Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time, Meats, and all that's tasty

Time: so illusive yet so obviously present. It is the function of time, what in fact is it's essence, which is fought against every step of the way, by structures of modernity. Maladapted to much of our culture, time is too often bent, narled, and blugeoned to obey the will of the market; of capitalism's need to gain more out of an hour than in fact exists in an hour. But like anything subject to distention or exagerated physical trauma, a breakdown or tear will inevitably form. Imbalance begets balance via structural flux.

This topic of time is integral to the essence of artisan style farming; if farming may be called artisinal, which I belive it can. Without large chunks of time, much of what is done at the farm here would not be possible. The farm eats up time in a fashion anyone involved recognizes. It's a visceral feeling of time being absorbed, while at the same time absorbing, what the farm is developing; whether it be a Black From Tula tomato sucking up time while it ripens to a deep blackish/red hue or a head of Romanesco Broccoli passing time right up into Winter snow, developing its sweet flavor. Just try and speed up the process, try and stunt the time such wonderous acts of development take, and all goes wrong; time gets displaced and the tomato or broccoli suffers, withdrawing into artisnal mediocrity.

When we make pancetta, a type of cured meat made from the pork belly, it must be aged. It hangs in a cool aging room with a certain maount of humidity for just over a month. Not given such time, the taste will not develop. Time, in a most physical way, imparts its mark on the pancetta. In a sense, the farm asks that time be present and leave its mark, reveal its je ne sais qua, on the meat. This is put into stark contrast witn commercial types of pancetta or other such cured meats. In commercialized food production, time is expensive; no one may ask of its use freely; only at a cost. So, it is used rather sparingly and at graat cost. A ham that should be sitting in brine, whiling away the days, absoring the salty, somewhat sweet liquid mixture which transforms the basic fresh cut into something quite special, is spirited away from time. Instead, the ham is pumped full of brine resulting in an almost instant cure. But, are the two hams, the one time held for weeks and months or, the ham outside of the grasp of time, equal? Interestingly, the "market" sees such differnces in the two. The "market" excpects most people will not worry about how much time one ham or another took to be ready for the market. As long as such ham can be sold at a price perhaps half of its bretheren which used up perhaps over two months time in development, all is well on supermarket row. In such a light the typical buyer of a ham purchases the time-strapped ham at a bargain price, enabling the quantity of the purchase to be larger than perhaps prudent.

When one eats a piece of ham from here at the farm, the tastes, the essence, which makes up the ham, is intense. Though one can in fact eat generously from the ham, the meat satisfies one's urge to eat rather quickly. I believe this is, in part, time's effect on the ham. The ham has taken from time that which allows the full development and expression of the ham. Compacted within the marvelously tasting food is time, as not only taste but also as fullfillment. The eating of the ham transports not only fuel into the body but the accumulated time as rich and developed essence of ham taste. As such, it is not easy to devour quantities of ham from the farm; it is overwhelmingly rich.

We are eliminating time, eliminating essences, out of our food. We worry about price, and assent to the wisdom of the market that time is to be done without, not needed, superfluous. We remove this precious commidity, time, as much as possible, from our food, and question why we eat more and more, never feeling satisfied, never sated. Can we afford the time to eat slowly? Prior to the 1970s the average family felt the need to take time to eat food which was made with time. Families spent over 25-30% of their income on food. Today, that percentage has dropped to around 12%. Yes, time is expensive. And, so is the three to four hours a day spent in front of the cable TV-at $65 a month--expensive. Is time spent watching tv a bargain?

Where one's attention lays, so there lays one's dreams. Where one's time is used, there resides one's essence. Peace, or war; smile, or frown, hurt, or heal, where does attention get applied? How do we use time? Until next time. Blessings and Peace :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

slaughtering with love

When I started the farm, knowing I would be raising animals for meat, certain ethical conundrums needed to be thought out. How could it be, I thought to myself, that animals could be killed, their life extinguished, without creating something akin to negative karma? How to slaughter, for example, a happy, care free lamb in good conscious? To some, perhaps such demands can never be met.

The animals here, in fact, the whole farm, is the direct result of human intervention, direct participation, imprinting one's will, within the system of nature. No humans, no lamb and no farm. Domesticated animals and farms are both human constructs, incapable of existing sans human volition. The beauty, the essence, of our specialy bred Large Black pigs or Icelandic sheep, their aesthetics, meat quality, hardiness, these are the qualities which make these two types of animals so special. Take away the hands of humans in this development and there no longer exists such breeds. Their essence resides in the very fact that they excell at being animals used for human consumption. When I look at our top pig, I see an exceptional animal that will produce an abundance of gourmet quality pork. Such is what it means to be the premiere pig.
A farm teaches you many lessons and one has been the development of an understanding of the cycle of life. Everything is born and everything dies. In such a vein of thought, perhaps it is not important that the pig or lamb dies but, how it lived and how it died.

Be that as it may, and regardless of one's philosophical views on animal welfare, I do not find slaughtering an animal the way it is done here at the farm, barbaric or inhumane. What is barbaric to me, what I find abhorant, is the cruelty imposed on animals during their lifespan and when being slaughtered. Unwarranted suffering is a repugnant fact of too many factory farming and slaughtering operations. An especially egregious example-perhaps a pet peeve for me--is the factory farmed laying hen. Their life seems especially cruel and unjust. I hope more people will forego such mass produced eggs and buy them from whomever might have cage-free laying hen eggs.

I was at a meat packing/slaughterhouse the other day. On the way out, I noticed a solitary lamb inside a livestock trailer looking quite alone, sad and confused. This sight was juxtaposed in my mind with the lamb we had just slaughtered on-farm a short while ago. Our lamb never once had such a sense of forboding, of being alone. One minute he was happily among his compadres and the next he was in Nirvana. He never left the farm, never was alone. His purpose had been fullfilled upon slaughter. To my viewing, the two lambs' experiences could not be more different. One died sad; one died happy. For my farm's lanb, it was in fact, "a good day to die."

My views will, no doubt, not be held by some. It is perhaps the essence of humans to have completely divergent views. As well, I do not pretend to offer a fully developed argument in support of the slaughtering of an animal for human consumption; nor that the methods I use will, at the end of the day, be viewed as superior to any other method or process of slaughter. I do know for sure that death will in fact bring about life. And, that in death, life sprouts forth. One cannot exclude the other. The farm is both about death, and about life. Philosophically, life cannot come from ex nihillo, from nothing. There always must be something which exists. An empty vacuous nothing devoid of any and every quality equated with existence simply is a philosphical fallacy. Death is a something, not a nothingness void of existence. Perhaps this is humans' hope in a continued, persistent, part of our human-ness existing past bodily death. Ex nihilo has no hold on death. Death truly is in fact life.

Why the picture of a seedling when the topic at hand is death? 1) because I just love the picture; seedlings have some special photogenic quality to them. 2)Because the seedling is the return of life from death. The compost created, in part, from the slaughtered lamb, nurished the seedling in the picture. Life Ex nihilo?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The soil

Nature abhores a vacuum. Big deal, one might say. Yet, it is a big deal. Whether the space between planets, within the ocean or in the soil, space is never wasted.

Teaming with life, soil is the basis for most agriculture. Within it, millions of living organisms help to enliven the soil and prepare nutrients for plant assimilation. Shortly in not much more than two weeks, the soil here at the farm will be preparedd for planting. But, to get the highest quality out of the plant, the soil must be brought up to snuff; i.e., the soil has to be fed.

What does the soil eat? Soil needs food, vegetable and animal composts, to eat. But, the soil cannot eat correctly unless it is somewhat balanced and can carry on certain metabolic functions. Not only does it need food, it requires calcium, among other things. Calcium not only helps to keep a good ph range, buffering acidic soils, it also increases the availability of carbon dioxide. Proper nutrients in the soil help the soil to fully utilize its food, the compost. From the reverse side, compoost starts up the soil eating, metabolic process so that, in part, it can make available to the plant the nutrients and minerals in the soil. As soil eating bacteria digest the compost in the soil, one of the outcomes of such activity is the production of carbolic acid. Carbolic acid works on rock, breaking the rock down slowly and making the minerals in the rock accessable for uptake by plants. What I am learning here at the farm is, although we have a soil filled with thosands of tons of calcium per acre, little of it is available for use. Why? I think it is because very little metabolic activity is occuring in the soil. After many years of placidity on behalf of the soil, it is now having to wake up. The whole process of digesting compost, of stimulating the microbes and getting the system up and running, takes some time. Slowly but surely it is getting done here. Our vegetable beds are already showing much improvement. This season, I fully expect magnitudes of improvement in the soil chemistry.

Most bites of food coming from the soil here also have the bonus of being effected by the quartzite abundant in the soil. Whether one believes in the more escoteric side of things or not, quartz is a crystal very capable of tuning and amplifying electro-magetic energy (see what radios used to tune in stations). Though certainly I am not espoucing any specfic claims regarding the quartz crystals in the soil, rest assured, there is certainly cause and effect.

Another component of the soil here which one will undoubtedly be taking in, via the veggies, is ancient sea life. Even at the farm's relative high elevation, millenia ago it was covered by a shallow sea which deposited many types of sea life within layers of shale. Their shells remain and get incorporated back into the soil as the acids in the soil break them down. The cycle of life keeps on keeping on.

Not only does nature dislike a vacuum; it turns out so does the head of our country's economic policy, Federal Reserve Governor Bernake, et al. They abhore it so much, they gave away billions to prevent such a vacuum. By vacuum I mean a lack of junk flooding our homes in the form of useless, stupifyingly unneeded stuff. Yet, what is utterly, unbelievably, how did it happen, crazy, is, the federal reserve is nothing more than a private corporation bent on doing to the best of its ability what all corporations by charter are supposed to do; accumulate capital. Can a federal reserve person do what is best for his/her country while at the same time maximizing profits for the company he/she works for? You can answer that one. What one can perhaps say with certainty; unless elected officials of high moral character act out of an enlightened interest to help others, this country will struggle. Though we are still the brightest light in the sea, our bulb has dimmed. We should expect much more from our country, and from ourselves.
Peace out