs every other year.

Life expectancy: About 15 to 18 years.

Home range: About 20,000 acres for a male, 5,000 acres for a female.

Speed: A bear can run as fast as 35 mph for short bursts.

Texas status: Threatened. Bears are protected by state law. The fine for killing a bear is as high as $10,000 plus restitution fees.

Population trend: Bears are moving back into Texas from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mexico.

If Your Encounter a Bear
• Talk in a calm manner while backing slowly away. Do not make direct eye contact.

• Do not run. This may trigger a bear's chase instincts.

• If a bear approaches you, stand your ground, raise your arms, backpack or jacket to appear larger. Yell at the bear.

• If attacked, fight the bear aggressively to let the animal know you are not easy prey. Do not play dead.

Preventing Bear Confrontations
• Never feed bears. Feeding teaches the bears to expect food from humans and is essentially a death sentence for the animal and potentially dangerous for any humans the habituated bear encounters.

• Keep your camp clean with food stored away from tent or trailer.

• Hunters should discard remains of processed game far away from the campsite.

• Hang automatic game feeders beyond the reach of bears.

• Deer corn in piles or open feeders attract more bears.

• Switch from corn to soybeans for wildlife bait to attract fewer bears.

Bear Information on the Internet
• www.bebearaware.org
• www.bbcc.org
• www.fws.gov/endangered/
• www.tpwd.state.tx.us

To Report an East Texas Bear Sighting
Call 903-679-9821 or 409-384-6894 or e-mail ricky.maxey@tpwd.state.tx.us.
East Texas Counties with Documented Bear Sightings since 2000
Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Cherokee, Franklin, Grayson, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Lamar, Marion, Montgomery,
Morris (This is our county: the Greer Farm), Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Wood.

Chef Eva in the Longview News Journal: Supporting College Student Chefs


Northeast Texas Community College serves up degree in culinary arts

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Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo


Eva Greer, right, head chef at the Greer Farm, tastes a dish prepared by Northeast Texas Community College culinary arts students Carlos Leclaire, left, and Brandon Rodriguez recently.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
PITTSBURG — Something's cooking at Northeast Texas Community College, and it's a tasty deal for both students and the public.
Beginning this semester, the college is offering a two-year associate degree in culinary arts, said Rick Rothwell, director of the college's Julia Truitt Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Program. Though the main NTCC campus is in Mount Pleasant, cooking classes are held at a college-owned restaurant in Pittsburg. The college previously offered a one-year certification program in culinary arts.
"Our program will open up some new avenues for people in this part of the state who are interested in careers as chefs," Rothwell said. "Part of our mission as a community college is to offer vocational training for people who want jobs that aren't office-oriented, because some people prefer more hands-on work."
Students in the program take 67 credit hours, most of which are cooking classes. However, they also take some general college classes in English, math and other areas. The associate degree can be used as the building block of a four-year degree at another college.
Rothwell said 17 students are enrolled, and he has received numerous inquiries from people interested in joining next semester. Students' ages range from late teens to mid-60s.
"We haven't set any specific limits on the number of students we'll enroll, but that may be something we'll have to do in the future," Rothwell said. "It's important for the instructors to be able to give individual attention to every student, and we also don't want to be turning out more chefs than the job market can absorb."
Shanna Hildreth, a 2009 graduate of Paul Pewitt High School, said she's grateful for the opportunity to pursue a cooking career while remaining in Northeast Texas.
"I learned to cook with my grandmother when I was a child and have always really enjoyed it," Hildreth said. "During my senior year of high school I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and this seemed like the perfect fit for me."
While her ultimate goal is to own a restaurant or bakery, Hildreth said she's been intrigued by the different sub-specialities in cooking and the opportunities for chefs to work in a variety of settings, including restaurants, cruise ships, country clubs and catering businesses.
Cathy Cace, a Longview restaurant owner and vice chairman of the Texas Restaurant Association's Education Foundation, was on the advisory board that helped get the program started. She said it is definitely needed in East Texas.
"We're really excited to have a culinary arts school in this part of the state," Cace said. "The restaurants in this area will now have a way to access local chefs with high-quality training."
Business classes are an important component of the degree, Rothwell said, because being a terrific cook is just one skill people need to be successful in the restaurant industry.
"The last thing we want to do is turn out people who are great chefs, but who end up going broke because they don't understand the fundamentals of running a restaurant," he said.
Many culinary schools have restaurants with regular hours in which the students serve as chefs, but for now the NTCC program is only operating its restaurant on a limited basis — three or four dinners or luncheons per month, Rothwell said.
"The danger in running a restaurant full time is that it can become your focus, and we want to direct our energy and attention to the students," Rothwell said. "It's important to allow our students some real-world experience, but they also need to have plenty of time to interact with the instructors without the pressure of customers waiting to be served."
For students outside of Camp, Morris or Titus counties, the average costs of tuition, books and fees per semester at NTCC is about $1,700, making the cost of the two-year program about $6,800. Rothwell said culinary arts students might have some additional expenses for items like knife kits, chef's uniforms and cookbooks.
Chefs in Northeast Texas generally start out at salaries between $22,000 and $32,000 a year, he said. However, top chefs in the Dallas area can make more than $65,000 per year.


College cooking lab offers taste in Pittsburg


By GLENN EVANS
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
There's a new way to hunt your food in Pittsburg, for those who keep their ears to the ground.
The downtown Our Place restaurant Pittsburg is, first and foremost, a teaching lab for the Northeast Texas Community College's Julia Truitt Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Program.

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(ENLARGE)


Eva Greer, right, head chef at The Greer Farm, works with Northeast Texas Community College culinary arts student Shannna Hildreth in early October.
 

Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo

Its director, Chef Rick Rothwell, said it does not have regular hours and is not open to the public very often. That doesn't mean the public can't have a taste now and then.
"We are open when our students have produced meals in the competencies that we teach in our classes," Rothwell said. "So, therefore, we say, 'Hey. Listen. We've got a rack of lamb tonight. (Come) and enjoy some very nice cuisine that five classes have put together.' "
The chef said the program will send e-mail notifications when the dinner bell is about to ring.
"Yes, we are open to the public," Rothwell said. "We want them to feel free to call and make reservations."
Or, maybe a meat class will produce filets, low-fat ground beef and other goodies from a side of beef. There might be 25 or 30 loaves of pumpkin bread from a bake shop lesson.
"We can't use all those up," Rothwell said. "So we go to the (Camp County) Chamber of Commerce and put out a little memo. And everybody comes down and buys. ... When we do that, we need to move that product. They can pick it up at a discounted price. So there's a win-win situation in that for them."
* * *
Agriculture program at a glance
Down the road, the culinary arts program at Northeast Texas Community College might be wed to a sustainable agriculture program now forming in the college's continuing education department.
"We're developing, at the conceptual level right now, a garden which would represent a point of interaction with the general public," college Director of Agriculture Charlie Apter said.
The garden program is not tied to the culinary program, but a relationship is envisioned, Apter and the director of the Julia Truitt Colunary Arts & Hospitality Management Program said.
Produce from the garden initially is aimed at local food pantries and the gardeners' own kitchens.
However, some foodstuffs could feed the restaurant in the future, Apter and Chef Rick Rothwell said.
"I have some interest in trying to get to that point," Apter said.
Both men stressed such a scenario is only in the discussion phase.
"We've talked about that," Rothwell said. "And we've talked about the organic (garden) and how we would work that into our program. Because, there's nothing that would stop us from doing a totally organic dinner that's based off somebody's organic farm."
* * *
Stuffed Hot Wings
1 poblano pepper
3 slices bacon with grease
1 egg
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 can (15 ounce) plain bread crumbs
1/2 container (5 ounce) Gorgonzola crumbled cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 bottle (12 ounce) hot wing sauce
12 chicken wings
Debone plump portions of wings, leaving pocket for stuffing and small wing for a handle. Set aside.
Cook bacon until crispy, mince and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast pepper for 15 minutes or until skin peels off. Chop and set aside. In a medium bowl, melt butter, then add chopped pepper, bacon, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic and egg. Add stuffing to wings. Bake 40 minutes or until tender on sheet pan sprayed with non-stick solution. Place in large bowl and toss with hot wing sauce.
Serves 2 to 4.
- Source: Student chef Shanna Hildreth. (Recipe won first place in grilled or baked chicken category during 2009 ChickFest Chicken Cook-Off at Our Place on Sept. 19)
Hot Buffalo Wing Dip
1 bottle (12-ounce) of Frank's Red Hot Sauce
3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and diced small or shredded
2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup of blue cheese dressing
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
Serve with assorted Crackers
Soften the cream cheese and mash together with the salad dressing. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then in a sauté pan, cook your chicken till done. Then mix all ingredients together and pour into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until all the cheese has melted. Stir before serving. It is also good as a cold spread on crackers.
Serves 10 to 16.
- Source: Student chef Shanna Hildreth. (Recipe won best in show at ChickFest Chicken Cookoff.)

Early This Morning On the Farm

I woke up early again today. About 5:00 am. The time change has not settled in too well with farm life. At this time of the morning, you do get to enjoy the beauty and sounds of the farm. Through the open window in the office a bird is calling loudly. I think it is a crow in the pecan tree. In the distance, song birds are in full melody. I took out trash and as the sun came up the trees seemed to be on fire in red, yellow and orange.

Last evening as dark came upon us Eva and I went to Rocky Branch to check the cattle. It is calving season. A bull calf had just been born within minutes of our arrival. The mama hasd lost her first calf last year and this time she was successful. She was licking the calf and making sure it was okay and warm. I am sure it was on its feet soon after we left to get the first taste of warm milk. Another cow, Miss Amber, probably had a calf after we left. She was in the mood and seemed ready. As darkness closed on us the last shots of the sun burned across the green fields and the cattle stood in the stillness eating.

By the farm lake, the forest color is reflected in the still water like a Monet painting. There is more color around the lake at the farm than at the ranch. Each have their own attributes as fall turns to winter. If you sit on a cabin porch, you lose all touch with the world beyond the farm. That is the thought so many leave in the guest register in each cabin. City folks love the quietness of the country. So do we.

This past weekend we traveled to Fort Worth and stayed in the old stockyards. My grandfather sent thousands of cattle through it in the late 1800's until his death in 1908. It is no longer a railroad outpost on the north side of a small city. Today, it is an island in a city surrounded by urban activity. After two days, we were ready to get back to the farm. It was fun, but this is home.

The bird just called again. Calling me to get outside.

It is a wonderful time to be in the country.

Self-Portrait



Self-Portrait
by Mary Oliver
I wish I was twenty and in love with life and still full of beans.
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.
Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body I want to touch though I'm not twenty
and won't be again but ah! seventy.
And still in love with life. And still full of beans.

"Self-Portrait" by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird. © Beacon Press, 2008

Going Whole Hog: A Short Story


Going Whole Hog
By Jonathan Miles
From Food & Wine, September 2009
Some years back, when I was living alone in a 12-foot-by-30-foot cabin in the Mississippi woods (Thoreau-like in theory but more Unabomber-like in execution), I shot and killed a 150-pound wild boar. This was a considerable boon to me. In my semi-monastic effort to live off the land, I had been eating a lot of squirrels, and while squirrel meat tastes dandy—cringe as needed, but the hip British chef Fergus Henderson is fond of it as well—the time and effort required for each ounce of squirrel is woefully inefficient. But a freezer filled with pound upon pound of wild boar—that noble delicacy of Europe, that bosky and savage cousin to pork—this bounty would pleasantly sustain me, I figured, close to forever.
Because I was in my twenties and overstuffed with idealism and ambition, I was determined to put every ounce of the boar to use. This included the hide, which I tanned (a complex process that involved vast amounts of salt, odd chemical brines and two tree trunks for stretching out the skin). I’m not sure what use I foresaw for a bristly black boar hide—ultimately, I put it to use as a dog bed—but I was adamant about wasting nothing. I even flirted with making string out of the sinews, as Native Americans supposedly used to do with deer, but the presence of an infinite-looking roll of twine in my kitchen, purchased for something like $1.09, sucked the purpose out of that tedious chore.
But the meat! Ah, the meat. As a hunter, I’m sanguine about gamey flavors and the unruly variations in taste from one wild animal to the next. But the meat of this boar—an elderly specimen that doubtlessly would have succumbed, within weeks, to old age had I not intervened—was beyond gamey. No matter how I prepared it—marinated, braised, smoked, smothered with exuberant sauces—eating it was always like chewing on dirty pennies. Because I had roughly 110 pounds of meat in my freezer, I invited lots of friends over. One of them, politely chewing a bite of roast that I’d glazed with a maple syrup–and–balsamic vinegar reduction, said it tasted like a combination of overcooked liver and pancakes. Like everyone else, he rebuffed all my subsequent invitations. Even when I asked those friends to merely stop by my cabin for a beer, they all turned me down. “You don’t mean beer,” one hissed at me. “You mean boar.”
Here was the unexpected, ugly downside to eating locally and living off the land: The wild isn’t consistent (that’s part of what makes it wild), and while the highs are beautifully high, the lows are... Well, the lows may involve 100-plus pounds of barely edible meat staring at you every time you crack open your freezer.
I eventually ate it all, of course—the purist in me wouldn’t allow otherwise. But it didn’t sustain me forever, as I’d giddily predicted. It only felt that way.
Jonathan Miles writes the Shaken & Stirred column for the New York Times and is the author of the novel Dear American Airlines.

Sid's Classic Smothered Fried Steak

I know my roast beef is very good, but as a bachelor in New Orleans in the mid-70's I learned how to make a really great smothered fried steak. It is easy to prepare and the left overs are great.

Several pounds of round steak (depends on what you want left over)
Several large yellow onion scut into 1/2 inch slices
2 cans of roasted garlic mushroom soup
Can of sliced stuffed green olives or black stuffed- diced into large pieces
Olive oil
Flour
Fresh ground pepper
Seasoning salt
Cooked rice (at least 6 ups cooked or more for left overs)
Several eggs

Cook rice using package instructions, but take off stove 5 minutes early.
Season steak and coat in whipped eggs, then coat in flour
Fry in olive oil until 1/2 cooked
Chop olives and slice onions and mix in bowl with soup and rice
Using glass casserole dish add layer of mixture, then the steak then layer of mixture.
Your can add a can of soup on top if you like to more moist with gravy.
Cover with foil and cook at 350 degrees until it bubbles hot.

Sid's World's Best Roast Beef Recipe (I use grass finished beef)

Eva is the gourmet cook in our house, but I can cook for myself when necessary.

Sid's Roast Beef with Vegetables

2 large Greer Farm Grass Finished chuck roasts
4 lbs. potatoes cut into chunks
Package of celery chopped into 2 inch pieces then quartered
Package of carrots peeled and chopped into 4 inch pieces then quartered
2 large packages of mushrooms
4 large yellow onions cut into chunks
2 cans of mushroom soup
1 bottle V8 juice
1 large can diced tomato Mexican style
1 large can diced tomato roasted garlic
large coffee mug of peeled and quartered fresh garlic
Seasoning salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Garlic powder (1/3 cup)
Chili pepper (1 tbs)
Tenderizer on the roasts at least 2 hours before preparation
Chipotle pepper (dry or canned) to taste
Olive Oil for pan brazing
Flour

Mix the vegetables in a large tub or bowl adding olive oil and the seasonings until the taste is right.
Mix the canned items separately in a bowl
Season the roasts with seasoning sale and pepper and rub with olive oil. coat the roast heavily with flour.
Brown the roasts on all sides in a heavy skillet
Cut slots in the roasts after it is browned and insert the quartered pieces of garlic deep into the roast.
Take some of the canned liquid and deglaze the skillet adding that to the bowl of canned stuff.
Add olive oil to skillet and brown all the vegetables (not cook, but enough to change their color)
In large roasting pan or large slow cooker:
Place one-half of the vegetable mix and one-half of the canned liquid
Add the roasts
Place the second half of the vegetables and canned liquid
For Slow Cooker, cover and cook for 8 hours on high or longer on low. then test to see if the roast falls apart. If not , transfer to roasting pan and cook at 400-450 degrees for 30-45 minutes testing to see when the meat falls apart.
For oven cooking, use large roasting pan and cook either of tow ways: 1) Four hours at 300 degrees then stir, cook at 275 degrees for perhaps an hour until roasts fallas apart or 2) cook eight hours at 200 degrees then if meat not falling apart cook at 400-450 degrees for perhaps 30-45 minutes or until meat falls apart.

Feeds a bunch, but can be down sized for a small family or individual. this will cover me for a week when Eva is away. Cook once and reheat as desired. Leftovers can be frozen into individual portions.


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